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Volume 25 No. 107
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ESPN Week 1 "MNF" Doubleheader Lower With Lopsided Scores

Jets-Lions was down from a 7.8 rating for the "MNF" opener last season
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Two lopsided scores for the “MNF” doubleheader last night meant the ratings gains seen Sunday for NFL TV partners did not carry over for ESPN. The Jets’ 48-17 win over the Lions last night from 7:15-10:15pm ET drew a 7.5 overnight, marking the lowest “MNF” Week 1 early window game figure since ESPN took over the package in '06. Last year, amid Hurricane Irma, Saints-Vikings drew a 7.8 (the previous low). Jets-Lions peaked at a 9.0 rating from 9:30-9:45pm. The game drew a 25.4 local rating in Detroit (8.7 on ESPN, 16.7 on WXYZ-ABC). In N.Y., the game drew a 12.7 local rating (7.7 on ESPN, 5.0 on WPIX-CBS). In the late window from 10:15pm-1:30am, the Rams’ 33-13 win over the Raiders drew a 7.0 overnight, which is flat compared to Chargers-Broncos last year. Rams-Raiders peaked early in the game from 10:45-11:00pm with an 8.7 rating. The S.F.-Oakland-San Jose market delivered a 19.1 local rating (9.9 on ESPN, 9.2 on KGO-ABC). In L.A., the game drew a 16.7 rating (10.1 on ESPN, 6.6 on KABC-ABC) (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).

ESPN "MNF" OPENING DOUBLEHEADER: OVERNIGHT RATINGS TREND
YEAR
EARLY GAME
RAT.
LATE GAME
RAT.
'18
Jets-Lions
7.5
Rams-Raiders
7.0
'17
Saints-Vikings
7.8
Chargers-Broncos
7.0
'16
Steelers-Redskins
9.1
Rams-49ers
7.1
'15
Eagles-Falcons
9.8
Vikings-49ers
9.5
'14
Giants-Lions
9.2
Chargers-Cardinals
7.8
'13
Eagles-Redskins
11.6
Texans-Chargers
7.7
'12
Bengals-Ravens
8.1
Chargers-Raiders
7.9
'11
Patriots-Dolphins
10.3
Raiders-Broncos
7.7
'10
Ravens-Jets
10.5
Chargers-Chiefs
9.1
'09
Bills-Patriots
9.9
Chargers-Raiders
8.4
'08
Vikings-Packers
8.5
Broncos-Raiders
7.0
'07
Ravens-Bengals
8.4
Cardinals-49ers
6.8
'06
Vikings-Redskins
8.7
Chargers-Raiders
8.2
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MNF overnights trend on ESPN

NEW CREW: In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes under the header, "'Monday Night Football' Was Missing A Few Things, Mainly Chemistry." New Raiders coach Jon Gruden was "missed while constantly visible at the same time." Of the three-man team of Joe Tessitore, Booger McFarland and Jason Witten, McFarland "inserted himself as the most natural potential for some longevity." Tessitore "tried hard to oversell every other play" (L.A. TIMES, 9/11). NBC Sports' Peter King said, "I liked Booger McFarland last night. What he said about the Khalil Mack trade was smart. Overall, a lot of things he said were really good contributions to the telecast." Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio said of McFarland, "I don't know why he's just not in the booth. Somebody had a bright idea to put him in this director's chair, this floating director's chair. I don't know how much more of a benefit that is than just being in the booth. The communication has to be more difficult with two guys in the booth and him on that contraption. Just put him in the booth. Go with the three-man booth and they'll be fine" ("PFT," NBCSN, 9/11). Twitter reviews of "MNF" were more complimentary of McFarland compared to Witten. The Athletic’s Scott Bordow tweeted, “Witten is no Tony Romo in the booth.” Fox Sports Radio's Ben Maller added, "Witten looks very robotic, if [he] played for some other team than Cowboys, he wouldn't be on MNF." Charlotte-based WJZY-Fox' Erick Weber: "Witten is now just saying things to say things, guy better get better & fast." CBSSports.com's Will Brinson noted, "ESPN's done a really good job incorporating @ESPNBooger as part of the broadcast despite being on the field. Love the insight on the Raiders sideline there. Feels like he's in the booth with the convo." Awful Announcing's Ben Koo wrote, "Rewinding the game a bit, Witten went almost 4 minutes without saying a single word just now during a period where two timeouts were called but no commercial breaks. That’s not good."

A-TEAM: PFT's Florio said of the "MNF" doubleheader, "Westwood One sent the A-team to the late game, too. Just like ESPN, they knew what was up. They knew which game had more sizzle. But like the early game, ultimately, the late game did not deliver" ("PFT," NBCSN, 9/11).

BETTER TOGETHER? In N.Y., Kevin Draper notes ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro's plan for the net is "becoming clearer" after six months on the job. Pitaro's ESPN is a "network in lock step with the NFL." It is one that is "swiftly retreating from offering commentary on political and social issues, and re-establishing the prominence of bread-and-butter highlights." It is a vision that "raises questions about the company's commitment to hard-hitting investigative journalism, and whether it is even possible to be a down-the-middle sports network anymore." What will "really please the NFL" is a "reduction in the amount of criticism of the league," as Jemele Hill left the company and Michelle Beadle was moved off of "Get Up" to focus on NBA programming. Meanwhile, "SportsNation" was "canceled and 'High Noon,' a new show hosted by Bomani Jones and Pablo Torre, who delight in discussing issues of race and politics, was reduced from 60 minutes to 30 and had its time slot changed." But ESPN has "asserted the changes were all unique situations, and that lumping them together creates a misleading narrative" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/11). In Hartford, Alex Putterman in a front-page piece notes Pitaro believes that things "are on the mend" with the NFL. Pitaro said that he "communicates regularly" with league execs, "keeping them informed about production decisions that affect the league and maintaining an open ear to their concerns." Pitaro added that it "remains too early to engage with the NFL on negotiations about a future rights deal," as the current one lasts through '21. However, he "emphasized that the network has 'active discussions, weekly discussions' with the league" (HARTFORD COURANT, 9/10).