‘MNF’ Moving to ESPN

Apr 18, 2005  •  Post A Comment

“Monday Night Football” will move to ESPN for the 2006 season, and NBC will return to the NFL family with prime-time football on Sunday nights, the league announced Monday.

ESPN’s “MNF” agreement covers eight seasons. The 17 games per season will have an earlier start, at 8:40 p.m. ET. ABC brass, headed by incoming Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger, hammered out details of the agreement last Friday (TVWeek, April 18). Sources said ESPN will pay about $1 billion a year for “MNF.”

The cable network will continue to make its NFL games available on free over-the air television in the local markets of the teams playing each week.

NBC, which gave up its NFL package in 1998, saying it was losing money on the games, has signed up for six seasons. Sources said NBC will pay $600 million per year for the rights. NBC will show 16 Sunday night games per season as well as the Thursday night season opener, two playoff games and three prime-time pre-season games. NBC also will televise the Super Bowl in 2009 and 2012.

The NFL noted that Sunday night currently is the most watched night of the week, and it expects to reach a larger overall audience once the deals go into effect.

Prime-time football on Sunday night will give NBC one less night to struggle to program and will put additional pressure on ABC’s hit “Desperate Housewives” and CBS’s “60 Minutes,” which has long benefited from its NFL lead-in.