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Sports Media Survey -- Monday Night Mayhem

A look at how "Monday Night Football" got started and the movie about it

Charles Twardy

on 29 September 2017

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Transcript of Sports Media Survey -- Monday Night Mayhem

ESPN, which is spending an average of $1.1 billion annually to carry "Monday Night Football," declared the shift of the series from ABC a success yesterday.
Monday 's Vikings-Redskins game attracted 12.6 million viewers, the most for a program in ESPN's 27-year history
, the second most in cable history and nearly 12 percent more than ESPN's "Sunday Night " season opener last year. With help from the second game of its " Monday Night " doubleheader,
ESPN had the highest prime-time rating of all network and cable rivals
. Still, it was inevitable that "Monday Night " on cable would produce
noticeably fewer viewers than on broadcast television
, which is seen in millions of additional households.
The Vikings-Redskins game drew 36 percent fewer viewers than the 19.6 million for ABC's " Monday Night " opener last year.

Richard Sandomir, The New York Times, Sept. 13, 2006
“Sources told the Associated Press that NBC will pay the NFL $600 million per season to carry the Sunday night games, approximately what ESPN has been paying for the Sunday night franchise in an eight-year deal that ends after the 2005 season. “Meanwhile, sources told the Associated Press that ESPN will pay $1.1 billion a year through its contract, basically double what ABC has paid the league in the current eight-year pact.
ESPN is better able than ABC to absorb those fees because it can generate ad revenue throughout its properties
(including ESPN Radio, ESPN .com and ESPN the Magazine) and
it gets subscriber fees from cable and satellite companies
. ABC, which relies solely on ad revenue, reportedly has been losing $150 million per year with its Monday night package.”

Monday Night Football to leave ABC for ESPN
- After 36 years, NFL showcase goes to cable
Steve Kroner, San Francisco Chronicle, Tuesday, April 19, 2005
By the dawn of the 21st century, the old magic was gone in many ways
Cosell and Meredith were both dreamers, always wanting more from life and career…
Cosell tried and failed at hosting a variety show, flirted with politics.
In its glory days, the show made television come alive. Monday Night Football delivered a weekly burst of spontaneous, unpredictable entertainment that stood out amid the droning blandness of prime time.
Lessons from Monday Night Mayhem
Lessons from Monday Night Mayhem
Harry Caray, Curt Gowdy and Vin Scully
Announcers and the changing shape of fandom
What followed was the phenomenon: fame and acclaim and riches. Sports television exploded into a billion-dollar-a-year industry, powered by the genius of [Roone] Arledge.

Marc Gunther, Bill Carter, 1988

1961 – ABC’s Wide World of Sports
Introduced slow-motion and replays
1968 – promoted to head of ABC Sports
1969 – launched Monday Night Football
Produced 10 Olympics for ABC
1977 – made head of ABC News
Created World News Tonight,
20/20 and Nightline
“…a 1994 Sports Illustrated magazine ranking placed Arledge third, behind Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan, in a list of 40 individuals who have had the greatest impact on the world of sports in the last four decades.”
Museum of Broadcast Communications
“The bottom line on Roone is he made the sports television business what it is today.”
-- Barney Frank, sports agent, entrepreneur, former Arledge employee
How it was/is done –
control room
How it was/is done –
Money and Power
Sports in Prime Time
Sports = Entertainment
Forte zooms in on Meredith while Cowboys are losing
Forte zooms in on dejected Joe Namath
Forte zooms in on injured player, Arledge says,
“If this were CBS…”
Forte zooms in on pretty women
Gambling is always in the shadows…
Announcers matter:
Some announcers (and sportswriters) cannot shake the sense that what they do is not important.
NBC aired 1980 Jets-Dolphins game without announcers; ratings high but not repeated.
ABC tried various combinations for MNF,
including Al Michaels and Dennis Miller (2000).
Meredith tried Hollywood;
more luck as a commercial pitchman
Huge cable, satellite universe –
“Big Three” (Four w/ Fox)
networks not so big any more
And the old sizzle was gone…
ABC had an eight-year, $550 million/year deal with NFL, and was losing money heavily, gaining little otherwise. In 2004, year before contract up, talk surfaced of shifting to ESPN, and maybe a Sunday night game on ABC – or NBC
Full transcript