The coronavirus pandemic is forcing NFL and NBA media rights partners to rethink their logistical broadcasting strategies for the coming season.
ESPN is opening a new rooftop studio at its South Street Seaport location in New York City to house the “Sunday NFL Countdown,” “Monday Night Countdown” and “NBA Countdown” studio shows this season.
The new studio is being built on the site of an outdoor concert venue at Pier 17, overlooking Wall Street, the Brooklyn Bridge and the East River.
The long-running “Sunday NFL Countdown” is typically shot at ESPN’s Bristol, Conn. headquarters, while “Monday Night Countdown” normally travels to the site of each week’s “Monday Night Football” game.
The rooftop studio will also host the “NBA Countdown” pregame show for the 2020 eastern conference finals on ESPN and the NBA Finals on sister Disney network ABC.
ESPN typically adds and subtracts to the casts of its two main NFL pregame shows every year. But there won’t be many cast changes this season.
Louis Riddick will move up to the new “Monday Night Football” broadcast team with Brian Griese, Steve Levy, Lisa Salters and John Parry from the “Monday Night Countdown” pregame show.
Meanwhile, Booger McFarland, “Monday Night Football’s” lead analyst last season, will shift down to the “Monday Night Countdown” studio show. His former play-by-play partner Joe Tessitore will return to college football.
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On “Monday Night Countdown,” Suzy Kolber will return for her fourth year as host, anchoring halftime and post-game segments.
She and McFarland will be joined by analysts Randy Moss, Steve Young, Matt Hasselbeck and NFL Insider Adam Schefter. Michelle Beisner-Buck will serve as the show’s features reporter
They will all work out of New York with the exception of the San Francisco-based Young, who’ll travel to most “Monday Night Football” games.
Meanwhile, the cast of “Sunday NFL Countdown” will remain unchanged from last season.
Samantha Ponder will return for her fourth year as host. She’ll be joined by analysts Randy Moss, Tedy Bruschi, Matt Hasselbeck and Rex Ryan, plus NFL Insiders Schefter and Chris Mortensen. Reporters Jeff Darlington, Dan Graziano, Kimberley A. Martin, Sal Paolantonio, Dianna Russini and Ed Werder will contribute on-site from NFL stadiums.
Both of ESPN’s NFL pregame shows posted solid audience growth last season. “Sunday NFL Countdown” grew 8% while “Monday Night Countdown” was up 13%.