ESPN plans to have three “Monday Night Football” doubleheaders in the 2023 NFL season.getty images
The first sign of ESPN’s new 11-year “Monday Night Football” deal came in January when ABC and ESPN simulcast a Saturday doubleheader on the NFL’s final regular-season weekend. The games, which included the Cowboys and Eagles, were high-quality matchups that determined playoff positioning.
Another sign of ESPN’s new deal happened in May when the NFL released its 2022 schedule. Gone are the days when the league deemed “Monday Night Football” as the cable package and seeded it with the worst games. The “Monday Night Football” schedule clearly is 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 step of ESPN’s new-look NFL package comes this week, as it will carry two games at the same time on Sept. 19. The Titans-Bills kick off at 7:15 p.m. on ESPN, and the Vikings-Eagles will start on ABC at 8:30 p.m., which will create around 90 minutes of overlap. This will be ESPN’s only doubleheader this season. Starting next year, it will have three each season.
The games at times will have an NFL RedZone look-and-feel, complete with live look-ins and an ever-present on-screen scorebug keeping viewers caught up on the game they aren’t watching. ESPN executives say they are treating Monday’s games as a test to determine the best way to present them in coming years.
“We’re looking 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 be paying close attention to the overall number of minutes watched, as well as reach and time-spent-viewing statistics, Sobieski said. “We’re great about navigating fans on a college football Saturday,” she said. “We’re going to lean into that expertise to really make this seamless for fans.”
The Titans-Bills game will look like a regular “Monday Night Football” telecast on ESPN when it kicks off at 7:15 p.m. Things will look different when the Vikings-Eagles game starts at 8:30 p.m. on ABC.
Both networks will use, on occasion, a double box showing both games. Scott Van Pelt will break into each telecast to give highlights and game updates. Suzy Kolber will host the halftime shows on both networks, which will include live game look-ins.
Van Pelt will take over on ESPN when the Titans-Bills game ends, hosting a postgame show that will feature extended live look-ins to the Vikings-Eagles game. Van Pelt will host a more traditional postgame show once the Vikings-Eagles game ends.
“As we talked about the new deal, we wanted to increase the exclusive game inventory that we have for ‘Monday Night Football,’ and we wanted to continue to increase our ABC presence,” Sobieski said. “This became one way for us to express incremental inventory and to do something unique.”