Monday Night Football
Monday Night Football is a television broadcast of one of the premier National Football League games of the week. It airs live on the ESPN television network in the United States on Monday nights during the NFL season, and is one of the most popular shows on American television. Monday Night Football (often informally abbreviated as MNF) is currently the second-longest-running prime time show on American television, after CBS's 60 Minutes. Monday Night Football first aired on ABC on September 21, 1970, with a match between the New York Jets and the Cleveland Browns, in Cleveland, Ohio. On April 18, 2005, the ESPN cable network signed a deal to televise Monday Night Football beginning with the 2006 season, thereby ending the NFL's 36-year partnership with ABC.
Despite high ratings, ABC lost millions of dollars on televising the games during the late 1990s and 2000s. Hence, on April 18, 2005, it was announced that ABC and the NFL had decided to end their 36-year partnership, with Monday Night Football being aired on ESPN starting with the 2006 season. Later in 2005, ESPN announced that its MNF team would consist of Al Michaels and Joe Theismann in the booth with Michele Tafoya and Suzy Kolber serving as sideline reporters.
ESPN and NBC Sports, which will begin airing Sunday night games at the same time, have each staked a claim to their package being the rightful descendant of the ABC version of MNF as the league's "showcase" game. While the ESPN broadcasts have the MNF name and heritage, NBC is a broadcast network as is ABC, whereas ESPN is a cable service not freely available to all Americans. For that reason, NBC, not ESPN, gained rights to the wild-card doubleheader that traditionally aired on ABC, as well as a share of the rotating rights to the Super Bowl. Also, John Madden elected to join NBC for its broadcasts (he retired after one year), despite the success of the Michaels-Madden pairing.
After initially renewing their NFL television contract, ABC was awarded the telecasts to Super Bowl XXXIV, Super Bowl XXXVII, and Super Bowl XL. Due to the end of ABC's contract with the NFL, the Super Bowl XL broadcast was their last NFL telecast.
Monday Night Football has always been broadcast live in all major cities with the exception of both Seattle and Portland ABC affiliates owned by Fisher Broadcasting Company (KOMO TV and KATU TV) delayed the game for one hour to show their local news telecasts and were the only cities in the United States to do this. This practice angered alot of viewers in the Seattle and Portland areas, and the policy was finally changed in 1996 after 25 years. MNF is now broadcast live in all US cities.
A complete list of broadcasters (many of whom are ex-NFL players), with their period of tenure on the show (beginning years of each season shown, as the NFL season ends in the calendar year after it begins):
- Howard Cosell (1970–1983)
- Don Meredith (1970–1973, 1977–1984)
- Keith Jackson (1970)
- Frank Gifford (1971–1997)
- Alex Karras (1974–1976)
- Fred Williamson (1974)
- Fran Tarkenton (1979–1982)
- O.J. Simpson (1983–1985)
- Joe Namath (1985)
- Al Michaels (1986–2006)
- Dan Dierdorf (1987–1998)
- Boomer Esiason (1998–1999)
- Dan Fouts (2000–2001)
- Dennis Miller (2000–2001)
- John Madden (2002–2006)
- Joe Theismann (2006- )
- Lynn Swann (sideline reporter, 1994–1997)
- Lesley Visser (sideline reporter, 1998–1999)
- Eric Dickerson (sideline reporter, 2000–2001)
- Melissa Stark (sideline reporter, 2000–2002)
- Lisa Guerrero (sideline reporter, 2003)
- Suzy Kolber (sideline reporter, 2006- )
- Michele Tafoya (sideline reporter, 2004-present)
- Chris Berman (halftime host, 1996–1997 and during wild card playoffs and Super Bowls through 2005)