ESPN plans to have three “Monday Night Football” doubleheaders during the 2023 NFL season.Images: getty
The first sign of ESPN’s new 11-year “Monday Night Football” deal came in January when ABC and ESPN simulcast a doubleheader on Saturday during the final weekend of the NFL regular season. The games, which included the Cowboys and Eagles, were high-quality matchups that determined playoff positioning.
Another sign of ESPN’s new deal came in May when the NFL released its 2022 schedule. Gone are the days of the league viewing “Monday Night Football” as the cable bundle and seeding it with the worst games. The “Monday Night Football” schedule is clearly stronger this season than in the past decade, as Super Bowl favorites like the Bills, Rams and Bengals will be featured multiple times.
The next stage of ESPN’s new NFL package arrives this week, as it will feature two games at the same time on September 1. 19. The Titans-Bills will begin at 7:15 p.m. on ESPN, and the Vikings-Eagles will begin on ABC at 8:30 p.m., creating approximately 90 minutes of overlap. This will be ESPN’s only doubleheader this season. From next year, there will be three each season.
Games will sometimes have an NFL RedZone look, with live looks and an ever-present on-screen scoring bug to keep viewers up to date with the game they’re not watching. ESPN executives say they are treating Monday’s games as a test of how best to present them in years to come.
“We seek to create as many different, unique and special experiences for our ‘Monday Night Football’ franchise throughout the year,” said Julie Sobieski, ESPN’s senior vice president of programming and acquisitions.
ESPN will pay close attention to total minutes watched, as well as reach and watch time stats, Sobieski said. “We’re excited to guide fans through college football Saturday,” she said. “We’re going to build on that expertise to make this really transparent for the fans.”
The Titans-Bills game will look like a regular “Monday Night Football” TV show on ESPN when it kicks off at 7:15 p.m. Things will be different when the Vikings-Eagles game starts at 8:30 p.m. on ABC.
Both networks will, on occasion, use a double box showing both games. Scott Van Pelt will burst into every TV show to give highlights and game updates. Suzy Kolber will host the halftime shows on both networks, which will include looks at live games.
Van Pelt will take over on ESPN at the end of the Titans-Bills game, hosting a post-game show that will feature extended live previews of the Vikings-Eagles game. Van Pelt will host a more traditional post-game show once the Vikings-Eagles game is over.
“When we talked about the new deal, we wanted to increase the inventory of exclusive games we have for ‘Monday Night Football’ and we wanted to continue to grow our presence on ABC,” Sobieski said. “It became a way for us to express additional inventory and do something unique.”