ESPN to Carry ‘Monday Night Football’ Until 2021

When I was growing up it was always ABC’s Monday Night Football with Howard Cosell, “Dandy” Don Meredith and Frank Gifford. Meredith would often sing ‘Turn out the Lights, the partys over” as one team or another dominated the proceedings and Cosell would often clash with Meredith or insult one or more players. It was fun and it seemed like anything could happen at any moment.

That was then, this is now. Monday Night Football has a home on ESPN and has been there since 2006. Now, it seems, ESPN is determined to hold on to the venerable franchise and has announced a new agreement to keep it until 2021. The cost? A reported $15 Billion.

The new agreement will cost ESPN 73% more than its previous NFL deal which likely means the Disney-owned sports channel will ask cable and satellite companies to pay more. Some other terms of the new deal kick off immediately.

Today ESPN’s NFL Live expands to an hour from a half hour. A discussion show based on fan-submitted questions, Audibles, also joins the Thursday night line up. This weekend Sunday NFL Countdown will run three hours, up from two.

On Tuesday ESPN2 will introduce a weekly, hour-long show NFL 32, followed on Friday by another weekly hour long show NFL Kickoff. Click through for all the details from the official ESPN press release.

Monday Night Football, the most successful series in sports media history, will remain on ESPN through the 2021 NFL season under a new eight-year agreement between ESPN and the National Football League, it was announced today by ESPN and ABC SportsPresident George Bodenheimer and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The broad multiplatform agreement, which begins in 2014, includes eight full seasons of MNF telecasts, expanded NFL studio programming (beginning this week), highlight rights for TV andESPN.com, the Pro Bowl, the NFL Draft, 3D rights, and enhanced international rights.

The extensive package of NFL rights will fuel the continued growth of ESPN year-round, boosting its core television business while at the same time supporting the company’s “best available screen” strategy with NFL programs on TV, online and on mobiledevices via authentication and digital rights. Outside the U.S., ESPN will televise MNF and other regular season games, playoffs, and the Super Bowl in 30 million households in 144 countries and territories across five continents, including Brazil, the Caribbean, Africa, Middle East, Israel, Australia-New Zealand, and Continental Europe. The agreement also provides the NFL with an option to air a postseason Wild Card playoff game on ESPN should the NFL decide to do so.

An iconic series in the history of American television, Monday Night Football debuted in 1970. After a 36-year run on ABC, the series moved to ESPN in 2006 as part of a landmark eight-year agreement. During the past five seasons, ESPN’s MNF has become the most-watched series in cable television history, registering eight of cable’s 10 all-time biggest household audiences and 16 of the top 20 (excluding breaking news). In 2010, MNF ranked eighth among all primetime programs (broadcast orcable), averaging 10.5 million homes (14.7 million viewers), an unprecedented achievement for a cable television property. In addition, an estimated 140 million people viewed MNF and NFL studio programming on ESPN/ESPN2 over the course of the 2010 NFL season

Said Bodenheimer: “Today, we’ve secured cable’s most valuable television franchise, along with an enhanced international package of year-round multimedia rights. It will help grow our business well into the next decade. No one has the breadth of worldwide media assets or the ability to monetize a property the way ESPN can, particularly with Monday Night Football and our complete NFL coverage.”

“We are proud to extend our three-decade partnership with ESPN,” said Commissioner Goodell. “We have come a long way together since ESPN first televised the NFL Draft in 1980. With this new agreement we are excited about the opportunity to take the NFL-ESPNpartnership to innovative new heights in serving the most passionate fans in sports.”

ESPN’s significantly-enhanced NFL rights package for the extension will include:

Telecast rights to 17 Monday Night Football games per season for eight additional seasons (2014-2021).

Rights to more than 500 new hours of NFL-branded studio programming per year, starting this week.

Popular programs such as ESPN’s Emmy Award-winning Sunday NFL Countdown pre-game show (expands to three hours), NFL Live (expands to one houryear-round), Monday Night Countdown, NFL PrimeTime, and NFL Matchup will continue, and ESPN will create more NFL-branded studio programming, including NFL 32 and NFL Kickoff, both debuting this week. More on these programs;

Expanded highlight rights across ESPN’s television and ESPN.com;

Pro Bowl;

NFL Draft, which ESPN has covered since 1980;

3D distribution rights;

Rights to simulcast network coverage of ESPN’s MNF and NFL studio programs on tablet devices through ESPN’s WatchESPN App;

Continued Spanish-language rights to MNF on ESPN Deportes;

International rights, including distribution of MNF on ESPN International networks in select markets in Brazil, the Caribbean, Africa, Middle East, Israel, Europe and Australia-New Zealand through 2021; regular season, playoffs and Super Bowl inselect markets, totaling 30 million households in 144 countries and territories across five continents; and the ability to utilize NFL programming on all platforms as part of a linear stream of ESPN network programming.

The long-term agreement also ensures that Monday Night Football will celebrate its 50th anniversary season on ESPN in 2020.

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