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ESPN Extends ‘Monday Night Football’ Deal With Peyton and Eli Manning

The “ManningCast” will now be on ESPN2 and ESPN+ through the 2024 season.

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Fans will be able to watch ESPN’s “ManningCast” for one additional year than originally planned. According to the network’s NFL insider Adam Schefter, ESPN and Omaha Productions expanded their agreement for Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli through the 2024 season.

Peyton and Eli Manning’s initial deal with ESPN was a three-year agreement that ran through the 2023 season. The success of the “ManningCast” ensured that it would come back for the next two seasons and now a third is being added.

(The contract extension also staves off other potential suitors like Amazon, which had expressed interest.)

The alternate Monday Night Football broadcast with Peyton and Eli and a rotating cast of guests, aired on ESPN2 and ESPN+ this past NFL regular season for 10 games and immediately became popular with fans on social media and sports media observers.

The insight from both Manning brothers on playing quarterback in the NFL, sharing the thinking that goes into various situations, and providing analysis on decision-making by signal-callers and coaches provided an in-depth alternative from the quick-bite, 15-second commentary often heard on regular NFL telecasts.

More importantly, the “ManningCast” brought more fun and irreverence to its coverage with guests from the NFL, college football, and entertainment. Sometimes, that led to moments not usually seen on primetime TV, such as uttering curse words or using obscene gestures, that gave viewers the sense that most anything could happen. Such as Eli Manning comparing himself to Shakira, when explaining Dak Prescott’s warm-up exercises for his hips.

But the “ManningCast” production had plenty of bumps in its first season, notably going into commercial breaks abruptly while cutting off guests speaking. The delay on audio for guests speaking with Peyton and Eli on Zoom also made for a difficult listening experience at times. And sometimes, the Manning brothers and their guests were so engaged in a conversation that they weren’t closely following what was happening in the game.

Not everyone liked the “ManningCast.” Diehards wanting traditional play-by-play and analysis still have the regular MNF telecast on ESPN. (Whether or not Steve Levy, Brian Griese, and Louis Riddick return for a third season has yet to be determined.) Some grumps who just don’t like fun seemed to deliberately go against popular opinion and either criticize or ignore it.

Yet innovation in sports broadcasting isn’t always successful. And this was more than a different camera view or new technology used during a telecast. This was an entirely different sort of broadcast, one that banked on the likability of Peyton and Eli and creating the impression of watching a game with friends. Being well-received is a major victory for ESPN. It’s no surprise the network wants it to continue.

UPDATE: The official announcement from ESPN also says that the agreement with Omaha Productions includes alternate telecasts for UFC, college football, and golf. Hosts for each event will be named later.

Sports TV News

Al Michaels: Condensed Prep Time For Thursday Night Football ‘A Downside’

“It’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us.”

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There were bound to be unexpected hiccups and unintended consequences as Al Michaels moved to Thursday Night Football with Amazon Prime Video.

He told The Boston Globe Thursday that one of the downsides of the week’s schedule is less prep time with the teams playing in the game.

“When we go to see the teams, it’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us,” Michaels said. “And all the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve built some great relationships with coaches and players and GMs and owners and you name it, and I don’t get that much time to spend with them anymore. That’s a downside part of it for me. Some of the best stories you get come from those relationships.”

Michaels has raised eyebrows this season while not being shy about his disdain for some poor matchups early in the schedule. However, he now understands that there are quality games as the season approaches its close.

“The schedule was a little leaky with the Carolina-Atlanta game and a couple of other games that we’ve had, but now we’re positioned for a nice run down the stretch,” said Michaels.

The 78-year-old was also asked how he remains energetic and passionate for the job he’s held for so long.

The games are exciting. I love sports. You don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s no script. And unscripted television is the greatest.”

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Sports TV News

Jimmy Pitaro: Reaching Younger Audience A Priority for ESPN

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience. As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

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Many in the media industry have voice concern that millennials and Gen Z aren’t consuming traditional media outlets like previous generations. ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said it’s a priority for the network.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience,” Pitaro said, quoted by Morning Consult sports business reporter Mark J. Burns. “As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

Pitaro made the comments at Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators conference Wednesday. It is a continuation of comments he has made in recent years.

In 2018, Pitaro said at ESPN’s upfront “I think we are doing a fantastic job serving the sports fanatic,” said Pitaro. “What about the casual sports customer? Are we doing all we can to serve him or her?”.

In 2019, Pitaro said it was “all hands on deck” to reach a younger audience and women. “We have to be open and go to where our customers are,” he said in regards to reaching younger viewers on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Earlier this year, Pitaro added that ESPN won’t be leaving linear television anytime soon.

“What I will tell you is that as I sit here right now, that business is still incredible,” Pitaro said. “We serve the sports fan anyway and at any time. I know there are a lot of people that still want ESPN in that traditional ecosystem.”

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Sports TV News

Don Mattingly Joining Blue Jays Staff After YES Network Courtship

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

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The New York Yankees regional sports network can take Don Mattingly off its talent wish list. Mattingly was announced Wednesday as a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays starting in 2023.

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

But Mattingly told Andrew Marchand of The New York Post this week that he had another opportunity in the works but wouldn’t elaborate.

YES also has been considering luring Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter into broadcasting. But no formal talks have taken place.

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