SBD/September 10, 2012/Media

The Day The Music Died: ESPN Will Not Use A Musical Open For "MNF" This Season

ESPN will not bring back a musical open for "MNF" tonight, continuing the themed openings it used last season after the network fired Hank Williams, Jr. ESPN tonight will open its telecast of Bengals-Ravens with video of the teams' players, interspersed with footage shot from a Ravens bar to signify the excitement around Monday night football. "The thought was that rather than chase the next artist and the next song, what we have is pretty good and very high-end and could be water cooler talk," ESPN "MNF" Senior Coordinating Producer Jay Rothman said. "At the end of the day, fans are tuning in for a football game. No matter the match-up, if the scoreboard is close in the second half ­ and particularly in the fourth quarter ­ fans are sticking around." Part of the reason for not bringing back a musical open stems from the response ESPN received last season when its more dramatic opens gained praise, Rothman said. Taking out the musical-themed intro will give game analysts Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden more time to set up the game from the booth before kickoff. ESPN fired Willams last year after the musician compared President Obama to Adolf Hitler during a TV interview. Rothman said he had considered dropping the entertainer in the years before Williams made those comments, but the singer's "Are You Ready for Some Football" scored well in focus groups. "Candidly, and I don't think I stood alone, I was getting a little bit tired of it for the last couple of years," Rothman said. "That was something I took to focus groups, not only a year ago but four years ago. ... Hank had legs. He stood the test of time."

CHECK THE ROSTER: One other change viewers can expect tonight deals with announcing the starting line-ups -- ESPN is not going to do them. Rothman: "I've always felt they are these rote things that you have to do at the start of the game. It shuts the analyst out. It hits people over the head, bombarding people with names in a short amount of time. When I did it in focus groups, fans really couldn't give a crap whether you did it or not. They felt it was white noise." Rather, ESPN plans to ID key personnel expected to have an impact on the game. "No longer are they stop signs for the analysts to have to sit up in the booth with their hands on their mouth because the production folks have to get through this checklist of 44 names," he said.
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