ESPN Manning aired with Peyton, Eli started with summer training
It is only in rare cases that ESPN will give the green light to a new show that has not been solidified. Yet this is what the network did when it announced in July that its “Manningcast” with the Peyton brothers and Eli Manning would be a secondary show on Monday Night Football this season.
Across two games, the show was a huge success. Aside from technical issues and other timing adjustments, the broadcast was encountered very positive reviews. The Mannings drew 800,000 viewers in week 1 and more than doubled that number in week 2 – 1.9 million, against 11.9 million on the main ESPN broadcast.
But two people familiar with the production told USA TODAY Sports how ESPN took a leap of faith with the brothers. People requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the show and its intricacies.
First, rehearsals didn’t start until after the July announcement and continued throughout the summer. The locations were brainstormed, and ultimately decided that Eli was pulling from his New Jersey home and Peyton to a private souvenir warehouse in Denver. And the hosts have tried.
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ESPN’s Mina Kimes and NFL Network’s Kyle Brandt have each been in the Mannings. Between their comments and the executives’ ratings, the decision to relinquish the role of host became clear, said a person with knowledge of the rehearsals.
ESPN’s pursuit of Peyton Manning to be its main Monday Night Football analystafter Jon Gruden’s return to training has been well documented. The five-time MVP retired after his second Super Bowl in 2015 and remained in the Denver area, while building his media presence through his production company “Omaha Productions”.
Manning launched a show on ESPN + in 2019 called “Peyton’s Places” – which chronicles important places and people in NFL history through 20 episodes. This led to the creation of “Eli’s Places” (the same idea but on college campuses) as well as other shows (with Abby Wambach, Vince Carter, David Ortiz and Ronda Rousey) on the platform.
The idea of an accompanying show is not a new concept. College football coaches typically meet during the semifinals and the playoff championship to offer their analysis, for example, and CBS has tried to steer a show toward kids on Nickelodeon.
What Mannings is offering is something different that probably can’t be replicated elsewhere in the broadcast space, although that won’t stop other places from trying.
Their format allows them more freedom compared to a traditional broadcast, allowing them to control the time as at the line of scrimmage.
“It’s all about imitation, and often what they imitate is the one and only,” legendary broadcaster Bob Costas said on The Ringer show “Slow News Day”.
Peyton brings in the energy, while Eli uses dry humor (and lightly insults his brother) to disarm. Both can do the failures of the X’s and the), but it’s more Peyton’s wheelhouse.
” Is it possible ? Yeah, ”said a skeptical Costas. “Can this be done at Manning’s level?” “
One of the reasons it can be unattainable is their chemistry, which is hardly lacking during the brothers’ three-hour entertainment session, with some of the game strewn about. Guests join remotely and have included Charles Barkley, who discussed his gambling bets, and Rob Gronkowski, who joked that he hadn’t watched a gambling movie in years. For those who want the feel of a football game through their television, the main broadcast with Steve Levy, Louis Riddick and Brian Griese may be the preferred option.
After a handful of small rehearsals, the Mannings essentially held a dress rehearsal for a pre-season game for the Jacksonville Jaguars and New Orleans Saints on August 23, a Monday night. They have brought in guests, including former Colts executive and ESPN analyst Bill Polian, college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit and former NFL player Chris Long in the undisclosed trial.
Manning Broadcast and Main Broadcast are separate entities in terms of resources. ESPN shares production responsibilities with “Omaha Productions”. The technical side goes through ESPN, while “Omaha” takes the lead in content. Bryan Ryder, a veteran ESPN producer who previously worked on the NFL Draft, is leading the effort on Mannings’ side.
While the Mannings enjoyed early success and popularity, the main TV show still garnered five times as many viewers last week. With eight more airings coming up in 2021, and in typical Manning fashion, the brothers aren’t focusing on positive attention, but on constant improvement with every show, one of the people said.
From ESPN’s perspective, Manning’s broadcast helps the network’s overall brand. Ahead of the season, Griese was asked about any competitive dynamics and pushed back on the idea.
“I don’t really see it that way”, Griese said on a conference call with journalists. “You know, I’ve known Peyton for a long time. I don’t know Eli as well, but I’ve known (Peyton) for a long time, over 25 years – we got out of college at the same time, we faced each other in the NFL, and now he lives in Denver and we play football. golf together. He’s a good friend.
“I’ve texted him about this before, and I can’t wait to have fun with him going back and forth week after week and exchanging ideas with him and having a dialogue that could be really interesting and fascinating to see where this is going.
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.