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Monday Night With the Mannings

Peyton and Eli Bring New Element to MNF

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October 25, 2021
June 21, 2022
 min read

The Mannings have been ubiquitous with football since the 1960s, when the family’s patriarch, Archie Manning, displayed his unique skillset at Ole Miss and then in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints. Sons Peyton and Eli continued his legacy with stellar collegiate careers and NFL resumes that each include two Super Bowl victories. Though the brothers have hung up their cleats, the allure of the gridiron persists, which is among the reasons why they joined ESPN to host their version of Monday Night Football. During the 2021 season, the former Pro Bowl signal-callers will share their insights, wit, and humor on 11 total broadcasts, including a Monday Night Wild Card game. They made their debut on ESPN2 during Week 1 as the Las Vegas Raiders hosted the Baltimore Ravens and were back on the air during Weeks 2 and 3 before taking a scheduled hiatus. In addition to brotherly banter, the Manning-led telecasts have featured guest appearances from sports icons such as Ray Lewis, Charles Barkley, and Nick Saban, among others. Peyton and Eli will return to the network tonight for a Week 7 contest between the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks. We examined MNF viewership numbers from the weeks when the ManningCast was televised on ESPN2 as well as Weeks 4 and 5 when there was only an ESPN broadcast to determine the impact of Monday nights with the Mannings.

Measuring the Multicast

As has been the case in recent years, the traditional Monday Night Football telecast airs weekly on ESPN. But the network decided a new element may attract casual fans who may be more interested in a variety show with special guests and friendly repartee than conventional play-by-play calling and color commentary. Enter Peyton and Eli Manning, two football lifers who can appeal to a wide range of viewers. Their first appearance came on September 13th, when fans were treated to a thrilling overtime game with a new media twist. ESPN drew 17.93 million viewers on its flagship network and 1.33 million more sets of eyes as a result of the Mannings’ simulcast on ESPN2. Week 1 was the high-water mark for viewers through the first five weeks of the season, with a total of 19.26 million. Though overall viewers dipped in Week 2, the ManningCast experienced a surge of fans. Following their Week 1 performance, the Mannings increased their viewership share to 2.35 million fans in Week 2. Their fanbase returned for Week 3, with another 2.34 million viewers tuning in to watch them discuss an NFC East matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. Ultimately, the brothers averaged more than 2 million fans during their first three weeks on air. Overall viewership fell when the only option was ESPN’s main broadcast, with Week 5 having the fewest viewers – 11.22 million – during the first five weeks of the season.

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Hometown Heroes

The Manning name is praised throughout many football circles, but Peyton and Eli are especially beloved by fanbases in Knoxville, Oxford, Indianapolis, and Denver. Peyton spent his college years at the University of Tennessee before becoming an NFL MVP with both the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos. Eli followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming the big man on campus at Ole Miss. Fans in each of these areas are partial to the brothers, and they tuned in en masse to watch their hometown heroes. We examined the designated market areas (DMA) encompassing each town and noticed a significant boost in ratings. Although we did not find any real differences in randomized markets, the four most closely associated with the Mannings averaged a market ranking lift of nearly 42 places. The biggest market boost was in Knoxville, where the average rank for households watching the ESPN broadcast was 102 and the average rank for viewers of the ManningCast was 47.

Appealing to All Audiences

The National Football League has averaged more viewers per game than all other North American professional sports leagues for years. But rather than stagnating, it continues to introduce new elements to the viewership experience to appeal to a broader audience. Among the NFL’s inventive endeavors was a kids-focused simulcast of a playoff game on Nickelodeon earlier this year. We analyzed a range of viewership metrics from the contest, which was marketed to younger fans as a way to help teach them the game. Though many ManningCast viewers are likely already football fans, the broadcast provides a way to watch the game in a light-hearted, carefree fashion. Viewers invite the Mannings into their living room to talk about the game just as they would a friend. Despite targeting different demographics, the innovative broadcast approaches yielded similar results. Average viewership for the Bears/Saints game on Nickelodeon in January attracted 2.01 million viewers. The ManningCast has also averaged north of 2 million viewers, with Weeks 2 and 3 both exceeding 2.33 million.

Back on the Air

Following a three-week break, Peyton and Eli Manning will resume their broadcasting duties tonight as the Saints travel to Seattle to play the Seahawks in Week 7’s finale. It will be the first of eight more simulcasts featuring the duo during the 2021 season, culminating with a Wild Card game on January 17, 2022. ESPN and the NFL hope the natural chemistry between the brothers results in additional viewers among diehard and casual fans alike. We will continue to monitor interest levels and viewership totals for the ManningCast as the season progresses.

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