‘MNF’ Endures as TV Success Story

Sep 8, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Are you ready for some football? When it comes to Monday night, even though the ratings have been trending downward over the past several years, the answer apparently remains resoundingly yes.

Since the days of Dandy Don Meredith and Howard Cosell, “Monday Night Football” has been a singular sports success. For the 2002-03 season, “Monday Night Football” improved its average ratings vs. the year before, with a Nielsen Media Research 11.4 household rating/19 share, up 4 percent in ratings.

Still, over the past several years, “MNF’s” numbers have been off. For advertisers, that doesn’t matter-it is still a great way to reach hard-to-get male viewers.

“The definition of marquee programming has been lowered through the years, but in the fourth quarter it is still one of the strongest platforms available,” said Tim Spengler, executive VP of national broadcast for Intepublic Group of Cos.’ Initiative Media, New York.

“`MNF’ is an institution now,” said Rich Hanley, Quinnipiac University professor of broadcasting. “It’s part of the culture. It will be very hard to ever dislodge it because it does well in the ratings and there’s a cultural link to that broadcast. It fits well into appointment viewing.”

ABC knows it. “Monday Night Football” not only has the tradition of being the most successful sports series in history, but also is tops in the male demographic. “I can certainly argue that `MNF’ is, in fact, the most successful show ever,” said “MNF” producer Fred Gaudelli. “It has a 34-year longevity and a streak of 13 consecutive years as a top-10-ranked network program. No other show can claim those lofty feats.”

Actually, “MNF’s” streak was broken this past season when it finished in 11th place among all shows in full-season ratings. That led some to wonder about the show’s future, but the network insists it remains an important part of the schedule.

“MNF” also holds a special place among NFL players. “It’s the one game of the week everyone gets to watch, and that makes it unique,” said Mr. Hanley. The players know they’re in the spotlight, and the importance of the game is enhanced. “When a team is not on the `MNF’ schedule, players complain loudly,” said Karen McCallum, media supervisor, McKee Wallach & Henderson Advertising.

“MNF” draws dedicated fans, NFL players and more. It is also the one NFL broadcast that successfully draws non-fan viewers each week. Sports bars and restaurants offer specials on Mondays tied in to the broadcast, expanding the typical viewership. “And networks make money not on the hard-core fan but on the extra people brought in to top off the audience,” Mr. Hanley said.