Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli a MegaCast and a Mega Hit!
With the first three scheduled NFL broadcasts already on the books, it is abundantly clear that Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli — ESPN2’s alternative broadcast to ESPN’s Monday Night Football — is a surprise hit. Week 2 was the most-watched alternative broadcast in the history of ESPN2, at least until week 3 topped it.
What insights can we glean from the early success of MNF-PE?*
*Yes, that’s a lousy acronym. How else would you abbreviate? Seriously, you tell me.
“Alternative Broadcast” Defined
Alternative broadcasts—branded as “MegaCasts” by Disney’s ESPN—are simulcasts of a single sporting event across multiple networks, each providing a different perspective and spin on the game. By definition, more than one distributor has rights to the programming.
Alternative NFL Broadcast History
May 2018 – NFL MegaCasts first appeared during the 2018 NFL Draft when ESPN2 aired an alternative broadcast to the traditional ESPN Day 1 coverage. The MegaCast was hosted by the College Gameday crew.
September 2020 – ESPN/ABC held its first NFL Regular Season MegaCast, celebrating the 50th year of Monday Night Football as well as the first NFL regular-season game in Las Vegas.
January 2021 – Nickelodeon and CBS teamed up to create a unique alternative broadcast of the Chicago Bears vs. New Orleans Saints wildcard football game. Viewership on Nickelodeon averaged 2.06 million, the network’s most-watched program in four years.
July 2021 – ESPN announced a 3-year alternative broadcasting agreement to produce a Monday Night Football MegaCast in conjunction with Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions. The broadcasts, 10 per year, will be distributed on ESPN2 and potentially across Disney streaming properties including ESPN+.
A Ratings Success
Before the September 2021 debut of Monday Night with Peyton and Eli on ESPN2, the most-viewed MegaCast was 1.03 million viewers during the January 2018 College Football Playoff championship on ESPN2.
Yes, ratings still matter. But more important than the ratings on given a network is whether alternative broadcasts deliver an incremental audience. For example, the January 2021 broadcast on Nickelodeon attracted and engaged younger viewers, an audience that has proven difficult to reach and yet is critical to the future of the NFL as a league and as a TV powerhouse.
On the one hand, It appears that Monday Night Football with Peyton & Eli may have cannibalized some of the traditional MNF viewers. On the other hand, it also appears to have attracted and engaged the younger, more casual NFL fan. In the key A18-49 demographic, 50% of the ESPN2 MNF viewers were A18-49 compared to 37% 18-49 for January 2021’s Super Bowl LV.
Elements of a Successful MegaCast
In June 2019, TDG released Thoughts on the Future of Televised Sports, a report written by senior analysts Mike Fischer and Rob Silvershein. In that report, the team recommended many of the successful elements that were featured during the ESPN2 broadcasts. Let’s look at the elements that worked.
Peyton & Eli – The two beloved former NFL quarterbacks, Super Bowl champions, and brothers delivered banter that was authentic, intelligent, and funny. It’s difficult to create the timing and rhythm of two brothers who love the game and want to see each other succeed. Peyton and Eli both entertained and educated their audience in a truly genuine fashion.
Guests – The roster of guests that appeared during the first three broadcasts was great. Not every visitor to the broadcast was a household name but, just like on the football field, Peyton and Eli elevated the conversations and made unknowns stars. As the weeks progress, we anticipate bigger names seeking out the Mannings to join the brothers during the broadcast, including:
Virality – The Mannings are being talked about in social media, traditional media, and popular culture, and the buzz has been almost all positive. The show is gaining momentum and is likely to continue to grow.
Informative and funny, spontaneous and popular, what more can a television executive ask for in a broadcast, or an alternative broadcast, for that matter? Just one question remains: Can MNF with Peyton and Eli continue to hold on to its ratings?
We know Peyton and Eli are winners, both on the field and off. Whether you are a Patriots’ or Eagles’ fan, the feeling toward the Manning brothers is warm. They are NFL royalty and their gift of elevating those around them is palpable. So, yes, as long as TV executives don’t mess with their success, look for continued ratings strength for ESPN2 on Monday nights.
What will be interesting over the coming year is what other sports will do to try to replicate the show’s success. From a TV perspective, Nickelodeon—and Peyton and Eli—have proven that alternative broadcasts can work. But Nickelodeon’s alternative broadcast was a special event, whereas Peyton and Eli have demonstrated that they can be successful on almost a weekly basis.
The Walt Disney Company, the NFL, CBS, Fox, and fans of all ages should all be grateful for what the Mannings, especially Peyton, continue to do to elevate the game of football.
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A 20-year veteran media executive, Rob Silvershein’s success in today’s competitive media environment is a direct result of his unique experiences spanning traditional, emerging, and startup media platforms. He is an accomplished strategist and spends most of his time advising media companies on how to structure themselves for long term success. He currently lives in Manhattan Beach, CA.