At the midway point of the 2023 regular season ahead of a matchup between the Denver Broncos and Buffalo Bills, ESPN has announced that its Monday Night Football property is averaging 15.4 million viewers.
The mark is the best within its era on the network, which began in 2006, and up 15% year-over-year (YoY), inclusive of all 11 television games. The weekly prime-time football presentation has reached approximately 101 million fans and positions the network well as it moves to the second half of the year, which will include multiple broadcasts of NFL Playoff games for the first time.
Unlike last season, Monday Night Football has been regularly broadcast on The Walt Disney Company’s over-the-air television network, ABC, in response to strikes from writers and actors. The move was made ahead of Week 2 in the NFL schedule and shortly after the company reached a distribution deal with Spectrum, resolving a blackout just before the season premiere of the property.
Now that both strikes have concluded, it is unknown whether or not the company will continue with its plan to air Monday Night Football concurrently on both networks. Out of the 11 primary game telecasts thus far, nine have been simulcast on broadcast television.
The property aired a doubleheader during Week 3 of the regular season, televising the Philadelphia Eagles’ matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on ABC while the Cincinnati Bengals’ tilt against the Los Angeles Rams was on ESPN. Excluding the third week of the season, the property would have been up 21% YoY with an average of 16.3 million viewers per game. First-half viewership of the property has been supplemented by increases in several key individual demographic categories, including persons age 12-17 (+10%), persons 18-49 (+6%) and women (+20%).
Along with the primary broadcast, Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli has averaged 1.2 million viewers per episode. The presentation, colloquially known as the “Manningcast,” has been on the air five times thus far and has cemented it as holding the top 24 spots among the network’s most watched alternate broadcasts.
Leading into the broadcasts each week is Monday Night Countdown, which introduced a new cast containing host Scott Van Pelt and analysts Ryan Clark, Marcus Spears and Robert Griffin III. The program garnered a multi-year high during its regular season debut and is averaging 1.2 million viewers on ESPN. The final hour of the show is averaging 1.6 million viewers on the season thus far, utilizing both on-site and in-studio broadcasts.
ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown, which airs on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. EST/7 to 10 a.m. PST, has attained its best viewership since 2016 through the first half of the season with an average of 1.5 million viewers per program. In addition to growth among key demographics – including persons 12-17 (+11%), persons 18-49 (+22%), and women (16%), the property is up 15% YoY. The cast of the show includes host Samantha Ponder, insider Adam Schefter, and analysts Teddy Bruschi, Randy Moss, Rex Ryan, and Alex Smith, along with contributors from the rest of the network.
During the week, NFL Live is averaging 407,000 viewers per show and has bolstered its audience among the persons 18-49 demographic. Additionally, it has maintained its viewership levels among women YoY, rendering its best early-season start since 2016. In addition to this studio program, NFL PrimeTime on ESPN+ is the most-viewed studio show on the platform since the beginning of the football season.
SEC Commissioner Tells Pat McAfee Someone at ESPN Leaked 2024 Schedule Without Permission
“We were trying to protect it. Someone at ESPN apparently leaked it.”
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey isn’t particularly thrilled that his new top broadcast partner leaked a portion of next year’s schedule a bit early.
During an appearance on the Pat McAfee Show, which just so happens to be an ESPN property, Sankey mentioned his displeasure at the Worldwide Leader for leaking a portion of the 2024 SEC schedule early. According to Sankey, the league and the network agreed to release the schedule together in the near future.
“We were trying to protect it,” Sankey said. “Someone at ESPN apparently leaked it,” according to Yahoo Sports college football reporter Ross Dellenger.
While leaks in the media space are hardly a new phenomenon, especially when it comes to something as desirable as a football conference’s yearly schedule, a leak this early in the newly-formed ESPN-SEC relationship is less than ideal. Starting next season, ESPN will take over as the SEC’s primary broadcast partner, assuming the position CBS had long held for decades.
In the leaked portion of the schedule, the Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide will play in the regular season for just the third time in the past 15 years. We also know the Bulldogs will play the debuting Texas Longhorns in Texas, while the Tide will play the other Oklahoma Sooners on the road.
Jeff Kotuby is a nationally-published journalist with bylines on many popular broadcasting and pop culture sites, including The Streamable, eBaum’s World, Twin Galaxies, and more. Jeff grew up in the shadows of New York City and cultivated his love for sports media with the classic broadcasting voices of the area, like Mike & The Mad Dog, Mike “Doc” Emerick, and Michael Kay. You can reach Jeff on Twitter @JeffKotu3y.
Jim Boeheim Making Analyst Debut on ACC Network, Joining The CW
Former Syracuse Orange basketball head coach Jim Boeheim will make his debut as an analyst on Saturday, Dec. 2 on the ACC Network. Boeheim will be on the broadcast for the matchup between Florida State and North Carolina at 2 PM ET featuring play-by-play announcer Wes Durham and sideline reporter Cory Alexander.
Boeheim will make his studio debut on Tuesday, Dec. 5 during halftime of the men’s prime-time doubleheader games on the day – which consists of Central Connecticut against Boston College at 6 PM ET, followed by Cornell taking on Syracuse at 8 PM ET.
On the program, he will be joined by host Kelsey Riggs and analyst Luke Hancock, and he will also remain on the air for the 10 p.m. edition of Nothing But Net, the network’s signature basketball show.
Additionally, Jim Boeheim also joined Westwood One and is reportedly set to work on The CW coverage of ACC basketball, debuting this Saturday with pre-taped segments during halftime of two conference games. News of Boeheim working with The CW was first reported by Mike Waters of Syracuse.com.
Boeheim departed Syracuse University after 47 seasons as a coach and holding an overall win-loss record of 1,015-441. He has the second-most wins at the Division I level in the history of college basketball, only being surpassed by former Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Dan Le Batard: I Thought Pat McAfee Would Grow College GameDay, But That Hasn’t Happened
Le Batard said McAfee is playing under a different set of rules than others at ESPN.
Pat McAfee has checked all the boxes Disney and ESPN leadership had when the former NFL punter brought his daily sports talk show into the fray, but one area where it seems like the waters aren’t so smooth for McAfee is in his reception as an analyst on College GameDay.
GameDay viewers have not shied away from making their feelings known that they don’t like seeing McAfee on the show, and Dan Le Batard has found the criticism quite interesting.
On The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on Thursday, Le Batard said he thought having Pat McAfee on GameDay would continue taking the show to the next level, but it turns out he was wrong in some respects.
“And so they get McAfee and they give him a new set of rules,” Le Batard said. “But I thought that would result in College GameDay getting bigger and better. More popular. I underestimated the allegiance that the viewer has to David Pollack.”
“I’m reading him and everyone around him saying he’s a good teammate, they all love him, they’re all getting along with him,” Le Batard added. “He is effusive, he is such a positive person. He is effusive in his praise for the people on that sat. But now the numbers are coming back, and this is something that McAfee couldn’t have expected.”
Executive producer Mike Ruiz chimed in saying that a contributing factor in the changing conditions at GameDay is due to the mass layoffs and non-renewals of more expensive talent over the last couple years. He said there was going to be a natural need to switch things up after cutting ties with the likes of Pollack, Tom Rinaldi, and Chris “The Bear” Fallica.
“The format of the show when you take someone like that, you’re changing it,” Ruiz said. “You’re changing the emotional stories that made you cry in advance of a Purdue/Ohio State game. All that stuff starts going away. And now it’s not just going away, some of that stuff is going to FOX.”
Dan Le Batard responded saying he wasn’t trying to blame Pat McAfee for Big Noon Kickoff closing the gap on GameDay and negative fan feedback. But all of a sudden now that FOX can tout its pregame show continuing to grow and be a successful alternative to ESPN’s product, the narrative shifts.
“I always say perception is not reality, but when all you have is perception and fudged numbers, FOX is saying, ‘We’ve caught College GameDay. We’ve caught one of the most popular shows in the history of sports television,'” Le Batard said.
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He’s a multimedia journalist and communicator who works at the Virginia State Corporation Commission in Richmond. Jordan also contributes occasional coverage of the Washington Capitals for the blog NoVa Caps. His prior media experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly, WRIC-TV 8News and Audacy Richmond. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.