For overlapping doubleheaders, ESPN needs to ditch the overlapping coverage

NFL: DEC 20 Vikings at Bears
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For its first foray into the concept of the overlapping Monday night doubleheader, ESPN and ABC tried to placate the audiences of each game by providing maximum information about the other game. In the future, maybe the better plan would be to give less. A lot less. Maybe nothing at all.

When it comes to prime-time, fans are accustomed to watching one game only. Many prefer it. The overlapping doubleheader is aimed at least in part at reducing the total time commitment from six hours to, roughly, four. But there’s a better way to balance the interests of those who want to consume two games at once and those who prefer to invest a full six hours (or more) by watching one game at a time.

That’s the biggest piece of unsolicited (and perhaps unwanted) advice that can be given. ESPN and ABC should aspire to preserve the ability of viewers to watch each game without spoilers. The games should be self-contained, not simulcast.

On Sunday afternoons, highlights and scores and other information from other games is routinely shared, even though much of the audience is watching only one of seven, eight, or nine contests. That’s what the viewers are accustomed to.

Thirty years ago, fans craved the ability to know what was happening in other games, and the only way to get that information (short of calling a 976 line) was to watch whichever game(s) were being broadcast in the local market. (CNN Headline News was the first network to flash scores of in-progress NFL games at the bottom of the screen, making it — for a year or two — a must-stop destination for fans who wanted to know what was going on in a game that wasn’t available on TV.)

The experience on Monday night (and in prime-time generally) has been far different. Fans are used to watching one game at a time. Many prefer it. With two games being televised nationally, there’s no reason to keep the folks watching one game constantly apprised of whatever is happening in the other game. People who want to watch both games will find a way to do it. Whether they have a pair of televisions or a TV and a laptop or tablet or phone, it’s not nearly as difficult and expensive as it used to be to watch two games at once.

So the goal should be not to keep the audience of one game fully informed as to the progress of the other one, but completely uninformed. The score bug for the other game, which is very distracting, should be dumped. Also, there’s no need to ever show both games at once. Cutting the screen in half to show what’s happening in the other game takes away from the primary game. And there’s definitely no reason to show highlights from one game in the other game.

Scott Van Pelt is great. But when watching Vikings-Eagles, I don’t need him to show me and to tell me about the highlights of the other game — especially when, on at least one occasion, he was narrating highlights from Titans-Bills over the action of Vikings-Eagles. (It’s not his fault. He was doing his job. But someone higher up needs to ask whether this is a job that should be done.)

Last night was an experiment. ESPN presumably will tinker a little, or a lot, with the presentation of the game. Hopefully, ESPN will consider the value of letting fans who want to watch one game at a time do so, without any spoilers.

There’s no purpose served by potentially enticing the viewer to change from one Disney-owned network to the other. The viewers are already tuned in to one of the games. There’s no reason to try to get them to flip. There’s every reason to let those who are willing to invest six straight hours in watching Monday Night Football  to do so without knowing anything about the other game until they watch it.

45 responses to “For overlapping doubleheaders, ESPN needs to ditch the overlapping coverage

  1. I was watching one on line and the other on my TV on the antenna. What I didn’t like about the updates was that the online seemed to be ahead of my TV giving me spoilers on a game I was watching at the same time. Football is slow enough to watch two games at once and absorb all the match ups.

  2. The last 10 to 15 years the NFL has all about greed. The fans see it…the news media sees it ….the owners enjoy everyone seeing it.

  3. I would not mind this if my TV still had PIP, but as far as I know, modern LCD TVs do not have this feature.

  4. Couldn’t agree more.

    Why assume that everyone watching wants to know what’s happening in the other game? I for one DON’T want to know – I’ll watch the second game when I have time to do so, and I DON’T want to know the score beforehand.

    Really dumb move by ESPN and ABC last night. I hope they change it.

  5. I have said this since it was announced. Many viewers have DVR’s. Let’s say I’m watching the Bills game live and recording the Eagles game. The Bills game turns into a blowout. Now I can start watching the Eagles game from the beginning without knowing the score.

  6. Start up RED zone Monday nights and jump from game to game whenever something happens worth seeing.

  7. When you say “many fans prefer it”, how do you know? Did you talk to many fans since the game was over? Sounds like more of your opinion. I did not mind some double screen or check in’s when appropriate.

  8. I was complaining about this all night. I wanted to watch the Vikings/Eagles game after but there was no point. It totally sucked.

  9. I hope it was an experiment, because it was terrible. Easily the worst production of an nfl game that ive ever seen. Its 2022: if i want to watch more than 1 football game, i have the technology… I DO NOT WANT TO DO THAT so them forcing me to was a terrible experience. They took my fandom for my favorite team, the team i was watching, and toyed with it, and like a carrot on a stick, i got sick of playing along immediately. Never again please

  10. The hopping in between games was a failure. I’m not some luddite when it comes to technology and all I tried to do is just put one game on my TV and the other on my computer and watch both, but with the cannibalistic coverage, it seemed like there was always the same game on both screens.

    Why was the two-game system even necessary? Don’t you want all eyes on ONE marquee prime-time matchup? These channels are so desperate to get viewers with these gimmicks but last time I checked football is the most-watched sport in this country.

  11. Agree with Billsfan716, but was also annoyed when watching the Philly/Minny game, they would switch to some highlights of the Buff/Tenn game, but would cut it off and come back halfway through a play in the Philly/Minny game. Super annoying. I tuned in to watch one game. If I wanted to watch both, I’d figure out how to watch both. Overall, hard pass, but also when you’re doing a MNF double header, do 7:15 and 10:15EST, but make the 10:15 game like, an NFC or AFC West matchup. Having a SEA/SF or LAC/LVR game on at 10:15 eastern is the way to go because it just makes sense.

  12. Wow…I really didn’t think it was a big deal at all. Was watching the Eagles and…at a moment when not very much was happening, they bumped in with an unbelievable throw by Josh Allen to Stefon Diggs. Cool highlight. Back to the Eagles in time for the next snap. So what?

  13. As one who has cut the cord, ESPN is no longer available, why doesn’t the NFL just do away with abb agreement that leaves a lot if fans out.
    I’m sure there are many other NFL fans that feel the same way. Wake up NFL your diluting your product.

  14. 2 uncompetitive blow out games didn’t help very much to hold viewers unless you were a fan of 1 of these teams. I like football but not games like those 2. It was like a pro team vs a college team. I found a MLB game that was pretty good.

  15. I’m in Tennessee… not a Titans fan but their Bills game was ESPN only and the Vikings Eagles game was on ABC ..that didn’t make sense to me but maybe Titans fans wouldn’t have wanted to watch that anyway…oops

  16. In some ways I was glad both of these games were blowouts. Made me feel better about turning them both off. Just stick to one game. Show highlights from the other occasionally. If I want to watch two games at once, I have the ability to do it, but let me make the choice.

    Once I turned off MNF all I had to do was refresh a browser on my tablet to see the updated scores. If ESPN/ABC wanted to go with the format they were using what was the point of having the games on two different channels?

  17. Like most viewers, I was frustrated by the coverage. It did not make much sense unless it is a precursor of something very different. It could be part of a move by the NFL to restructure the base schedule of games. For instance, the NFL may be developing a new concept for presenting its games with a base broadcast schedule of 1- Thursday game, 4 – early games on Sunday, 4 – late games, 1-Sunday night game and 4-Monday evening games. This would give the West Coast viewers convenient access to more games, the NFL RedZone increased importance (and more revenue from sponsors like Amazon Prime) and prevent the overlap frustration. The 14 base schedule accounts for bye weeks for four teams (as the schedule is currently arranged). The NFL could distribute those two fames to accommodate its network or streaming partners. If this is the ultimate plan, it would drastically expand the entertainment products that the NFL sells to streaming services and networks while also expanding its proprietary media footprint. Just trying to make sense of the senseless overlap presentation last night.

  18. While I was trying to explain what was going on to my (football novice) wife, even I got confused. One game at a time, please.

  19. Why not show the both games in their entirety at different times? Start one 2 hrs early but put it behind the espn+ paywall and the other on espn…abc…or both. This way only those that really want to watch the early game can watch still watch it but the late game goes on as normal.

  20. The split screen was EXTREMELY annoying! If I wanted to watch the other game, I would have switched to it. Not sure why they a), had a second game on a Monday night, and b), why they would have it overlap with the first game. Hopefully we won’t see any more of that stupidity from the NFL and ESPN, but I’m not confident.

  21. Millions of people enjoy Red Zone where the objective is to jump from game to game. I doubt that very many folks were bothered by updates, cut ins, and split screens. Those that were are stuck in the 1950s when you had to physically walk to your TV and manually change the channel. The rest of us have progressed to 2022 and have the ability to multitask.

  22. I have a 5-screen setup for busy Sundays with NFL and auto racing going on. I can certainly handle 2 games at once, and I think a lot of other people can too.

  23. not a fan, dvr’d both because I don’t have time for commercials and watching both games. It ruined the Bills game for me because I already knew the outcome

  24. i support this whole heartedly. It was so annoying yesterday, because I’d set out to watch both games commercial free, back to back, waiting to watch Bills vs Titans by a bit more than an hour. Then started seeing the spoilers and split screen coverage. Honestly it was making me wish there was alternate coverage because the other game was being shoved in the viewers faces. The whole thing was aweful.

  25. Keep the overlapping coverage – No need to switch channels or pay for espn, just clean it up a bit.

  26. I don’t understand the annoyance of the split screen when everyone thinks RedZone is the greatest thing ever.
    Don’t they jump all over the place while showing split screens?

  27. I dont mind the usual score ticker going, or during a break they flash to a big play. Last night was a wreck and way more than id ever want during a game. Far too many jumps to the other game which interferes with the one being watched. If I cared about the other game(s), id have them on.

  28. As a fan of one of the teams playing, it sucked. I want that one game, and that game alone! If i don’t have a major rooting interest then I’d imagine it might be more tolerable, if not desired even, but they should offer both games uninterrupted and have a separate channel showing a split screen or back and forth action. As someone else mentioned, ESPN2 could have been the answer…both ESPN and ESPN2 were playing the same damn thing. What’s the point in that?

  29. dx2nc says:
    September 20, 2022 at 11:49 am
    What? I completely agree with Florio.

    Yeah, I know. Me, too….. and its killing me!

  30. I often do not agree with Mike Florio’s views, on this he hit the nail squarely on the head and drove it home with one swing. The game I wanted to watch was Bill/Titans. Had the Vikings/Eagles game been of interest, I would have recorded it for later viewing. The constant split screen, which in effect turned my 40″ TV into a 20″ TV was extremely annoying. It was so annoying that I turned off the Bills/Titans game at halftime, and if ESPN does this in the future, I guess I will not be watching football on ESPN.

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