How Peyton & Eli Manning are Shaking Up Sports Broadcasting
By Ben Spaeth
Photo: The Ringer – Source
ESPN may have struck gold when they hired the Manning brothers to do their own telecast of Monday Night Football. The telecast seemingly goes viral every week because of the array of A-list guests and antics the two get up to. Even when the game they are watching is a blowout, Peyton and Eli still find ways to keep viewers interested in the game.
One of the biggest problems that viewers have with sports broadcasters is that they don’t say anything of substance outside of what is happening in the game. The Mannings use the time between plays and important moments in the game to explain sayings, types of plays, and situational thinking. Providing viewers with an advanced knowledge of how the game is managed by coaches and players. Importantly, they do all of this while having fun and silly interviews with their guests. That isn’t to say that all their interviews are silly though, Peyton does a great job in asking guests pointed questions about the game, and often tries to gain insight from the coaches and players that come on the show.
While there are some drawbacks to having guests video call into the show, it gives them and their guests more flexibility and makes it easier to have active players on the show who otherwise wouldn’t be able to fly out to a studio. There have been some instances where people accidentally talk over each other or swear and even one time when a fire alarm went off in Ray Lewis’s house, but as the NFL season has gone on, most of the kinks were ironed out.
The Mannings’ production company, Omaha Productions has a 3 year deal with ESPN, but there have been some talks that Peyton Manning might buy the Denver Broncos. If that deal does go through, Peyton would most likely have to leave the show due to a conflict of interest. While I do enjoy Eli’s commentary, the majority of viewers are tuning in to see a couple brothers watching football. It’s hard to see a version of the Manningcast without Peyton.
The Manningcast has been key to boosting ratings on ESPN 2. In week 2 of the NFL season, the Manningcast pulled in the largest audience ever for an affiliated ESPN channel. The show has been so successful that ESPN is considering a version of the show for Alex Rodriguez to host alongside Sunday Night Baseball. However, the Mannings are beloved by most football fans. This allows them to bring in viewers who might not care about the outcome of the game. Baseball fans are far more divided about Alex Rodriguez for a plethora of reasons. Whether Rodriguez’s personality alone can draw an audience like the Mannings’ has yet to be seen. It would be interesting to see who he brings on to his show, but it’s unclear whether he could bring in active players or A-listers considering his controversial status around the league.
What the Manning brothers have exposed is that there is a market for conversation based sports broadcasting. This isn’t to say the Manningcast formula is the future of sports broadcasting. Monday Night Football’s ratings on ESPN and ABC are consistently higher. However, comparing the two side by side is a little unfair considering the regular Monday Night Football broadcast airs on main networks, while the Manningcast is only available on ESPN 2 and ESPN+. This also doesn’t take into account the people who wouldn’t have watched Monday Night Football without the Manningcast. The biggest issue with the broadcast is that fans of the teams playing often prefer the regular broadcast because they’d rather the focus be on the game instead of making conversation. Which is perfectly reasonable considering the point of the broadcast is to watch the game. That’s why the Manningcast works best as a companion to the traditional broadcast. It allows the NFL and ESPN to pull in football fans that might not care about the teams that are playing, while also providing those who want more of a traditional play by play a place to watch the game.