Of the 17 “Monday Night Football” games played on ESPN in 2016, just two featured teams that would both go on to make the playoffs. NBC's “Sunday Night Football” package, meanwhile, got five such games thanks in part to the network's league-awarded ...and more »
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By Matt Bonesteel By Matt Bonesteel April 20 at 8:43 AM
ESPN to NFL: Please help. (David Kohl/AP)
Of the 17 “Monday Night Football” games played on ESPN in 2016, just two featured teams that would both go on to make the playoffs. NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” package, meanwhile, got five such games thanks in part to the network’s league-awarded ability to flex out less-appealing contests for more meaningful matchups.
Don’t think this fact is lost on ESPN in the era of cord-cutting, subscriber losses and astronomical rights fees. Burke Magnus, the network’s executive vice president of programming and scheduling, admitted as much on Wednesday, one day before the NFL’s 2017 regular season schedule is released.
“We have high expectations because we’ve been as engaged with the league as we ever have been in terms of what the results are going to be,” Magnus said at the 2017 CAA World Congress of Sports, per Sports Business Daily. “We’ve done everything we can possibly do to communicate with the league and guide them in terms of our preferences, and now we’ll see.”
This is the part where we’ll remind everyone that ESPN’s deal with the NFL has been a disaster, comparatively: In exchange for $1.9 billion annually, the network gets the set-in-stone dregs for “Monday Night Football,” one playoff game (usually the least appealing of the wild-card matchups), no Super Bowls, the right to show highlights and the draft. The amount ESPN pays by itself isn’t all that far from what the other three networks pay combined — somewhere around $3.5 billion per season — and they all get the Super Bowl every couple of years. NBC comes out even better: It gets the Super Bowl plus the right to more or less craft its late-season schedule as it sees fit.
ESPN won’t be getting flex-schedule abilities anytime soon and, as Mike Florio points out, the league has the near-impossible job of pleasing all of its broadcast partners with a finite number of games. Every good game that ESPN gets is a good game that doesn’t go to Fox, CBS or NBC. But none of those networks depends on cable subscribers for survival. ESPN does, and it has lost 9 million since 2013. The network will take as many good games as it can get to help stop the bleeding.
Other 2017 NFL schedule news and rumors
We’ll update this section all day Thursday before the schedule officially is unveiled at 8 p.m. EDT.
Redskins to host Giants on Thanksgiving night
Washington will be a Turkey Day host for the first time in franchise history when it welcomes the Giants to FedEx Field, The Post’s Master Tesfatsion reports.
After spending the first 17 years of his Post career writing and editing, Matt and the printed paper had an amicable divorce in 2014. He's now blogging and editing for the Early Lead and The Post's other Web-based products.
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