If you sit on your couch and watch sports as much as I do, you start to get a feel for the sports media landscape. This is the IV that keeps us fans alive, hooked onto the latest news or the biggest game of the week. And the sports fan’s consumption has only become more diversified thanks to a constantly evolving connective network, which is beneficial in the way it facilitates our ability to communicate with family, keep in touch with our world’s events, or tune into Monday Night Football’s Cleveland Browns/Pittsburgh Steelers game.
Football is reaching the end of its season, crescendoing with a Super Bowl next month. And one of the things I’ve enjoyed the most this NFL season—just below the Packers stomping their way to the one seed—has been the Monday Night Football ManningCast.
MNF on ESPN with Peyton & Eli has become a must-watch for avid fans. The alternative broadcast featuring two recently retired, Super Bowl-winning QB’s who just happen to be kin from the first family of football is unlike any other from what I can remember in sports media within recent times. It gives fans a second perspective of a premiere televised sporting event, and does so in a way that has the potential of bringing more eyes to the product. It’s mere presence is a win-win for the industry and consumers.
Peyton & Eli Manning will be hosting an alternate broadcast on Monday nights
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) July 19, 2021
The way games are covered on this broadcast, which is available on ESPN2 for Americans and TSN3 for Canadians, has given football fans a different way to watch their sport. A typical telecast features the Manning brothers as the “commmentators”, calling the final game of any given NFL week with help from a slew of guests who occupy a third chair that revolves every quarter.It’s game coverage and an in-depth conversation all wrapped into one. The broadcast features two notable football brains riffing with an outside personality, a dynamic that varies in its parallels but stays constant in its intrigue.
The game is the purpose for the ManningCast, or at least the vehicle, but what makes it different from the regular ESPN telecast is the dialogue that comes along with it. Sometimes you have Peyton and Eli discussing progression reads with Tom Brady, and sometimes it’s a brainstorm of rap group names with Snoop Dogg. One game they get Joe Buck to come on, but rather than calling the on-field action he’s ripping on Peyton’s SB XLVII performance, and another you’ll see LeBron James predicting touchdowns. Filled with a variety of minds and personalities that intersect with football in one way or another, the stacked guestlists are what keep bringing me back to the telecast.
protect the manningcast at all costs
— PFF (@PFF) September 28, 2021
"I took one for me, I took one for big bruh and I took one for little bruh."
Before Marshawn Lynch hopped on the ManningCast, he took a Henny shot for Peyton and Eli.
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) October 26, 2021
— ESPN (@espn) November 23, 2021
The flow of conversation between the Mannings and their guests can be as unpredictable and captivating as the game itself, and sometimes more. It’s a different way to consume the sport that occupies the interest of so many North Americans once a week, in a way that sells itself. To the football fan who feasts on an entire Sunday slate, the ManningCast feels like the dessert that rounds out your four-course meal.
I’ve seen people who haven’t enjoyed the ManningCast as much as I have. It’s style isn’t for everyone. In a lot of ways the Mannings are at the forefront of the telecast, which of course is the objective, but it does have the tendency to take over the game itself. If you’re watching with others it isn’t as easy to follow along, especially if your favourite team is playing. The ManningCast is perfect for an uninteresting or slow-paced game, but if I have any stake in the action I’d rather watch the regular broadcast. What the Mannings make up for in analysis and targeted quips they lack in dramatics. I like seeing Peyton share a clip of Eli watertubing with a typically stonefaced Nick Saban during a blowout, but it’d be different if the Packers were in a shootout.
— Omaha Productions (@OmahaProd) December 21, 2021
Whatever your thoughts are on the ManningCast, it benefits all of us as sports fans. This form of alternative broadcast with a different, refreshing perspective televised by one of the oligarchs of sports media serves as a foot in the door in diversifying the streaming options of sports telecasts. It’s a blueprint for using a complimentary production to bring even more eyes to the same product. Not only are fans watching Monday Night Football with the typical crew of Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Louis Riddick, but ESPN is also getting another set of eyes to tune into Peyton and Eli on their second channel. And I have to think that’s good for the NFL and the sports network that’s offering both options.
In an age where leagues and their teams draw consumers across multiple platforms—which can diversify at an even more micro level when it comes to news thanks to social media—giving another broadcast option for live sports seems like the natural evolution. Give sports fans more ways to watch something, and it might just bring more fans.
A behind-the-scenes look at the ManningCast:
➖ 10 employees in both Manning sites
➖ 4 live locations
➖ Multiple ESPN departments, Omaha Productions
The ManningCast has drawn an average of roughly 1.6 million viewers each week this season 📺pic.twitter.com/0mSW391p67
— Front Office Sports (@FOS) November 23, 2021
ESPN has done that with a primetime football game, which will get good ratings regardless, but the success could translate to other sports. The event Sportsnet ran with former NHL player Ryan Kesler in Kes’ House during last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs was a good step, but they could do more. Baseball is a very regional sport unless you’re a diehard. I’ll watch every Jays game, but casual watching of other games is far less common for MLB fans especially. However, my viewing habits might change if I got word that David Ortiz, Matt Damon, and Mattress Mack were slated to make guest appearances on a national broadcast between the Red Sox and the Astros. If baseball fans could get their own version of the “ManningCast”, would that bring in more viewers for the sport and the network that airs it? I’ve got to think so.
It’ll be interesting to see the final ratings of the ManningCast when the NFL season comes to an end, but for now I consider the experiment a success for sports fans. We might get more ways to enjoy our fix of live sports television going forward thanks to the innovative nature of this alternative ESPN broadcast.