Desperate Disney Conducting ‘Viewership Experiment’ with ‘Monday Night Football’ Games
Disney and the NFL — two gargantuan entities that seldom make changes for the better — have a big change planned.
According to The Athletic, for the next two weeks, football fans will take part in “an NFL viewership experiment.”
As the parent company hemorrhages money, Disney-owned ABC and ESPN will broadcast “Monday Night Football” games at staggered start times.
This Monday, for instance, ESPN will have the New Orleans Saints at the Carolina Panthers starting at 7:15 p.m. ET. An ABC game featuring the Cleveland Browns at the Pittsburgh Steelers will follow at 8:15 p.m. ET. Those two games will conclude Week 2 of the NFL season.
Then, in Week 3, the networks will swap start times. At 7:15 p.m. ET on ABC, the Philadelphia Eagles will visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. ESPN’s 8:15 p.m. ET broadcast will feature the Los Angeles Rams at the Cincinnati Bengals.
Disney and the NFL hope to gauge viewer interest in the different start times.
“We’re going to learn more about what optimizes best, and I think by next year we’ll continue to hone [in] on driving the biggest viewership between the two games,” ESPN president of content Burke Magnus said.
In a few months, however, a concept new to NFL coverage might emerge from the experiment.
On the final day of Week 14 — Monday, Dec. 11 — two games will air starting at 8:15 p.m. ET: the Green Bay Packers at the New York Giants on ABC and the Tennessee Titans at the Miami Dolphins on ESPN.
Magnus described this as an opportunity to create “sort of like a super audience total number.” No doubt Disney will carry the new “super audience” number to advertisers.
Of course, the resulting data alone will have limited utility. After all, some games simply appeal to viewers more than others.
Since the 1970s, for instance, the Steelers have been one of the league’s most successful and popular teams. Thus, their Week 2 matchup with Cleveland will attract more national interest than Saints-Panthers regardless of start time.
Week 3 will present different variables. Philadelphia had a high-scoring offense in 2022 and nearly won the Super Bowl. Speaking of which, Rams-Bengals will offer a rematch of the 2021 Super Bowl, won by Los Angeles. Both games should carry strong national interest.
Nonetheless, all of this feels like the kind of tinkering leagues and networks do when they need a turnaround.
Since 2020, for instance, the NFL has expanded both its regular season and the number of playoff qualifiers. In an age of player safety concerns, creating more games has no purpose other than to generate revenue.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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