ESPN politicks for better MNF slate in 2017

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Eleven years ago, Monday Night Football moved from broadcast to cable and Sunday Night Football moved from cable to broadcast and Sunday Night Football, by virtue of the bigger weekly platform, became Monday Night FootballMonday Night Football now hopes to make itself more like the Monday Night Football of old.

Via SportsBusiness Daily, ESPN executive V.P. of programming and scheduling Burke Magnus said Wednesday at the 2017 CAA World Congress of Sports that the network has been politicking for a better slate of games for the coming season.

“We have high expectations because we’ve been as engaged with the league as we ever have been in terms of what the results are going to be,” Magnus said. “We’ve done everything we can possibly do to communicate with the league and guide them in terms of our preferences, and now we’ll see.”

The effort to improve the schedule underscores the challenges ESPN currently faces. In past years, before tens of thousands of people who were paying the monthly subscription fee for the multiple versions of the four-letter network without ever watching any of them cut the cord on cable, the quality of the NFL contests wasn’t an issue. Now, the network needs better matchups in order to lure customers back to the product, regardless of how they pay for it.

Here’s the problem: The NFL schedule is a zero-sum game. With 256 finite matchups, the league will have to rob CBS/FOX/NBC to pay ESPN. And CBS/FOX/NBC won’t like that.

The league won’t like it, either. In addition to the billions of dollars that come from TV deals, televising football amounts to the most effective promotion of the NFL’s product. And the league understands that it makes much more sense to put the better matchups in the spots that will generate the biggest audiences.

And that’s not me politicking for a better schedule for NBC (as if the league office would ever listen to me, on that point or anything else). The 2017 schedule is locked and loaded and ready to be unveiled on Thursday night. Nothing anyone says publicly at this point will change it.

The real question is whether the things said privately by ESPN over the past several weeks and months had an impact. Unless the NFL has decided to put games that could generate much bigger ratings via broadcast TV on a shrinking cable platform, it would be a surprise if anything changes.

21 responses to “ESPN politicks for better MNF slate in 2017

  1. No one knows what teams will be good. For example, Dallas has literally been a .500 team since Jason took over as coach. Last year they were dominant. Now they’ll be considered a hot team this year. But their history suggest don’t jump on that band wagon just yet. I’m still willing to bet they get 7-9 prime time games though.

  2. No fan of ESPN, but they are right. They’ve become the red-headed stepchild of the NFL broadcast. The NFL, who makes no secret of trying to own every day of the week is, essentially, giving up Monday by scheduling these awful matchups.

    Same thing with Thursday games, although those need to be scrapped altogether.

  3. The NFL thinks it can do whatever it wants and fans will just accept it… well they’re finding out that that is not the case.

    As more and more people ‘cut the cord’ the NFL will lose viewers just like everyone else.

    I’m at the point that if I can’t see a game… I really no longer care and honestly after watching it for almost 40 years it’s s shame because the NFL just doesn’t give a crap. They will soon enough…

  4. ESPN will still overpay for the NFL because they have to and need the product to keep people paying for ESPN. ESPN can survive without the NFL, but it would be a far different ESPN.

  5. You don’t deserve mnf espn…. you run to many outside the line reports against the NFL and encourage your announcers not to say redskins. Espn is garbage

  6. The Monday night games should have NEVER been moved from any of the major three networks. By moving them to some high-numbered station, they removed them from the consciousness of the less avid fans.

    In the old days, I would be looking for something to watch, and maybe start at channel 2 or 4, and start flipping. I know I would then come across MNF on ABC on channel 5, for me, and frequently start watching. I have, indeed, dropped ESPN from my already over-priced DirecTV, but before that, the odds of me just channel-surfing to channel 206 is a lot less likely.

    In essence, the NFL lost a lot of free advertising for their product by the lost channel surfing watchers, and with less watchers, there is less advertising revenue.

  7. For example, Dallas has literally been a .500 team since Jason took over as coach.
    58-46 is not literally .500.
    52 -52 would literally be .500.

    You could have used any word that means approximate.
    But literally means exact. Not approximate.

  8. There is nothing anyone can do about this–first of all, NBC’s “Football Night In America” followed by the game nearly always has a top game between two perennial contenders or possible contenders, and many of these are division rivals that draw top audiences. Then you have sometimes crappy games between division rivals or teams that suddenly suck (like last years Bengals or Panthers) vs. other crappy teams (such as Thursday night, when all teams get a slot, even bad ones–heck the Jets got two games last year!). Then you have teams that miraged (2015 Jets, for instance, who went 10-6) getting two or three prime time games and they then suck as usual, when teams that suddenly become good (the four or five teams that no one expects make the playoffs, an annual event) only getting one scheduled appearance, none on Monday nights (the Jets got two Monday nighters–I bet you ESPN screwed that up, and then they got a Saturday nighter and get blown out by Fins).

    Since no one knows how any teams (except maybe the Pats) will do, the NFL and the networks really can’t complain about scheduling games–unless the NFL really is fixed like a growing number of folks believe. Heck you got folks who believe the Pats will win the next three Super Bowls because of Brady’s love for Trump!

  9. I think thy’d be wise to have the same schedule format all year as week one. Have a 7:30 kickoff with east coast teams and then have a 10:30 EST kickoff featuring west coast teams. I rarely stay up and watch a full game, so many people on the east coast switch to local news at 11 or turn it off (unless it’s their team). This way the get east coast viewers for the entire game and west coast viewers for an entire game and a mix of viewers for both games.

  10. Sunday Night Football got a huge boost from being able to flex late season games. The last few weeks are always marquee matchups with division/playoff implications. Can’t flex MNF, which means they can be getting games that were supposed to matter that don’t. When Week 15 rolls around and the Panthers are on MNF because they went 15-1 last year but are on their way to 6-10 this year, ratings are going to suffer.

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