A Look Into The Future Of Sportscasting

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Hey Friends,

ESPN announced earlier this offseason that they would experiment more with their traditional Monday Night Football broadcast. The plan was simple: bring Peyton & Eli Manning on for ten games and allow them to hold a more fun, laid-back style broadcast with a rotating list of guests.

To be fair, this isn’t necessarily a new concept. ESPN has run Megacast coverage plenty of times in the past — a multi-network simulcast of a single sporting event across multiple ESPN networks and services — but the results are becoming too hard to ignore.

The “ManningCast” averaged about 800,000 viewers in week one, but with thousands of people across social media organically promoting the concept afterward, the week two numbers exploded, with nearly 1.9 million people tuning into the ancillary coverage of Monday Night Football this week.

For context, that’s roughly 13.7 percent of the total MNF audience, and similar to the total viewership of multiple college football events last week, including ESPN’s College GameDay (1.81 million viewers), Tulsa vs. Ohio State (1.83 million viewers), and UCF vs. Louisville (1.88 million viewers).

Unsurprisingly, ESPN says that Peyton and Eli will be back on ESPN2 for Monday night’s Eagles-Cowboys game.

This appears to be the perfect setup for Peyton and Eli Manning. ESPN has been courting the older Manning for years now, attempting to entice him to leave behind his comfortable retirement life for a weekly spot on their broadcast crew….but he has resisted until now.

This new format requires no travel, little-to-no pre-game prep, and Peyton even owns the production company behind it — Omaha Productions. Of course, the broadcast quality will pick up over time — the audio has lagged, and the video can be shaky over Zoom — but the desire for this type of content is there.

Sure, if you’re a fan of the team playing, maybe this broadcast isn’t for you. It can be challenging to follow the play-by-play when you have Peyton, Eli, and their host of rotating guests like Rob Gronkowski telling stories. Still, with nearly 2 million people watching a secondary version of the original broadcast, ESPN executives have to be thrilled with the turnout.

But in my opinion, these results shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. First, Peyton and Eli Manning are football royalty — it’s challenging to articulate the overall marketing value they have alone, yet nearly impossible to calculate it when they are together.

Secondly, this is the type of fundamental shift we’ve been seeing in content for a while now. It’s the reason why platforms like Discord have grown to 150 million monthly active users. It’s the reason why YouTube has become more significant than traditional cable, and it’s the reason why sports leagues have had such a difficult time attracting new, younger fans.

People want to follow other people. They love the personalities that sports present, but traditional game broadcasts haven’t innovated in a long, long time.

Think about it this way — Pat McAfee runs the biggest sports show in the world off YouTube from a studio in Indiana with his friends. He doesn’t have an army of reporters or access to a production budget like ESPN, but it doesn’t matter because he dominates the internet. People love his personality and want to hear his opinion, regardless of the content he talks about each day.

It’s tough to tell how much audience Peyton & Eli are adding to the Monday Night Football broadcast, rather than simply transporting people from ESPN to ESPN2. Still, given the initial success of the rollout, I imagine ESPN is currently discussing how to expand on this format, not end it.

Have a great day. I’ll talk to everyone tomorrow.

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Huddle Up is a daily newsletter that breaks down the business and money behind sports.

If you would like to join more than 47,000 other professional athletes, business executives, and casual sports fans that receive it directly in their inbox each morning, subscribe now.


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