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Why Sunday Night Football is more important than Monday Night Football

October 19, 2009

When ESPN took the vaunted Monday Night Football franchise away from ABC four years ago, the sports giant assumed that the weekly games would maintain their dominance on the sporting landscape. Once that move was made, however, NBC instantly snatched up the floundering Sunday Night game that ESPN had relinquished and, ever since, the two franchises’ roles on the weekly football landscape have been reversed.

There are several reasons for this, with the topmost being that NBC is a network while ESPN is on cable. America still has some subconscious discomfort with cable dating back to the days when ABC, CBS, and NBC were the only networks on the air. These are the networks that our parents’ generation is most comfortable with despite the innovation of cable. For instance, when considering the new season’s TV shows, the networks that receive the most attention are ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC, with cable shows receiving a lesser degree of attention. This has changed a bit in recent years, but that has more to do with the cable generation coming of age than anything else.

Tony Kornheiser is one of the embattled hosts of Monday Night Football.

The other reason that NBC is more interesting is the presentation. To put it mildly, NBC’s presentation is just sexier and stronger than ESPN’s. NBC has put together the strongest announcing booth in the game, with Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels serving as the only team worth listening to right now. ESPN, however, has failed to find the proper chemistry in the booth, experimenting with people like Tony Kornheiser that just seem uncomfortable. ESPN may be a sports conglomerate, but NBC is a media conglomerate and can afford an overall sleeker presentation.

The final reason that NBC is stronger than ESPN is the flex schedule that Dick Ebersol ingeniously insisted on working into the contract. With the plan, NBC has a game that it schedules in the beginning of the year and then, 12 days before the game, the NFL and NBC can change the game that has been selected for the game of the week in order to stir up interest. ESPN, though, doesn’t have this power. For this reason, ESPN is going to be stuck with games like the Giants at Washington in week 16, Arizona at San Francisco in week 14 (even though these teams are bad, it may matter in their division race), Tennessee and Houston in week 11, and Baltimore at Cleveland in week 10. There are restrictions on the games that NBC can pick, but instead of being stuck with games that don’t matter, NBC can pick the game that matters the most.

Football will always do well in America, but right now NBC has managed to make the NFL an all-day Sunday thing (take today, for instance, when 1 o’clock featured a Saints-Giants and Ravens-Vikings matchup while 4 o’clock featured an excellent Bills-Jets game and the Sunday game featured a scintillating Bears-Falcons game), while Monday Night Football has lost some power since moving to ESPN.

Originally posted at On Popular Culture

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