NFL on ESPN
Also known asESPN Sunday Night NFL
(1987–1997)
ESPN NFL (2006–present)
GenreAmerican football game telecasts
Presented byJoe Buck
Troy Aikman
Lisa Salters
John Parry
Scott Van Pelt
Robert Griffin III
Marcus Spears
Ryan Clark
Adam Schefter
Chris Fowler
Louis Riddick
Dan Orlovsky
Laura Rutledge
Opening theme"Heavy Action" by Johnny Pearson (1998-2000; 2006–present)
In The Air Tonight by Phil Collins feat. Chris Stapleton, Cindy Blackman Santana and Snoop Dogg (2023-present)
Country of originUnited States
Production
Production locationsVarious NFL stadiums (game telecasts)
ESPN Studios, South Street Seaport, New York City (studio segments)
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time180–210 minutes
Production companyESPN
Original release
NetworkESPN
ReleaseNovember 8, 1987 (1987-11-08) –
present
Related
ESPN Sunday Night Football
Monday Night Football
NFL on ABC

The NFL on ESPN is the branding used for broadcasts of National Football League (NFL) coverage on the networks of ESPN. NFL coverage first aired on the network in 1980, when ESPN broadcast the 1980 NFL draft. ESPN did not air live NFL games until 1987, when it acquired the rights to Sunday Night Football. In 2006, ESPN lost the rights to Sunday Night Football and began airing Monday Night Football instead.

Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue credits ESPN with raising the "profile" of the league, by turning "a potential six- or seven-hour television experience into a twelve-hour television experience," factoring in both Sunday Night Football and the network's pregame show Sunday NFL Countdown and still is to this day.

Under its current broadcasting deals lasting through 2033, ESPN/ABC airs live coverage of Monday Night Football, one NFL International Series game on ESPN+, the Pro Bowl games, the NFL Draft, one Wild Card round playoff game, one Divisional round playoff game, and the Super Bowl in 2027 and 2031. Studio programming includes Monday Night Countdown, Sunday NFL Countdown, NFL Live, NFL Primetime, NFL Matchup, Monday Blitz, and Fantasy Football Now.[1]

Overview

See also: National Football League draft, ESPN Sunday Night Football, and Monday Night Football

In 1979, several months after the founding of ESPN, then ESPN President Chet Simmons asked the NFL if ESPN could air the NFL Draft. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, despite questions about viewership potential, granted ESPN the rights.[2] The first draft ESPN aired was in 1980. Bob Ley hosted the initial coverage from Bristol, Connecticut. Howard Balzer, Upton Bell and Vince Papale joined Ley as studio analysts while Joe Thomas and four reporters were on site at the NFL Draft in New York City. Despite ESPN only reaching 4 million homes at the time, the NFL considered the initial NFL Draft broadcast a success and ESPN has aired the NFL Draft every year since.[3] In 1988, the NFL moved the draft from weekdays to the weekend and ESPN's ratings of the coverage improved dramatically.[4]

As part of its new television package in 1987, the NFL granted ESPN the rights to air a series of Sunday night games, which were to air over the second half of the regular season. The NFL thus became the last major North American professional sports league to begin airing its games on cable television.[5] However, the games were typically simulcast on regular over-the-air television stations in each participating team's local market, so that households without cable television could still see the telecasts of their local team. While ABC had been airing occasional Sunday night NFL games (usually one per season) under its Monday Night Football banner since 1978, the concept of playing a regular series of Sunday night professional football games on ESPN was originally a concept designed for the United States Football League (USFL). As part of the abortive 1986 USFL season, ESPN was to carry a weekly Sunday night game throughout the fall season.[6]

As part of the league's television contract renewal with ABC in 1989, ABC was awarded the television rights to Super Bowl XXV and Super Bowl XXIX, and the first round of NFL playoffs. The Monday Night Football announcing team anchored the telecasts, except for the first of two Wild Card Playoff games, in which ESPN's Sunday Night NFL crew of Mike Patrick and Joe Theismann presided over that telecast. However, the original crew for one of the two Wild Card Playoff games from 1990 to 1995 consisted of Brent Musburger and Dick Vermeil (both of whom did college football broadcasts for ABC during those two seasons).

Following The Walt Disney Company's purchase of both ESPN and ABC, the two network's sports departments merged in 1997. Beginning with the 1997 season, the ESPN Sunday Night Football crew called the first Monday Night Football game of the season on ABC, with the ABC Monday Night Football crew calling the second game. ESPN provided wraparound studio programming, with part of the pre and postgame airing on ABC, and ESPN's Ron Jaworski often appeared from the studio for extra analysis during the first game. This arrangement lasted from 1997 through 2005, except for 2002 when ESPN/ABC's college football crew did the early game. Super Bowls on ABC in this period were treated as ESPN events.

In 2003, ABC and the NFL dropped the Monday Night Football game for the final week of the regular season. The move, which had been in effect for the first eight years of the broadcast (19701977), was the result of declining ratings, as well as problems involved for potential playoff teams, as there was a potential of only four days rest between their final regular season game and first-round playoff game. ABC replaced the telecast with an opening weekend Thursday night game, and in exchange ESPN got a Saturday night game on the final weekend.

After the 2005 season, ESPN ended this package in favor of picking up the broadcast rights to Monday Night Football from ABC. NBC picked up the rights to ESPN's Sunday night games. To replace Sunday Night Football ESPN moved its late-season Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts back to the network and replaced most of the rest of the open weeks with NBA telecasts.

As part of their 2011 rights agreement, ESPN was given the exclusive rights to the Pro Bowl from 2015 through 2022.[7] Since 2018, the game has been simulcast on ABC.

On April 22, 2014, the NFL announced that it had exercised an option in ESPN's recent contract extension for Monday Night Football rights to air a first-round Wild Card playoff game on the channel after the conclusion of the 2014 season. This was the first time that an NFL playoff game was ever broadcast exclusively on cable television in the United States, in lieu of any of the league's broadcast network partners.[7][8][9] The MNF broadcast team of Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and sideline reporter Lisa Salters called the game, the first of the 2014–15 NFL playoffs. The NFC South Champion Carolina Panthers defeated the Arizona Cardinals 27–16.[7][8] As with all MNF games, the matchup was simulcast on local affiliates WJZY (a Fox affiliate) in Charlotte and KASW (a CW affiliate) in Phoenix. This was because of the NFL's rule that requires local affiliates to allow viewers over-the-air access to the game. However, the cable-only playoff game experiment would only last one season, as on May 11, 2015, it was announced that ABC would simulcast ESPN's Wild Card playoff game for the 2015 season.[10] This was the first NFL game broadcast nationally on ABC since MNF left the network at the end of the 2005 season. The game, announced by the broadcast team of Tirico, Gruden and Salters, was the first of the 2015–16 NFL playoffs. The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Houston Texans 30–0. The ESPN/ABC simulcast has continued ever since.[11][12]

Since 2018, ABC has simulcast ESPN's coverage of the final day of the NFL Draft. Beginning in 2019 and every year since, ABC has aired a College GameDay branded version of the Draft on the first two days, separate from ESPN's coverage.[13]

On March 18, 2021, the NFL announced that ESPN had renewed its rights to Monday Night Football. Under the new deal, ESPN will gain a Saturday doubleheader on the final weekend of the season beginning in 2021 (which will be simulcast by ABC), As a result of this change ESPN will no longer air a NFL Doubleheader on NFL Kickoff Weekend. And beginning in 2023, it will gain four additional regular season games (with three airing on ABC as Monday doubleheaders, and one Sunday morning NFL International Series game exclusive to ESPN+), flex scheduling beginning in Week 12, the ability to feature up to four teams twice per-season, as well as produce many alternate broadcast feeds of select games, under their Megacast series. All MNF games will stream on ESPN+, and ESPN will also gain rights to a divisional playoff game, and two future Super Bowls for them and ABC.[1][14]

In January 2024 it was reported that the league were in advanced stages of discussion with The Walt Disney Company to acquire a stake of ESPN in exchange for NFL media (which includes NFL Network and NFL RedZone) coming under control of The Walt Disney Company. If enacted the acquisition will have to approved by a majority of NFL owners to be enforced.[15]

Results

Main articles: ESPN Sunday Night Football results, List of Monday Night Football results (1990–2009), List of Monday Night Football results (2010–present), and List of NFL on ABC results

Commentators

Current

See also: List of Monday Night Football commentators, List of Super Bowl broadcasters, and List of Pro Bowl broadcasters

Play-by-play

  1. Joe Buck – lead play-by-play (2022–present)
  2. Chris Fowler – #2 play-by-play (2021, 2023–present)

Color commentators

  1. Troy Aikman – lead color commentator (2022–present)
  2. Louis Riddick – co-#2 color commentator (2022–present); co-lead color commentator (2020–2021)
  3. Dan Orlovsky – co-#2 color commentator (2022–present)

Sideline reporters

  1. Lisa Salters - lead sideline reporter (2015–present)
  2. Laura Rutledge - fill-in sideline reporter (2020–present); #2 sideline reporter (2021–present)

Rules analyst

  1. John Parry – rules analyst (2019–present)

Studio hosts

  1. Scott Van Pelt - Monday studio host (2023-present)
  2. Sam Ponder – Sunday studio host (2020–present)

Studio analysts

  1. Randy Moss – Sunday studio analyst (2016–present)
  2. Rex Ryan – Sunday studio analyst (2017–present)
  3. Tedy Bruschi – Sunday studio analyst (2019–present)
  4. Alex Smith - Monday rotating studio analyst (2021-present); Sunday studio analyst (2023-present)
  5. Robert Griffin III – Monday studio analyst (2022–present)
  6. Larry Fitzgerald - Monday rotating studio analyst (2022-present)
  7. Marcus Spears - Monday studio analyst (2023-present)
  8. Ryan Clark - Monday studio analyst (2023-present)

Insiders

  1. Adam Schefter – lead insider (2015–present)

Contributors

  1. Chris Berman – contributor (2017–present)

See also

References

  1. ^ a b "NFL announces TV deals with ESPN/ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, Amazon". ESPN.com. ESPN Internet Ventures, LLC. March 18, 2021. Retrieved December 14, 2021.
  2. ^ Vasilogambros, Matt (April 28, 2016). "The Roots of NFL Draft Obsession". The Atlantic. Retrieved September 8, 2023.
  3. ^ Ellenport, Craig (April 22, 2020). "A Bold New Network, a Preposterous Idea: How the NFL Draft Came to TV". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved September 8, 2023.
  4. ^ Sandomir, Richard (April 22, 1991). "TV SPORTS; ESPN Show Was a Draftnik's Nirvana". The New York Times. Retrieved October 28, 2011.
  5. ^ Pierson, Don (March 16, 1987). "Nfl Finally Opens The Door To Cable". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 10, 2016.
  6. ^ ESPN, minus USFL, has 66 hours to fill. Associated Press via St. Petersburg Times (August 5, 1986). Retrieved January 23, 2016.
  7. ^ a b c "ESPN to air 1st NFL playoff game in 2015". ESPN. April 22, 2014. Retrieved April 22, 2014.
  8. ^ a b Chase, Chris (April 22, 2014). "ESPN to broadcast first ever NFL playoff game in 2015". USA Today. Retrieved April 22, 2014.
  9. ^ Pro Bowl#Television
  10. ^ Coelho, Ana Livia (May 11, 2015). "NFL Wild Card Playoff Game Will Return to ESPN – and Be Simulcast for the First Time on ABC" (Press release). ESPN MediaZone. Retrieved August 24, 2015.
  11. ^ Stoneberg, Allie (May 17, 2016). "NFL Wild Card Playoff Game Will Return to ESPN and ABC". ESPN Media Zone. Retrieved August 8, 2016.
  12. ^ Fang, Ken (May 17, 2016). "ESPN TO AGAIN SIMULCAST ITS NFL WILD CARD PLAYOFF GAME ON ABC". Awful Announcing. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  13. ^ "NFL expanding television coverage for 2018 NFL Draft". nfl.com. March 21, 2018. Retrieved December 14, 2021.
  14. ^ "NFL completes network/Amazon rights deals through 2033, bringing in $10 billion per year along the way". Awful Announcing. 2021-03-18. Retrieved 2021-03-18.
  15. ^ Steinberg, Brian (2024-01-14). "Disney, NFL in Talks That Could Give League ESPN Stake, Put NFL Media Under Disney". Variety. Retrieved 2024-01-16.