The empire is striking back.
The Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN was caught flat-footed when Paramount Globals’ Nickelodeon beat it to the punch with the first alternate game telecast aimed at kids in 2021.
The family entertainment giant has worked hard to get into the kids’ game ever since. Tonight, ESPN will announce a fully animated version of the Atlanta Falcons vs. Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 1, which will be the equivalent of Toy Story Meets the NFL.
The first “Toy Story Funday Football” will stream on ESPN+, Disney+, and NFL” from Wembley Stadium in London. Disney will virtually recreate the real game in “Andy’s Room” from the “Toy Story” cinematic universe using the league’s Next Gen technology.
The stream will feature many of the iconic characters from “Toy Story,” such as Woody and Buzz Lightyear. During halftime, Duke Caboom will attempt a motorcycle jump. On the call for ESPN will be Drew Carter, Booger McFarland and 12-year old Pepper Persley.
The timing of live NFL games creates challenges for media partners looking to develop youth-focused alternate telecasts.
Nickelodeon and CBS have used afternoon game times to create multiple Slime-casts of NFL games. They will capitalize on their previous success with the first-ever Super Bowl kid-cast, which will air alongside CBS’s traditional coverage of Super Bowl 58.
As rights holder to the “Monday Night Football” primetime package, Disney/ESPN was stumped from creating an alt-cast that would air when most young kids are in bed.
But the morning kickoff time of 9:30 a.m. ET from London gave the company the opening it has been looking for, said sources.
ESPN is no stranger to alternate telecasts. Eli and Peyton Maning will kick off the third season of their popular “ManningCast” on ESPN2 tonight. ESPN has also been taking a MegaCast approach with the College Football National Championship and college basketball for the last decade.
Front Office Sports first reported Disney was exploring a kids-focused NFLtelecast in 2021.