The national NFL audience can’t get enough of ESPN’s Monday Night Football. Year-over-year numbers went up again this week for the network’s premier football property.
The battle between Sean McVay’s Los Angeles Rams and Kyle Shanahan’s San Francisco 49ers was the network’s second-most-watched Week 10 game since 2012, with 12.3 million viewers across all platforms.
Week 10 represented the eighth consecutive week of year-over-year growth (3% increase from 2020 Week 10). The property’s ratings as a whole are up 15% from 2020 and 7% from 2019.
NFL fans are coming back to support the league in force after a multitude of factors kept them away from their TVs in 2020. The pandemic played a role, as did the limited number of fans attending each game. No one has been able to succinctly nail down why numbers were so down across all sports in 2020.
One factor that ESPN didn’t have last year that is helping them in 2021 is the Manningcast. Peyton and Eli are a roaring success with their version of Monday Night Football airing on ESPN2.
Ratings were down a bit for the Monday night Manning telecast this week, but they seem to be leveling out at a record-breaking median for ESPN. The brothers notched 1.554 million viewers in their first game where they didn’t interview any active NFL players. The Manningcast has delivered the five most-watched alternate telecasts in ESPN history since the network debuted them in 2014.
Peyton and Eli caught wind of the Manningcast curse and tried to throw it off-kilter, at least for one week. Every active NFL player to appear on the Manningcast has lost their following game.
“If somebody at ESPN said well the Madden curse, players kept doing it no matter what,” Peyton described on The Steam Room podcast. I said that’s because they were getting paid. If you get paid, you don’t care about a curse. Last time I checked, we are not paying anyone to come on the show. Obviously, I hope it is not true. Right now, it is what it is.”
We’ll find out if NFL players are returning to the show when Omaha Productions unveils the next guest list.
Fox Reportedly Looking At Sean Payton As Possible Troy Aikman Replacement
Aikman is being targeted by Amazon for its Thursday Night Football game broadcasts.
Following an ESPN report that TV networks are showing interest in current NFL coaches Sean Payton, Pete Carroll, and Sean McVay as potential broadcasters, some more specific information is coming to light.
Front Office Sports’ Michael McCarthy reports that Fox Sports is looking at Payton as a possible replacement for Troy Aikman on its No. 1 NFL broadcast team alongside play-by-play announcer Joe Buck.
Aikman is being targeted by Amazon for its Thursday Night Football game broadcasts. In December, he acknowledged that his representatives have had discussions with Amazon regarding the position. It’s believed that Al Michaels will be the play-by-play man for that crew.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Payton still has three years (and nearly $30 million) remaining on his contract as head coach of the New Orleans Saints. But he hasn’t yet committed to returning for the 2022 season.
Rapoport’s sources told him that Payton, 58, could take a year off from coaching, recharge, then return to lead another team. (Maybe the Dallas Cowboys?) Others, such as Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians, have temporarily gone into broadcasting before coaching again. But if Fox wanted to add Payton to its top NFL broadcast team, it’s highly likely that the network would want more than a one-season commitment for the job.
The interest in Payton as Buck’s broadcast partner seems a bit surprising. Greg Olsen was highly regarded in his first full season in the booth and it’s believed that he’s viewed as a possible top analyst for the network in the future.
But networks are also in the business of making headlines these days, as the pursuit of Peyton Manning and Drew Brees has demonstrated. Philip Rivers is another former NFL quarterback who many believe has a strong broadcasting future. Hiring Sean Payton from the sidelines would get attention, while promoting Olsen wouldn’t draw the same intrigue.
As McCarthy points out, Fox has shown interest in Payton before, checking in with him while he was suspended for the 2012 NFL season for his involvement in the Saints’ “Bountygate” scandal. And if Fox hired him as its top NFL analyst, the network could offer money similar to what he makes as a head coach. Payton reportedly earns a $9.8 million annual salary on his current contract, while Fox is believed to pay Aikman $8 million per season.
Skip Bayless Was All-Caps Mad After Buccaneers’ Playoff Loss To Rams
To be fair, Bayless has a good point about the Buccaneers needing to defend Cooper Kupp better.
Dallas Cowboys fan Skip Bayless presumably got all of the outrage and agony out of his system last week after the Dallas Cowboys’ bumbling last-second Wild Card playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
WHAT??????? THE UMPIRE KNOCKED DAK OVER. DAK WAS READY. THE UMPIRE WAS LATE!!! HE DID NOT DO HIS JOB QUICKLY ENOUGH. COWBOYS SHOULD'VE HAD ONE SHOT AT THE END ZONE FROM THE 20. DOABLE!!! JUST ABSURD.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) January 17, 2022
But no, Bayless had new indignation and furious anger following the Tampa Bay Buccaneers losing their divisional playoff game to the Los Angeles Rams with a long pass from Matthew Stafford to Cooper Kupp and a game-ending field goal by Matt Gay.
As highlighted by The Big Lead, Skip was mad. And he used his Caps Lock key to show it.
To be fair, Bayless has a good point about the Buccaneers needing to defend Cooper Kupp better. The receiver had an astounding season with 145 catches, 1,947 yards, and 16 touchdowns, each of which led the NFL in those respective categories. Should Tampa Bay have put two defenders on Kupp during that drive?
You’ve surely seen the catches to which Bayless is referring. But just in case you haven’t, and knowing that it could upset Skip all over again, here are the plays from the Rams’ game-winning drive. First, a 20-yard reception, then the 44-yard dagger that effectively ended the Buccaneers’ chance of defending their Super Bowl title.
Oh, Skip wasn’t finished either. Nope, he had a few more all-caps tweets to go.
Just when it appeared that Bayless’s keyboard (or phone) was malfunctioning and his Caps Lock key was permanently pressed down, he posted a tweet that went back to lower-case letters about halfway through.
FS1 is surely hoping that Bayless saves some of his fury for Monday morning’s Skip and Shannon: Undisputed. Maybe more Angry Skip will result in some memorable video clips. Outrage is undoubtedly his brand and when he zeroes in on a target like the Tampa Bay defense, Skip is at his best. (Or worst, depending on how view his schtick.)
On the bright side, all of social media was spared a sequel to this tweet Sunday night:
Bob Costas Doesn’t Think NBC Will Discuss Realities Of China
“The IOC deserves all the disdain and disgust that comes their way for going back to China yet again.”
Last week, NBC stated that it would give “geopolitical context” to stories in China during the Winter Olympics. What that means exactly remains to be seen.
The network has a lot invested in the games and is expecting a huge payout. It will already deal with the logistical challenges that come with not having any live bodies on site. How much time would the network be willing to devote to telling stories that may encourage viewers to tune out and not support any coverage of the Beijing Games?
Bob Costas was a guest on CNN’s Reliable Sources on Sunday morning. Host Brian Stelter asked what he expected “giving geopolitical context” would mean exactly on the NBC broadcast.
“What I would anticipate is the very thing that you’ve suggested,” Costas answered when Stelter asked if NBC may simply acknowledge that China has been accused of severe human rights violations at the beginning of the two week event. “They will acknowledge the issues at the beginning and not say anything after that unless it something happens that simply cannot be ignored.”
Costas, who hosted NBC’s coverage of the Olympics 12 times between 1988 and 2016, said that he had the utmost respect for his former network and the colleagues that will be covering the event. He notes that there are limitations placed on every broadcaster in a situation like this.
That begins with the fact that doing business with the International Olympic Committee isn’t always easy.
“The IOC deserves all the disdain and disgust that comes their way for going back to China yet again,” he said, pointing out that not only were the Summer Games in Beijing in 2008, but that the 2014 Winter Games were in Sochi, Russia, another country with a history of human rights violations. “They are shameless about this stuff!”
Another issue Bob Costas sees is the investment NBC has made in the Olympics and the way the Games have become a programming event for the network every other year.
“Any network that broadcasts big sports events is simultaneously in a position, it’s quasi-journalistic at best. You’re reporting a news event and what surrounds it. But you’re also promoting the event.”
NBC usually broadcasts NBC Nightly News and The Today Show from the site of the Olympic Games. That will not be the case in 2022. The rise of Covid-19’s omicron variant is the ultimate reason why, but Costas points out that China is an uncomfortable environment for foreign journalists.
Earlier this week, The Washington Post reported that foreign journalists and athletes were being encouraged to use burner cell phones and laptops while they are in China. Many have expressed fear for their privacy and safety after security experts warned of major red flags surrounding Beijing’s official Olympics app meant to help those attending the game navigate the city.
That paranoia, Costas says, is familiar to NBC’s broadcast teams.
“We had that feeling in 2008 in Beijing. I think it has been revved up since then.”
NBC has the US television rights to all Olympic games until 2023. That contract with the IOC was signed in 2014 and cost the network $7.75 billion. That kind of investment will certainly make it hard for the network to want to give viewers a reason to tune out.
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