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With the loads of viewers and ratings success that the sport brings to television, NFL games have been a highly coveted piece of programming for TV networks to have the rights to. That hasn't always been the case with Monday Night Football, but with ratings on the rebound following last season on ESPN, there's some evidence out there that ABC may be making a play to bring the program back to the network in the future.
So, will Monday Night Football actually return to ABC for the next season or beyond? It's certainly an interesting question to ponder, with the network making some moves that may indicate it's testing the waters for an attempted re-integration with the NFL.
The 2019 NFL Draft
ABC will simulcast the 2019 NFL Draft alongside ESPN, but the two networks will apparently point their coverage in two slightly different directions. While ESPN will provide the more traditional sports-heavy experience NFL fanatics are accustomed to, ABC tapped Good Morning America's Robin Roberts to give the network a perspective that balances the draft picks with entertainment elements. For that, Roberts will be joined by American Idol judge Luke Bryan and the show's mentor/substitute host Bobby Bones.
Note that the draft picks will still be shown on ABC, but they'll be framed in a way that emphasizes storytelling about the athletes, as well as general entertainment. It's an interesting tactic, considering the event begins during ABC's coveted Thursday night primetime hours that Shonda Rhimes has owned for over a decade.
That dedication seems to be ABC signaling it still very much cares about featuring the NFL on its network. With Variety reporting that ESPN's contract expires in 2021, this is the perfect time as any for ABC to make some early waves in proving its dedication to bringing back Monday Night Football.
Why ABC May Want Monday Night Football Back
NFL ratings still rank among the highest viewed programs on television, so it's rather obvious why Disney is interested in keeping Monday Night Football by bringing it back to ABC after its years away. While it's true that ratings for MNF haven't been as good as other NFL games during the season, It's still doing pretty well by regular television standards, and ESPN will rarely pull numbers similar to what the same program would get in broadcast.
The viewership and ratings would be welcomed by ABC, which has struggled to establish a signature Monday night lineup outside of its recent American Idol push. With the reality singing series airing primarily during the spring, fall is open territory for Monday Night Football to get ABC through the Fall and Winter until its return.
Why ABC May Not Want More Monday Night Football Just Yet
Of course, there's a question of whether Monday Night Football would be the best bet for ABC in the future if ratings for American Idol continue to build. If Katy Perry & Co. continue to keep viewers tuning in, along with the talent continuing to be top notch, then ABC might make the decision to bring it back for a fall cycle, which would stand in the way of Monday Night Football.
Ratings for Monday Night Football are improving on the cable channel, but they're still nowhere near the numbers that were being posted back in its former glory days. Part of that has been attributed to the NFL's sometimes poor game selection for the night, which may or may not improve in the coming years. ABC may do well to keep an eye on it, and see if ratings are on the rise before making a play for it.
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