Peyton and Eli Manning have more yards to gain for Walt Disney Co. and ESPN.
The two football brothers, whose “ManningCast” alongside ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” has gained significant notice this season, have extended their relationship with the sports-media giant. Under a new deal, the brothers will add a fourth year of their “Monday Night Football With Peyton and Eli,” so that it extends through the NFL’s 2024 season. The agreement, struck with Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions, also calls for the creation of similar programs alongside UFC matches, college football and golf, using other hosts and produced by Omaha in collaboration with ESPN.
“I’ve always loved talking football with my brother, and it was even more fun to do it while watching ESPN’s ‘Monday Night Football.,” said Peyton Manning. “Eli and I are excited to sign on for another season, and the entire Omaha team is looking forward to producing MegaCasts that celebrate other sports.”
The move keeps a show that has quickly gained interest from fans and top sports executives on ESPN’s playing field. The brothers’ show, a low-fi affair that has the feel of a sports-watching session at the local pub, notched an average of 1.9 million viewers during the regular season – around 13% of the overall “Monday Night Football” audience for ESPN. And it caps off several years of experimenting with so-called “alterna-casts” that appeal to younger viewers, kids and even sports-betting aficionados.
Finding ways to keep live audiences tuning in for sports is a top mission for the leagues and the TV networks that pay out billions to broadcast their games. As more traditional TV viewers migrate to streaming video, the National Football League, Major League Baseball and other sports entities are encouraging sports networks to experiment with sideline broadcasts that aim for important niche audiences. There is even some thought that the new formats might help grow the appeal of various sports to viewers who might not watch under ordinary circumstances.
“We couldn’t be more proud of ‘Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli and the partnership we’ve developed with Peyton, Eli and the team at Omaha Productions. This new agreement allows us to deepen our relationship and explore original concepts to spread that magic to other sports and events, says Jimmy Pitaro, chairman of ESPN and sports content for Disney. “Ultimately, this will help grow our audience by providing fans with even more creative options that they crave.”
The pact will broaden the output for Omaha Productions, which Peyton Manning has set up to develop content that plays up themes like hard work, community and pursuing passions. Omaha also produces the “Places” series for ESPN Plus, which has featured the Mannings as well as Abby Wambach, Vince Carter, David Ortiz and Ronda Rousey.
People familiar with the production of the ManningCast say Peyton Manning has been intent on creating a “gathering place’ that appeals to many differing kinds of people, no matter how polarized Americans have become in recent years. The show gained steam as NFL games continued as one of TV’s top draws, even eking out viewership gains in the recently ended season.
And the brothers also lent a hand with booking. Visitors to their show this season included Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, David Letterman, LeBron James, Phil Mickelson, Condoleeza Rice and even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. ESPN even gave the nod to the brothers hosting sports personalities form rival networks, such as NBC Sports’ Al Michaels and Drew Brees, Fox Sports’ Joe Buck, CBS Sports’ Bill Cowher and TNT’s Charles Barkley.
ESPN’s Pitaro has continued to sound the former quarterback out about other opportunities, including “Monday Night Football.” When Manning made clear he was reluctant to travel and to commit to appearing each week, Pitaro and ESPN executives found the alternative: A “ManningCast” that relied more on conversation and could take place with the brothers working from home.
“The Monday Night Football show was a great way to stay close to the game I love,” said Eli Manning, via email. “It was a real pleasure working with my brother, the folks at Omaha and ESPN and I’m excited that we’re going to get an extra season to find new ways to make fun of Peyton.”