ESPN has finally brought in Peyton Manning as a commentator for ‘Monday Night Football’. It’s just not in a way anyone expected, and it won’t be for the entire season.
Walt Disney Company announced Monday a partnership with Manning and his Omaha Productions company in which Peyton and Eli Manning will be part of a “Monday Night Football” MegaCast for 10 games per year for the next three seasons.
Manning, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame next month, has long been rumored to be a “Monday Night Football” commentator since he retired after the 2015 season, but the parties were never able to come to an agreement. Now fans can get his opinion, albeit in a different format and with his brother, who retired last year after leading the New York Giants to two Super Bowl championships.
The Manning’s MegaCast will debut for the first three weeks of this season, including the September 13 opener between the Baltimore Ravens and Las Vegas Raiders, with the remaining seven weeks to be announced. It will air on ESPN2 and will be streamed on ESPN+, while the standard broadcast will be on ESPN and/or ABC.
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The MNF crew of Steve Levy, Brian Griese, Louis Riddick, Lisa Salters and John Parry returns for a second season.
MegaCasts was a staple of ESPN’s coverage of the College Football Playoffs before expanding to the NFL last year. The Week 2 game between the New Orleans Saints and Raiders attracted an average of 15.59 million viewers on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN Deportes, one of the most-watched MNF games of the season. ESPN also brought back the MegaCast for the wildcard round between Baltimore and the Tennessee Titans.
ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro said in a statement that the MegaCast was designed to be a great addition to traditional broadcasting. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in April, when the league finalized its new 11-year broadcast deals, the networks would have more leeway for alternative broadcasts.
Amazon, which will be the exclusive outlet for “Thursday Night Football” from 2022, had alternate presentations during its simulcasts with Fox last season. CBS did a kids-directed broadcast of the wildcard game between the Chicago Bears and Saints.
“Offering multiple viewing options for the next three seasons continues our innovation efforts and provides additional value to our fans,” said Pitaro. “Peyton and Eli will offer a different approach, engaging in conversation about broader, big-picture topics while also delving into the game, much like fans do when watching with their family and friends.”
The MegaCast will come from a remote location. The Mannings will be accompanied by a host to be determined and will include other guests. While the game will always be visible, the conversation will be informal and it will be like viewers are watching a game at home with friends.
“This partnership with ESPN and The Walt Disney Company reflects an ongoing, shared commitment to bring fans fun, innovative content,” Peyton Manning said in a statement. “ESPN+ has been a great partner for Omaha Productions in building the The Places franchise and we are excited to co-create a new MegaCast format that will have something for everyone.”
Peyton Manning already has a working history at ESPN. His “Peyton’s Places” series on ESPN+ was intended as a one-off event to celebrate the 100th season of the NFL, but is now in its third season. The franchise has expanded to include “Places” series featuring Abby Wambach (football), Eli Manning (college football), David Ortiz (Major League Baseball), Ronda Rousey (martial arts), and Vince Carter (NBA). Wambach’s series premiered this month.