|ESPN Monday Night Football|
|Genre||American football game telecasts|
|Created by||Roone Arledge|
|Directed by||Chet Forte (1970–1986)
Larry Kamm (1987)
Craig Janoff (1988–1999)
Drew Esocoff (2000–2005)
Chip Dean (2006–present)
|Opening theme||"Score" by Bob's Band (1970–1975)
"All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night" by Hank Williams, Jr. (1989–2011; 2017–present)
"Heavy Action" by Johnny Pearson (1976–1988; 2011–2016) (used as secondary theme from 1989 to 2011 and again from 2017–present)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||47 (NFL seasons)|
|No. of episodes||718 (games)|
|Executive producer(s)||Norby Williamson (2006–present)|
Suzy Kolber (uncredited; 2006–present)
|Location(s)||Various NFL stadiums (game telecasts)
ESPN Center, Bristol, Connecticut (studio segments)
|Running time||3-4 hours|
|Production company(s)||National Football League
ABC Sports (1970–2005)
|Original network||ABC (1970–2005)
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)
480i (16:9 SDTV)
|Original release||September 21, 1970– present|
|Related shows||Monday Night Countdown|
ESPN Monday Night Football (abbreviated as MNF and also known as ESPN Monday Night Football on ABC for rare live special broadcast) is a live television broadcast of weekly National Football League (NFL) games on ESPN in the United States. From 1970 to 2005, it aired on sister broadcast network ABC. Monday Night Football was, along with Hallmark Hall of Fame and the Walt Disney anthology television series, one of the longest-running prime time programs ever on commercial network television, and one of the highest-rated, particularly among male viewers. MNF is preceded on air by Monday Night Countdown served by Applebee's.
Monday Night Football is also broadcast in Canada on TSN and RDS, and in most of Europe. On September 7, 2013, the NFL announced that British Eurosport would show Monday Night Football games live in the United Kingdom for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. The telecasts are also seen in most of Australia on ESPN Australia, in Portugal on SportTV 3 and SportTV HD and on TV 2 Sport in Denmark, and in some other regions of the world outside the U.S. on ESPN International. A Spanish-language version airs on ESPN Deportes in the U.S. and on ESPN International in Latin America, while a Portuguese version airs on ESPN Brasil. Per an NFL broadcasting policy intended to allow those who do not subscribe to cable or satellite television to see games televised by a pay television network, the games are also made available on over-the-air television stations in each participating team's local market.
On September 8, 2011, the first day of the 2011 regular season, ESPN extended its contract for Monday Night Football for eight additional seasons, giving it rights to the broadcasts until 2021. The new deal, valued between $14.2 billion and $15.2 billion, also gives ESPN rights to expanded highlights, international and streaming rights, and possibly a wild-card playoff game. Cable television providers condemned the new contract, noting that ESPN has the highest retransmission consent fees of any national cable television channel, nearly seven times higher than the nearest competitor (TNT), and raises fees on an annual basis.
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After 45 seasons, there now have been a total of 730 games televised by the Monday Night Football franchise.
To avoid any scheduling unfairness where, just before the first playoff game, a team may have five days off and others six, there is no Monday night game during the final week of the regular season. From 2003 to 2005, one game was played on Thursday and another Monday under the Monday Night Football banner. Starting in 2006, when the series moved to cable, two games are played on the opening Monday night to capitalize on fan interest during "NFL Kickoff Weekend".
Monday night games early in the season are often highly anticipated since records are new, teams usually are showcasing fresh talent and potential, and storylines coming into the season are often played out as fans try to see if these hyped teams are up to form. Since no one knows during the first month of the season if a team is indeed good, or will rebound from a difficult start, interest is usually high for the first few weeks of the MNF season.
Since the MNF schedule is set in April and cannot be changed, the league and network cannot guarantee a late season matchup will have any significance or be highly anticipated. Teams thought to be good during the off-season could be out of playoff contention by the middle of the season; a prime example occurred in 1999, when the San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons both entered the season's final MNF game with 4–11 records. It had seemed like a good pre-season matchup since the Falcons had played in the previous season's Super Bowl and the 49ers coming into the 1999 season had posted 16 consecutive 10-win seasons. It is also possible for a team like the 1999 St. Louis Rams not to be scheduled for a Monday night game because of its dismal record the year before, and many other NFL teams (such as the 2004 San Diego Chargers, with zero primetime games) have had huge unforeseen turnarounds that result in lack of MNF attention (these teams generally receive multiple MNF spots the year after their breakout success, which is great for viewers if those teams continue to play well, and not so great if they return to mediocrity or worse). However, the forecasting abilities of the NFL's scheduling officials have exhibited uncanny proficiency. Many MNF games occurring later in the season feature at least one team that is either headed to the playoffs or must win the MNF game to clinch a playoff spot.
The problem of having a national spotlight game which during the season's most critical weeks late in the year probably would not show the most important game of the week was long known by the league and network. As a result of this, the NFL wished to move the "Game of the Week" idea to Sunday nights as to make flex scheduling possible. This was a move which would ultimately mean the end of Monday Night Football on ABC (cable games are protected from the NFL's flexible scheduling rule adopted for the 2006–07 season; the new rule applies only to CBS, Fox, and NBC's Sunday night games). The league currently has no interest in expanding flexible scheduling to include Monday Night Football, citing the logistical issues of moving games back and forth between Sundays and Mondays.
The franchise with the most Monday night appearances is the Miami Dolphins. The San Francisco 49ers won their record 48th Monday Night game with a 28–0 win over the Los Angeles Rams on September 12, 2016.
The defunct Candlestick Park in San Francisco currently holds the record for hosting the most Monday Night Football games, including its 36th and final Monday night game on December 23, 2013. Among the active stadiums following the conclusion of the 2013 season, Miami Gardens, Florida's Hard Rock Stadium has hosted the most games with 32.
Monday Night Football has continued to provide as much entertainment as sports throughout its run. In addition to the extra cameras, the program has also pioneered technological broadcast innovations, such as the use of enhanced slow motion replays and computerized graphics.
Celebrity guests – such as former Vice President Spiro Agnew, singers Plácido Domingo and former Beatle John Lennon, President Bill Clinton, and even Kermit the Frog – were often featured during the game to "liven up" the broadcast. The December 9, 1974 contest featured a rare instance of two celebrities entering the booth, with Lennon being interviewed by Howard Cosell and California governor Ronald Reagan speaking with Frank Gifford, with Reagan explaining the rules of American football (off-camera) to Lennon as the game went along. However, the late 1990s and early 2000s saw an even more increased reliance on the entertainment factor. Some halftime shows, featuring popular music stars, were broadcast in their entirety rather than being ignored in favor of analysis of the game by the commentators, as in previous seasons.
In December 1980, one of the most memorable moments of MNF occurred when Cosell announced in a news flash that Lennon had been shot and killed in New York City. Monday Night Football was the first national broadcast to announce his death.
An advertisement during halftime on the October 19, 2015 game featured the world premiere of the third trailer of the 2015 film Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
For its 2006 debut on ESPN, Williams, Jr. re-recorded the MNF opening theme with an all-star jam band that included among others Brian Setzer, Little Richard, Questlove, Joe Perry, Clarence Clemons, Rick Nielsen, Bootsy Collins, Charlie Daniels and Steven Van Zandt. The 2006 telecast generally began with a cinematic tease produced by Rico Labbe, Michael Sciallis and Jason Jobes. It was during one of these teases that Barack Obama spoofed his announcement for the 2008 Presidential candidacy in favor of his hometown Chicago Bears in their game against the St. Louis Rams.
That year, the tease was followed by the show open produced by Los Angeles-based The Syndicate called "Transformation". It features computer-generated imagery showing a city being transformed into a football stadium and passers-by on the street turning into players, coaches, fans and officials set to an updated orchestral treatment of the "Heavy Action" theme song. The sequence began every week with a different celebrity walking down the street, picking up a glowing football helmet with the ESPN logo on the side and saying, "I'm ready for some football! Are you?", thus beginning the transformation process. Celebrities for 2006 included Arnold Schwarzenegger, Matthew Fox, Hugh Hefner, Paris Hilton, Spike Lee, Ashton Kutcher, Samuel L. Jackson, Ludacris, Jack Black, Kiefer Sutherland, James Belushi, Ben Stiller, Tyra Banks, Carmen Electra and Eva Longoria.
In addition, celebrities returned in full force to the booth, though this proved to be the major criticism of ESPN's first MNF season. On the opening weekend, Arnold Schwarzenegger, another celebrity-turned-California governor, was in the booth at McAfee Coliseum in Oakland, California; before that, Jamie Foxx appeared at FedExField in suburban Washington, D.C. Following them, celebrity appearances included NBA basketball superstar Dwyane Wade, Basketball Hall of Fame player Charles Barkley, NASCAR Cup Series driver Jeff Gordon, comedian Jimmy Kimmel (whose opening words to Joe Theismann were "how's the leg?"), actor Sylvester Stallone, film director Spike Lee, hip hop artist Jay-Z, and MNF theme singer Hank Williams Jr.
ESPN scaled back to only one opening tease for the 2007 season. Williams Jr. and the all-star band returned, only this time they played in a "juke joint" set on a country road. The lead singer arrives in a GMC Yukon truck (GMC paid for product placement) with the license plate "BOCEPHUS", which is Williams' nickname. The Syndicate's computer-generated tease was dropped and replaced by short pre-taped films focusing on a team or player in the game. Some of them have featured actor Jamie Foxx.
The guest visits continued: Barkley returned to the booth on September 17 in Philadelphia. Other guests throughout the season included Kimmel (another returnee), Drew Carey, Miley Cyrus, Russell Crowe and Terry Bradshaw. In addition, Gordon was a halftime guest on the game just before the season-ending Ford 400 and was joined by teammate Jimmie Johnson.
At the end of each game, Williams returned to say, "See you in (city that is the site of the next week's game)." Both the open and close contain helmets of the participating teams, organized in the style of a concert poster.
Despite the de-emphasis on entertainment on the overall telecast, ESPN did bring back Hank Williams, Jr. for his 20th season as part of the opening. This time, the opening sequence was set in a private residence. At the end of the song, Williams Jr. touched a foot pump, which supposedly contained the helmets of that night's participating teams. The helmets were launched from the home toward the stadium at which the game was held. Through computer-generated imagery, the helmets "land" at midfield during a live shot, and then explode. The "exploding helmets" gimmick was also used at various times in the 1980s and 1990s during the pre-game tease. Williams Jr. then appeared again at the end of the game to promote the next week's matchup.
ESPN also continued to promote upcoming albums through its use in bumper music. On September 29 (Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers), ESPN used "Another Way to Die", a duet between Alicia Keys and Jack White of the White Stripes – the song was part of the soundtrack for the 2008 film Quantum of Solace, then the latest in the James Bond series.
The title sequence for the 40th season of Monday Night Football featured Hank Williams, Jr. seen on the steps of a building (presumably a museum), surrounded by dancers, football fans, and statues/busts – which, along with everyone else in the scene, begin to move and dance – patterned after those at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The transition to Williams Jr. is a book, with the chapter number (in Roman numerals, sequentially with each week) and a tag line about the game to be played that night.
At the end of the song, Williams Jr. plugged in the cords, thereby launching animated "helmets" into space, from the building toward the stadium at which the game was held (with the exception of October 5, 2009, when the helmets zoomed towards Brett Favre instead), passing the International Space Station. As with the previous season (as mentioned above), the helmets "land" at midfield during a live shot and then crashed into each other. Williams Jr. appeared again at the end of the telecast to promote the following week's matchup. After that, the picture was freezeframed and the shot zoomed out to the book, which showed the freezeframed picture as part of a page. As this happened, the NFL end-of-game bumper music was played and the book closed, revealing a golden NFL logo on the back cover and signifying the end of the "chapter", or game. The scene was filmed in the summer of 2009 at The Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee.
Before Williams Jr. appears, Frank Gifford gave a short vignette about a memorable moment in the history of Monday Night Football featuring one or both of the teams playing that night's game.
The 40th season of Monday Night Football ended on December 28, 2009 with the Minnesota Vikings–Chicago Bears game in Chicago, in which the Bears won in overtime, 36–30. The telecast ended with a vignette that featured Gifford taking a look back at highlights from the previous four decades – and the 40th season – of MNF, after which the book closed, signifying the end of the season. The 40th season had the highest season viewership for MNF since ESPN acquired the rights to the broadcast.
The opening for the 2010 season was identical to that used in 2009, except for the final scenes. This time, Williams Jr. turns a wheel filled with paint, with CGI colors blasting into the air, revealing the helmets containing logos of the participating teams – which stay on top of the building. In one other minor difference, the chapter numbers in the "book" were changed from Roman to Arabic numerals. Gifford provided new vignettes and the Parthenon scenes were repeated from the year before. The 2010 season marked Williams' 22nd as part of the telecast's open.
In an unusual coincidence, both games which had the New York Jets as a home team at New Meadowlands Stadium (now MetLife Stadium) were delayed because of heavy rain and lightning in the area. In the first instance, the September 13 game against the Baltimore Ravens, it was delayed 25 minutes; the second delay, prior to the October 11 contest against the Minnesota Vikings, lasted for 40 minutes. Prior to the September 13 game, the last ESPN telecast to encounter weather problems was on October 4, 1998 (a Sunday night) when lightning halted a game between the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs during the second quarter. The first delay forced ESPN to use ESPN2 for a game telecast, this time for the Chiefs' home opener against the San Diego Chargers. As in 2007, the broadcast was shifted to ESPN once the first game was over.
The game between the Jets and the Vikings was both Brett Favre's first game in East Rutherford since his only season there in 2008 and marked Randy Moss's return to the Vikings. Moss played only four games for Minnesota until he was waived on November 2.
The opening sequence for the 2011 season was set in a closed-studio setting, with Hank Williams Jr. (in his 23rd year) performing with a band in front of a live audience with large video screens in the background. The end of the opening sequence featured the team logos of that night's participants transitioning into the new ESPN Monday Night Football logo before going to a live shot. On October 3, 2011, ESPN pulled the theme song after Williams appeared on the Fox News Channel program, Fox & Friends, where he compared a golf outing involving Barack Obama, John Boehner, Joe Biden and John Kasich to "Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu." On October 6, 2011, it was announced that Williams would no longer be singing the theme song, and that "All My Rowdy Friends" would no longer be used as its theme, as Williams still owns the song. A statement from ESPN said that the network has "decided to part ways with Hank Williams Jr. We appreciate his contributions over the past years. The success of Monday Night Football has always been about the games and that will continue." Williams commented on the matter: "After reading hundreds of e-mails, I have made my decision... By pulling my opening October 3, [ESPN] stepped on the toes of the First Amendment Freedom of Speech, so therefore me, my song, and All My Rowdy Friends are out of here. It's been a great run." MNF did not have an opening sequence at all from Week 4 through the end of that season.
With Suzy Kolber reassigned to the new studio show NFL32, and Michele Tafoya having left ESPN for NBC Sunday Night Football, the sideline reporter position rotated between various reporters for the season.
For the second year in a row, and the third time overall, the beginning of the 10:15 p.m. Eastern Time game (Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos) was shown on ESPN2 as the game that began at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time (New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins) ran past the scheduled time period.
Lisa Salters was named the permanent solo sideline reporter for the 2012 season. In addition, color commentator Ron Jaworski did not return to the booth after 5 seasons. As a result, Jon Gruden became the solo color commentator, with MNF going back to a two-man booth for the first time since its final season on ABC (2005). MNF's opening graphic sequence, which showed the helmet logos of the game's two participating NFL teams and then the program's logo, was seen before the Monday Night Football Launch segment.
The opening animation sequence begins with an image of a 2014 GMC Sierra (GMC paid for product placement) and then goes into a timeline of historical events that occurred during the Monday Night Football era, including some highlights of MNF games from the previous 43 seasons up to 2012. At the end of the sequence, helmets featuring logos of that night's two participating teams are shown, followed by the various Monday Night Football logos used since the program's debut in 1970. The 80-second opening animation sequence, which also featured Pac-Man, Darth Vader and President Ronald Reagan, was created by actor/filmmaker Peter Berg.
A revision of the opening sequence was used for the 2014 season. Among the few changes, GMC's product placement promoted the automaker's line of Denali vehicles, while the sequence itself included some additional highlights of MNF games from the previous 44 seasons up to 2013.
A 3D opening animation sequence is used for the 2015 season (46th season overall and tenth on ESPN). GMC's product placement once again promoted the automaker's line of Denali vehicles, including the Yukon Denali that is seen at the beginning. Also among the many changes is the highlights of MNF games — this time, they are set inside a computer-generated stadium using 3D imagery — from the previous 45 seasons up to 2014.
After three years of using the timeline-themed open, MNF debuted a new 75-second, Hollywood-themed open on September 12, 2016 and it features ESPN's new MNF broadcast team — Sean McDonough (play-by-play), Jon Gruden (color) and Lisa Salters (sideline reporter) — and more than 20 current NFL stars and Pro Football Hall of Famers walking along a red carpet entrance lined by cheering fans and photographers taking pictures. It begins with a shot of a downtown stadium surrounded by skyscrapers, with a 2017 GMC Acadia (product placement again provided by GMC) displaying the location for that week's MNF game on its navigation system. The Acadia then heads to a glitzy red carpet at the stadium's entrance, where McDonough, Gruden and Salters exit the car, followed on the carpet by a flood of NFL players representing the past and present of MNF. Players then pose for pictures and wave to the crowd as they reach the stadium entrance. Josh Norman (Redskins), Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals) and Rob Gronkowski (Patriots) are among the current players being represented in the open, with Franco Harris (Steelers), Jerry Rice (49ers), Barry Sanders (Lions) and Bruce Smith (Bills) among the past players being represented. For the Spanish-language version of the Hollywood-themed open, it features ESPN's Spanish-language MNF broadcast team — Álvaro Martín (play-by-play), Raúl Allegre (color) and John Sutcliffe (sideline reporter) as well as the current Hispanic NFL players and the team of the Latin American version of NFL Live led by Ciro Procuna.
MNF returned to two teases for the first time since its first season on ESPN (2006). The Hollywood-themed open was repeated from the previous season, this time with the 2018 GMC Terrain being used as the automaker's product placement.
Also, Hank Williams, Jr. returned to MNF on September 11, 2017 with an all-new version of the iconic opening theme song, "All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night" (used from 1989 to Week 3 of the 2011 season) and it appeared just before that night's New Orleans Saints-Minnesota Vikings game. The new version, which is seen just before the kickoff of each game, is a collaboration of Williams, Jr, country duo Florida Georgia Line, and R&B singer Jason Derulo.
2018 brought in a shakeup of the booth. Jon Gruden left MNF after 9 seasons and returned to coaching with the Oakland Raiders and will be replaced by Jason Witten, formerly a TE for the Dallas Cowboys. Sean McDonough left the MNF booth after 2 seasons to return to calling college football games on the network, and will be replaced by Joe Tessitore. In addition, Booger McFarland, who has been a college football analyst for the network since 2014, will join the MNF team as field analyst. Lisa Salters remains as the sideline reporter.
Hank Williams Jr. reworked his country music hit "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight" to be included in the telecast's introduction as "All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night" (the original introduction music was an organ-based piece called "Score", written by Charles Fox and recorded by Bob's Band). In addition, Edd Kalehoff modernized the classic "Heavy Action" theme in 1989.
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Prior to 1997, Monday Night Football had a limited graphics package. A CGI-based intro began being used in 1984, with on-screen graphics still limited to basic text. In 1988, the entire graphics package was updated significantly to be more in line with the rest of ABC Sports' presentations. That year, it introduced the "clashing helmets" intro, with on-screen graphics consisting of italicized text underlined in red. It was updated in 1994, the year the network hosted Super Bowl XXIX, with a more box-like design. A permanent score bug would not be introduced until 1997.
Monday Night Football began using a score bug in 1997, the second network to do so after Fox introduced the first regular on-screen scoring bug when it began airing NFL games in 1994. Prior to this, the graphics package was limited, but followed a basic "ketchup and mustard" color scheme of red and yellow. The first scorebug included team names, scores, time remaining, and displayed which quarter the game was in. This design was used through the 1998 season.
ABC hosted Super Bowl XXXIV for 1999, and updated its graphics package to more closely resemble those of sister cable network ESPN. ABC began using extended abbreviations for team names (for example, "TENN", "VIKES", "PACK", and "FINS" instead of "TEN", "MIN", "GB", and "MIA"), as four-letter and five-letter abbreviations were used on ESPN coverage. The result was a larger scorebug with a more conventional font. It was slightly modified in 2000 to have a border that was more in line with the red and yellow color scheme.
The graphics for Monday Night Football were changed in the 2002 season, the year the network hosted Super Bowl XXXVII. The scorebug was a solid color, with a more rounded shape, and a horizontally compressed font. ESPN's graphics were no longer similar to those of ABC's (with ESPN instead using a gray and black design with rounded corners). In 2005, the broadcast's final year on ABC, Monday Night Football began using a horizontal bar on the bottom of the screen rather than a scorebug, with all information being contained on a single line.
After Monday Night Football moved to ESPN in 2006 (around the same time that ABC Sports rebranded as ESPN on ABC), ESPN changed its entire graphics package to a red and black design, while NFL coverage used a separate design. For NFL telecasts in 2006 and 2007, a dark gray, metallic scorebug was used, located in an unorthodox placement at the center of the bottom of the screen.
For the 2008 season, a new graphics scheme was introduced that was built around a new display known as the "dashboard"; the scoreboard, which now took the form of a horizontal bar, was mounted in a dedicated area spanning across the bottom the screen. All lower-third graphics were also displayed within the dashboard, replacing the scorebar when in use.
For the 2009 and 2010 seasons, a revamped version of the 2008 design was used, incorporating a new, metallic silver design. Timeout indicators were added to the score bar in Week 4 of the 2009 season. For the 2009 season only, a "40th anniversary" logo was incorporated into the bar in celebration of Monday Night Football's 40th season. The "silver" graphics scheme would later be adopted by other ESPN properties, such as its college football games in December 2009.
In the 2011 season, the banner was restructured as a black, metallic design, which was considerably larger than most scorebars – including the previous one (although its sizes has varied, becoming significantly wider, though thinner in 2012). For ESPN's first pre-season game of 2012, the timeout indicators were also accompanied by two smaller red lamps to the right, indicating the number of play challenges remaining, but these were unexpectedly removed the following game. On September 10, 2012, Monday Night Countdown began using MNF's graphics scheme.
For the 2015 season, the graphics were completely overhauled to match the motif that has been used for ESPN's NFL studio programming since the year prior. However, the studio programming uses the new motif only for introductions and transitions, while the actual insert graphics use the standard ESPN package used for SportsCenter and all other sports. Meanwhile, MNF uses the NFL motif for all insert graphics, not just introductions and transitions. Most notably, the NFL motif uses a horizontal score bar across the bottom of the screen, whereas the standard graphics package uses a score box. The layout is standard, with teams on the background of their color, with timeout indicators also displaying in team colors. Experimentally, the score bar "auto-hides" itself during plays, though it is shown permanently during the final two minutes of each half and, if necessary, overtime. This is also the first time that ESPN has used the full 16:9 frame for its NFL graphics.
From 1970 to 1997, ABC's Monday Night Football coverage began at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time, with game kickoff typically occurring at seven minutes past the hour. Coverage was moved one hour earlier to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time in 1998, with a pre-game show titled Monday Night Blast, hosted by Chris Berman from the ESPN Zone restaurant in Baltimore preceding the start of the game at 8:20 p.m. This was done mainly to address ABC's inability to find a suitable 8:00 p.m. lead-in program for MNF since MacGyver ended its run in 1992 (not even two other series from MacGyver's production company Paramount Television – The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and The Marshal – saw success, despite the former's ties to Paramount's Indiana Jones film series), and to allow stations to start their late local newscasts nearer to their regular times. Poor ratings caused this experiment to be dropped after one season, with MNF once again moving to 9:00 p.m. in 1999, though in many NFL markets, the 8:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) hour from 1999 to 2006 was replaced by affiliates with locally produced and programmed sports discussion and coaches shows, with ABC programming in that hour moved to late night or weekend slots; by the end of the ABC run, the 8:00 p.m. timeslot was filled with either newsmagazines and short-lived reality television programs which failed to make any ratings headways due to affiliate pre-emptions.
From 1970 to 1995, Fisher Broadcasting's ABC affiliates in Seattle (KOMO-TV) and Portland (KATU) aired MNF games on a one-hour tape delay starting at 7:00 p.m. Pacific Time (games normally started in the Pacific Time Zone at 6:00 p.m., corresponding to 9:00 Eastern) in order to accommodate local newscasts (unless the Seattle Seahawks were playing, in which case the game would be shown live). The practice, long opposed by viewers and ABC, ended in 1996. KOMO then tried to accommodate having to air its local newscasts earlier than its local station competitors by marketing it as KOMO 4 News Primetime, touting it as a way to watch the news at a more convenient time than during evening rush hour. Additionally, this practice was done in Hawaii, where Honolulu ABC affiliate KITV delayed the game until 6:00 p.m. Hawaii-Aleutian Time, corresponding to 11:00 p.m. or midnight Eastern during daylight saving time on the mainland. Thus, the game, which was broadcast live on local radio starting at 3:00 or 4:00 p.m., was almost over before it aired on television. In the case of Guam, KTGM, the ABC affiliate in that U.S. territory, aired MNF live on Tuesdays at 11:00 a.m., as Guam is a day ahead of the United States due to being located on the other side of International Date Line.
The demand to broadcast Monday Night Football games live across the United States over ABC was difficult to reconcile with other prime time programming, which is usually set to begin at a certain local time regardless of time zone. On the East Coast, with MNF beginning at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time, there was an hour of primetime in which to schedule regular programming. However, on the West Coast, the games lasted from 6:00 to 9:30 p.m. Pacific Time (or in the case of Seattle and Portland from 1970 to 1995, 7:00 to 10:30 p.m.), leaving little or no time for additional network programming on Monday. As a result, network programs scheduled for prime time on the East Coast were broadcast at various hours on the West Coast. Most affiliates pushed the network shows to immediately after the game; however, Los Angeles owned-and-operated station KABC-TV postponed them until 10:00 p.m. from at least the mid-1990s until 2005 to show trivia contests and other sports shows produced locally (the longest-tenured such show was Monday Night Live, hosted by sports anchor Todd Donoho). Meanwhile, KOMO, one of the stations that tape-delayed MNF in most cases, broadcast new episodes of the sitcom Coach on Saturday afternoons (usually reserved, coincidentally enough, for college football telecasts; much of the series took place on a fictional college campus). Except for Seattle and Portland from 1970 to 1995, ABC World News Tonight was routinely preempted on most West Coast affiliates, though the ABC network-owned stations (e.g. Los Angeles) aired the program earlier in the afternoon.
Since ESPN took over the coverage in 2006, games normally have a kickoff time of 8:30 p.m. Eastern. However, when ESPN airs a doubleheader during the first week of the season, the games respectively start at 7:00 and 10:15 p.m. Eastern. There have been issues with local stations in the ESPN era, where stations in each team's home market that air the ESPN simulcast are in most cases ABC affiliates, which must pre-empt Dancing with the Stars to air NFL. This both forces the affiliate to air that program immediately after late-evening local newscasts, and has resulted in the program's telephone and Internet voting coordinators keeping a late-night voting window open for the market or markets where Dancing with the Stars was pre-empted.
In some cases, the program is moved to a sister station of the ABC affiliate to air live instead (for example, until 2011 in the Minneapolis–St. Paul market, when NBC affiliate KARE took over as the local broadcaster of MNF games, if the Minnesota Vikings were playing a game being simulcast on local ABC affiliate KSTP-TV, sister independent station KSTC-TV aired DWTS live). In 2016, for the opening week Monday night game (the second in a doubleheader) between the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers, the ABC-owned stations in both markets (KABC-TV and KGO-TV) would broadcast World News Tonight and DWTS in their live Eastern Time Zone slots, thus airing at 3:30 and 5pm PT respectively.
Since 2006, a Spanish-language telecast is also broadcast on ESPN Deportes, the Spanish version of ESPN and on ESPN Latin América featuring NBA and NFL play-by-play announcer Álvaro Martín, Super Bowl winner Raul Allegre as color commentator and John Sutcliffe as the field reporter. This is the same crew of La NFL Dominical, the Spanish version of ESPN Sunday Night Football, until 2005. The announcers of the second game of the 2006 doubleheader were Eduardo Varela (play-by-play), Robert Abramowitz (color) and Georgina Ruiz Sandoval (field reporter). Preceding the game NFL Esta Noche (NFL Tonight), the 30-minute pre-game show, can be seen on both networks.
The four booth announcers called the 2007 season opening games from ESPN's Bristol, Connecticut headquarters while watching games on monitors. None of them traveled to the game sites and there were no sideline reporters in the early weeks. Sutcliffe would later report from the game sites. Allegre did not work the season finale between the Broncos and Chargers; he was replaced by Abramovitz.
In 2008, Martin and Allegre only travelled to the Cowboys-Eagles game, during the NFL's celebrations of the Hispanic Heritage Month.
As part of ESPN's agreement to simulcast their Wild Card game on ABC, Martin and Allegre's Spanish-language commentary is carried over the SAP channel on ABC, equivalent to the rest of the NFL's over-the-air broadcast partners.
Since the 1990s, ESPN Latin America has a feed in Portuguese language targeted to their viewers in Brazil. Ivan Zimmermann (play-by-play), André José Adler (play-by-play), Roberto Figueroa (color), Marco Alfaro (color) among others, were the announcers broadcasting from ESPN's headquarters. Since 2006, the structure of the Brazilian feed was merged with ESPN Brasil and the broadcasting is made from São Paulo. The current announcers are Everaldo Marques (play-by-play) and Paulo Antunes (color). Ari Aguiar (play-by-play), Rômulo Mendonça (play-by-play), Paulo Mancha (color) and Antony Curti (color) occasionally fill-in.
Monday Night Football has also been carried on national radio networks over the years. The Mutual Broadcasting System aired the games initially, with Van Patrick (1972–1973), Lindsey Nelson (1974–1977) and Al Wester announcing. CBS Radio took over the rights in 1978 with Jack Buck and Hank Stram commentating. After a two-year stint (1985–1986) with Don Criqui and Bob Trumpy calling the games on NBC Radio, Buck and Stram resumed with CBS Radio in 1987. In 1996, Howard David and Matt Millen replaced Buck and Stram. Marv Albert and Boomer Esiason were the MNF radio voices from 2002 to 2009, with Kevin Harlan replacing Albert in 2010. Kurt Warner joined the crew in 2014 for games when Esiason is unavailable.
In the 1990s, CBS Radio purchased a controlling stake in Westwood One, which in turn had bought out both the NBC and Mutual networks. As of 2008, Westwood One was no longer controlled by CBS, but the network retained its NFL broadcast rights. In 2011, Westwood One was purchased by Dial Global. Then in 2014, Dial Global, including Westwood One, was acquired by Cumulus Media.
The Spanish-language broadcast is carried on ESPN Deportes Radio.
This article needs to be updated.(December 2016)
The highest-rated Monday Night Football telecast on ABC was the Miami Dolphins' victory over the previously undefeated Chicago Bears on December 2, 1985, which drew a national Nielsen rating of 29.6 and a share of 46. ABC's lowest-rated MNF game was the St. Louis Rams' defeat of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on October 18, 2004, which drew a 7.7 rating.
The highest-rated Monday Night Football game on ESPN, and the highest-rated program in U.S. cable television history at that time, was the Minnesota Vikings' defeat of the Green Bay Packers 30–23 on October 5, 2009, with a rating of 15.3. The game featured the much-hyped matchup of Vikings quarterback Brett Favre facing his longtime former Green Bay team. In a press release, ESPN noted that the telecast "was watched by more than 16.8 million people. The previous record was more than 13.6 million viewers for 2008's Monday night game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. This was subsequently beaten by ESPN's coverage of the 2011 BCS National Championship Game. ESPN also stated that the game drew the highest rating in the network's 30-year history. The 15.3 rating beat the 14.4 for a Bears-Vikings game on Dec. 6, 1987, during ESPN's first season of televising NFL games". ESPN's lowest-rated MNF game to date was the New York Giants' defeat of the Atlanta Falcons on October 15, 2007, which drew a 5.7 rating.
ESPN's third season of Monday Night Football was the most-watched program on cable television in 2008, setting an all-time cable viewership record for the third straight year and drawing that year's three largest cable household audiences and 13 of the top 15. In three seasons on ESPN, Monday Night Football has registered seven of the top 10 all-time largest household audiences in cable history, led by the Eagles-Cowboys telecast on September 15, 2008, which attracted cable's largest household audience ever (an average of 12,953,000 homes). ESPN's 17 MNF telecasts in 2008 averaged an 8.9 rating, representing an average of 8,679,000 households (11,962,000 viewers), increases of 3%, 5% and 7%, respectively, vs. 2007 (8.6; 8,277,000 and 11,230,000).
When ABC first acquired the rights to air MNF in 1970, it did not include any playoff games. The network was eventually allowed into the rotation of airing the Super Bowl, starting with Super Bowl XIX in January 1985. When the league expanded the playoffs from a 10-team to a 12-team tournament in 1990, ABC was then given the rights to air the first two Wild Card Playoff games. Originally, ABC's college football crews would call the first Wild Card Game.
ESPN and ABC's sports departments merged in 1997. Beginning with the 1997 season, the ESPN Sunday Night Football crew called the first game, with the ABC MNF crew calling the second game. ESPN provided wraparound studio programming, with part of the pre and postgame airing on ABC, and ESPN's Ron Jawarski often appeared from the studio for extra analysis during the first game. This arrangement lasted from 1997 through 2005, except for 2002 when ESPN/ABC's college football crew did the early game. Super Bowls on ABC in this period were treated as ESPN events.
After MNF was awarded to ESPN and Sunday Night Football was acquired by NBC in 2006, the Wild Card doubleheader that had aired on ABC, as well as a share of the rotating rights to the Super Bowl, was also given to NBC.
On April 22, 2014, the NFL announced that it had exercised an option in ESPN's recent contract extension for Monday Night Football rights to air a first-round Wild Card playoff game on the channel after the conclusion of the 2014 season. This was the first time that an NFL playoff game was ever broadcast exclusively on cable television in the United States, in lieu of any of the league's broadcast network partners. The MNF broadcast team of Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and sideline reporter Lisa Salters called the game, the first of the 2014–15 NFL playoffs. The Carolina Panthers defeated the Arizona Cardinals 27–16. As with all MNF games, the matchup was simulcast on WJZY in Charlotte and KASW in the Phoenix market to allow local viewers over-the-air access to the game.
However, the cable-only playoff game experiment would only last one season. On May 11, 2015, it was announced that ABC would simulcast a Wild Card playoff game with ESPN for the 2015 season. This was the first NFL game broadcast nationally on ABC since MNF left the network at the end of the 2005 season. The game, announced by the broadcast team of Tirico, Gruden and Salters, was the first of the 2015–16 NFL playoffs. The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Houston Texans 30–0. The ESPN/ABC simulcast continued for the 2016 season as well.
ABC televised the Pro Bowl from 1975 to 1987, and again from 1995 to 2003.
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