ESPN US bags Monday Night Football

MUMBAI: Monday Night Football, the most successful series in American sports television history, will move to ESPN US, ending a marathon 36-year run on ABC.

An eight-year agreement has been reached between ESPN and the National Football League (NFL), beginning with the 2006 season.

ESPN will televise Sunday Night Football, the highest-rated series on ad-supported cable television every year since its 1987 launch, during the 2005 season.

The new agreement calls for 17 regular-season Monday night games per season on ESPN -- featuring a new 8:30 pm ET telecast time plus four pre-season contests. It also includes rights across a wide variety of ESPN television and other assets, including the highly rated NFL PrimeTime programme; the NFL Draft, which ESPN has covered since 1980; NFL Live; ESPN HD; ESPN Deportes; NFL Films programming; fantasy, ESPN Mobile, video game and data feed platforms.

Disney CEO Michael Eisner said, "This agreement clearly underscores The Walt Disney Company's leadership in the sports entertainment industry. Sports television's pre-eminent series Monday Night Football moves to the industry's pre-eminent brand, ESPN."

Disney president and COO Robert A. Iger said, "Securing an American television institution well into the future will strengthen our core sports asset. Under the agreement, we will continue to see ESPN deliver strong profits and contribute to the growth of The Walt Disney Company."

ESPN's Emmy Award winning Sunday NFL Countdown pre-game show will return. Monday Night Countdown, an ESPN pre-game show chronicling Sunday's action and previewing the Monday night game, will also return, and will be aired live from the site of each Monday night game beginning in 2006. Monday Night Countdown will be the centerpiece of a companywide effort to make Monday Night Football a traveling road show in each city it visits.

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