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ESPN Could Overhaul Monday Night Football Broadcast

Jason Barrett

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ESPN wants Peyton Manning and is open to making wholesale changes in the Monday Night Football booth according to Andrew Marchand of the New York Post.

After losing high profile color analyst Jon Gruden to the Oakland Raiders, the network is seeking star power in the analyst role. Peyton Manning would provide that and more which is why he’s said to be the network’s preferred choice. FOX Sports has also expressed an interest in Manning, but he has yet to commit to making a move into the booth. Insiders say the former quarterback would like to gain an ownership stake in a team, and run a franchise’s football operations like John Elway has with the Denver Broncos.

Although Manning hasn’t shown a burning desire to move into sports television, that isn’t stopping ESPN from making an aggressive play to try and change his mind. The network is said to be willing to make a huge investment to make a splash in the Monday Night booth as it attempts to replace Gruden, the network’s previously highest-paid employee at over $6.5 million per year.

The other situation that ESPN has to resolve is who will call the action going forward. Sean McDonough has spent the past two seasons calling Monday Night Football games, but sources say network executives felt he lacked chemistry with Gruden, and his remarks about NFL officiating have not been well received.

Should ESPN elect to change play by play announcers, three internal options are considered high atop the list – Joe Tessitore, Steve Levy and Dave Pasch. Bob Wischusen is another internal candidate who could receive consideration. External options include CBS’ Ian Eagle and Fox’s Kevin Burkhardt, although both men recently signed new deals with their respective networks.

If Manning chooses to stay away from the bright lights of Monday Night, ESPN will consider holding auditions for internal candidates. Matt Hasselbeck, Randy Moss and Charles Woodson are all expected to receive a look under that scenario, although none reportedly have the inside track on landing the position. The one external option listed in Marchand’s report is Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner who works for the NFL Network and Westwood One.

One interesting issue could be whether Manning views FOX’s new Thursday Night package more favorable than ESPN’s Monday Night deal. Although both games air on weeknights, the Monday Night game would likely require Manning’s time on weekends for preparation. That said, Monday Night is still considered the bigger attraction than Thursday Night.

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Big Ten Finalizes Largest Media Rights Deal in College Sports History

The conference will earn more than $8 billion over a seven-year deal with CBS, Fox, and NBC. It will generate $1.1 billion per year. Its previous deal with Fox and ESPN garnered the conference $440 million annually.

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BIG TEN, CBS, NBC, FOX SPORTS

Per a report from Sports Business Journal‘s Michael Smith, it’s official: The Big Ten has secured and finalized the largest media rights deal in college sports history.

The conference will earn more than $8 billion over a seven-year deal with CBS, Fox, and NBC. It will generate $1.1 billion per year. Its previous deal with Fox and ESPN garnered the conference $440 million annually. The soon-to-be 16 schools in the conference, after the additions of USC and UCLA, will receive nearly $70 million annually from the deal.

The contract also sees the Big Ten’s women’s basketball tournament championship game migrate to CBS.

As for the perceived overlap between the SEC and Big Ten during the 3:30 PM ET window on CBS, Warren said the conference was more than willing to work around prior contractual obligations.

“I made up my mind early on that I was not going to put CBS in a position where they had to say no because they had to break the SEC contract,” Warren told Sports Business Journal. “It wasn’t the right thing to do. So we just had to get creative.”

Peacock will become the conference’s streaming home, and NBC has agreed to a $100,000 advertising budget with each conference member to promote their academic institutions. NBC will have 16 games per season in primetime under the terms of the newly signed deal.

Fox’s package of Big Ten games will grow from 24-27 to 30-32 games through the end of the deal in 2029.

Each network will air the Big Ten’s football championship game during the lifetime of the deal. Fox will air four, CBS will air two, and NBC will air one.

Sources told SBJ that while ESPN was not included in this media rights deal, there’s a possibility talks could continue to bring ESPN a smaller package of games than previously negotiated.

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Notre Dame Expects Next Media Rights Deal to be Worth $60 Million Annually

Notre Dame is reportedly seeking $75 million per year, while Sports Business Journal figures the school would get closer to $60 million.

Jordan Bondurant

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Chris Coduto

There are still a few more seasons until Notre Dame starts the process of hammering out a new media rights deal, but it’s believed the FBS independent could have its next partner shelling out more than double what NBC is currently paying.

NBC, which appears to be a front-runner alongside CBS to be one of the key rights partners in the Big Ten’s new contract, currently pays $25 million each year for rights to Fighting Irish football according to Front Office Sports.

Notre Dame is reportedly seeking $75 million per year, while Sports Business Journal figures the school would get closer to $60 million.

Viewership for Fighting Irish games was reportedly down 48% year-over-year for the 2021 season, averaging 2.5 million viewers. The year before that, the pandemic season in 2020, viewership for Notre Dame was its best since 2005.

Notre Dame remains an independent in football, but is in the ACC for its other programs. The Fighting Irish do play some ACC schools in football. With NBC and the Big Ten apparently becoming new partners, it’s believed that Notre Dame would then have more Big Ten opponents in football.

The current contract between the school and NBC ends in 2025.

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Robert Griffin III Replaces Randy Moss on Monday Night Countdown

The network announced the addition of Robert Griffin III to the pre-game program.

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Robert Griffin III
David Becker, Getty Images

With Monday Night Countdown set to lead into Thursday’s preseason matchup with the Chicago Bears and Seattle Seahawks, ESPN announced their lineup for the show.

The network announced the addition of Robert Griffin III to the pre-game program. Robert Griffin III will join Booger McFarland and Steve Young as the show’s main analysts.

They will be partnered with Suzy Kolber who returns for her sixth year as the show’s host and news breaker Adam Schefter.

It was reported in July that analyst Randy Moss would not be returning to the show, opting instead to focus solely on Sunday Night Countdown.

The first regular season action featuring Monday Night Countdown will be on Monday, September 12 when the Seahawks play the Denver Broncos.

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