ESPN plans to give TV viewers a double dose of the ManningCast, Front Office Sports has learned.
For the first time, the NFL will broadcast two NFL games simultaneously on “Monday Night Football” on Dec. 11, which means Super Bowl-winning brothers Peyton and Eli Manning will do the same on their “Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli” broadcast.
The Mannings are poised to call two games – the Green Bay Packers at the New York Giants and Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins – at the same time, akin to a mini Red Zone broadcast, which will be aired on ESPN2 and ESPN+.
MNF’s top announce team of Troy Aikman, Joe Buck and Lisa Salters will call Packers-Giants on ABC and ESPN+. Louis Riddick, Dan Orlovky, Chris Fowler and Laura Rutledge will have Titans-Dolphins on ESPN and ESPN+.
ESPN previously offered MNF doubleheaders at staggered start times during Weeks 2 and 3. The network secured an expanded 25-game MNF schedule – and the two-games-in-one night innovation – after its $2.7 billion a year rights deal with the NFL through 2033.
The Mannings will have their normal A-List guests drop in during the alternative telecast. There will also be limited commercial breaks enabling viewers to watch and follow both primetime games side-by-side.
Naturally, if one game is more compelling, the brothers will focus on the more compelling contest, said sources.
King of Alt-Casts
ESPN’s mini-NFL RedZone approach marks the latest expansion in the growing business relationship between the Walt Disney Co. and Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions, which produces the popular alternate telecast.
Now in its third season, the Emmy Award-winning ManningCast is boosting viewership and pop culture buzz around MNF, a 53-year-old prime-time franchise that was running on fumes a few years ago.
The alternative telecast has posted 26 consecutive episodes generating more than 1 million viewers, and it accounts for the top 26 most-watched individual airings out of ESPN’s 150 total alt-casts.
The Mannings have attracted nearly 2 million million viewers on two occasions, including MNF’s telecast of the Philadelphia Eagles vs. Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 20.
That Super Bowl 57 rematch drew 29 million total viewers, and it and was the most-watched game of the NFL season on any network until Thanksgiving weekend. The ManningCast contributed 1.9 million viewers to that total.
Peyton, 47, and Eli, 42, film the show from their respective home studios in Colorado and New Jersey.
Former Fox Sports executive Patrick Crakes calls the ManningCast the “apex” of alt-casts, which are designed to complement but not replace primary game telecasts. But it will be a “heavy lift,” she says, for any networks to imitate, much less duplicate the folksy, funny appeal of the bantering brothers.
“The ManningCast is about as perfect a companion as MNF could ever hope to have. It’s helping drive incremental engagement and circulation across the ESPN Brands viewing echo system,” Crakes told Front Office Sports. “In truth, it’s hard to see MNF without it these days.”
A model for other athletes
Many sports figures, such as LeBron James, have launched their own media companies. The three-year-old Omaha is on track to become a billion-dollar company.
This summer, Peter Chernin’s North Road Co. invested $10 million in Omaha, valuing the company at $400 million. Back in 2021, James’s SpringHill was valued at $725 million.
“I would never underestimate the level of his ambition,” Chernin said about Peyton Manning. “He’s super impressive, incredibly smart, and incredibly focused. He is one of the most focused people I’ve ever been around.”