Former President Barack Obama joined the “Manningcast” on Monday, becoming one of the most famous guests to appear alongside Eli and Peyton Manning since the “Monday Night Football” program launched last season.
The trio chatted about past White House visits, playing golf and registering to vote in the 2022 midterm elections, as well as the Chicago Bears’ chances against the New England Patriots.
“The Mannings gave Obama every bit of the traditional ribbing ‘Manningcast’ guests must steel themselves for, and Obama eventually warmed up enough to offer some jokes at the expense of Peyton,” USA Today reported.
But as the former president and the Manning brothers had fun, most NFL fans were watching an entirely different “Monday Night Football” broadcast helmed by Joe Buck and Troy Aikman.
Is that a problem for ESPN? Or is it exactly what the network had in mind when it gave Buck, Aikman and the Manning brothers their contracts?
How much does ESPN spend on talent for ‘Monday Night Football’?
Although the “Manningcast” typically got less than one-tenth of the viewership of the main “Monday Night Football” broadcast last season, it undoubtedly won out in terms of star power.
The 2021 main broadcast team of Steve Levy, Louis Riddick and Brian Griese couldn’t compete on that level, even if it had many more viewers.
But then in March, ESPN made a big change. It signed Buck and Aikman, one of the most famous broadcasting teams in NFL history. to five-year contracts worth around $165 million total.
The “Manningcast,” meanwhile, reportedly costs around $16 million per season.
ESPN has made a serious investment in star power.
Is ‘Monday Night Football,’ including the ‘Manningcast,’ worth the cost?
When news broke in March of Buck and Aikman’s move to ESPN, some commentators predicted tension between the broadcast team and the “Manningcast.”
“There’s ... a chance that Peyton (Manning) isn’t thrilled with ESPN’s successful swing for the fences. He may have agreed to do the ‘Manningcast’ with the express or implied understanding that ESPN wouldn’t hire an A-list booth. Now that ESPN has gone all in to snatch the top team from Fox, it becomes harder for the Mannings to generate good numbers,” wrote Mike Florio for NBC Sports.
But then viewership data from the first week of the season showed it’s possible for both teams to thrive.
The Sept. 12 “Monday Night Football” game between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos “was ESPN’s most-watched ‘MNF’ game since 2009 and its third-best regular season game since taking over the timeslot from ABC in 2006,” Yahoo! Sports reported, drawing on an ESPN press release.
Nearly 20 million viewers watched the game on the ESPN or a related channel, like ESPN2, which broadcasts the “Manningcast.”
“ESPN2’s “Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli” (garnered) 1,502,000 viewers, an 86% increase from last year’s Week 1 debut,” Yahoo! Sports reported.
ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” broadcasts have continued to break records as the season has gone on, according to ESPN Press Room.
What does the future hold for ‘Monday Night Football’?
If the performance of “Monday Night Football” programming remains strong, it’s unlikely that ESPN will shake it up its broadcasts in the short term.
Peyton Manning and his company, Omaha Productions, are under contract with ESPN through 2024, according to Deadline.
Buck and Aikman signed five-year contracts in March, Sports Illustrated reported.