How did ESPN recruit Aaron Rodgers and the Jets to open their ‘Monday Night Football’ schedule?
Well, they asked, to begin with.
ESPN management specifically asked the NFL if they could televise Rodgers’ first home game. But they were hoping for more than that – they really wanted Rodgers’ first home game to happen in Week 1.
When the program came out — featuring the high-powered Bills at the Jets on Sept. 11 at 8:15 p.m. ET — ESPN couldn’t believe its bounty.
“We didn’t put any parameters on our request in terms of who the opponent was, and I was pleasantly surprised on two fronts,” ESPN content president Burke Magnus said. “First we had his first game in a Jets home uniform in Week 1. Then where I was really excited was seeing that it was an AFC game. Is with a very good opponent and another great quarterback in Josh Allen.The ceiling in this game is just huge.
“We try in most cases to give the NFL as much flexibility as possible in our requests, knowing that we don’t think it makes a big difference as to whether or not that (opponent) was Buffalo or Miami or the New England in the division game against the Jets. So seeing Buffalo at the Jets was about as good as we could have been.
I was curious how someone in Magnus’ position looks at his network’s schedule when the league sends him the full set of games (which usually arrives the same week we find out).
“I always look at what we have in Week 1 first,” Magnus said. “Last year with Denver-Seattle was for us the most watched game (19.84 million viewers) of the season. Week 1 is powerful. We have potential in this window beyond the most if not all of our other windows just in terms of new season thirsty fans and optimism in the wild all it takes is a bit of history like Russell Wilson returning (to) Seattle and a game decent to pop a huge number. We recognize that this is a priority window for us. So I looked there first. Then I looked at our simulcast windows where we know we have ABC and ESPN (showing games) together. I look for our big brands and see who they have as an opponent. Are they home or away? And who is their opponent? Is it another big brand “Is it a division game? Is it an interesting positional matchup, that sort of thing.
“In my opinion, we have two secret weapons relating to the quality of the schedule at this point that are different from those of years past,” Magnus continued. “First, we have Joe (Buck) and Troy (Aikman) in the pit. If anyone thinks it makes no difference, I would say it absolutely makes a difference. This is a team that has called several Super Bowls. There is no game too good for them to call. #2 is that we have strategic opportunities throughout the year to simulcast a big game on ABC and ESPN and sometimes ESPN2 with the Mannings. So having multiple networks, the MegaCast multiplier if you will, lets the NFL know if they put a game like Philadelphia–Kansas City (Week 11) in our window, it can compete pound-for-pound with “Sunday Night Football” . I think if you looked at our previous schedules, you might not see these kinds of games very often, if at all.
Magnus said his team will now enter into discussions with Eli and Peyton Manning to find out which weeks they will do the ManningCast. The only week announced so far is the Week 1 game between the Bills and the Jets. ESPN is trying to get a mix of the Mannings by adding to an already big game and maybe helping turn him into a midfielder.
“It’s a relatively easy thing to lock down now that we have the full schedule,” Magnus said. “Assuming they don’t personally have an irremovable conflict, we would absolutely want them in Philadelphia-Kansas City on November 20.”
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Some things I read last week that interested me:
• Generation Connie. By Connie Wang of The New York Times.
• Via JR Moehringer of The New Yorker: Prince Harry Ghostwriter’s Notes.
• Confidential Tampering: In college football, quitting is inevitable and impossible. By Bruce Feldman and Max Olson of Athleticism.
• Everlasting love. By Skip Hollandsworth of Texas Monthly.
• The Navy SEAL who went to Ukraine because he couldn’t stop fighting. By Ian Lovett and Brett Forrest of The Wall Street Journal.
• Via Reuters’ Drazen Jorgic: How El Chapo’s sons built a fentanyl empire poisoning America.
• In the footsteps of the Dark Avenger: the world’s most dangerous virus writer. By Scott J. Shapiro of The Guardian.
• My Night at the Sistine Chapel. By Cullen Murphy of The Atlantic.
• Your DNA can now be extracted from scratch. Privacy experts are worried. By Elizabeth Anne Brown of The New York Times.
• Tokyo Joe’s latest bet. By Dan O’Sullivan of Chicago Magazine.
• End of a love affair: AM radio is removed from many cars. By Marc Fisher of the Washington Post.
• How a once-dominant college football program fell permanently two steps behind. By Andy Staples of Athleticism.
• A recently released over 200-page transcript details exculpatory evidence in the case against Matt Araiza. Via Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports.
• “It was lightning in a bottle”: an oral history from MTV News. By Seth Abramovich of The Hollywood Reporter.
• This is the best article I’ve read in the last week: football has linked them. His violence tore them apart. By Kent Babb of the Washington Post.
(Picture: Elsa/Getty Images)