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.
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.
The Redskins will close with …
— Kevin Sheehan (@kevins980) April 20, 2017
One of the “MNF” openers is apparently set
And later on for the Broncos
Per a league source, the #Broncos will host the New York Giants on Sunday night on Oct. 15.
— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) April 20, 2017
Pats-Raiders in Mexico on Nov. 19? Sure looks that way.
As Super Bowl champions, the Patriots will host the NFL’s season-opening game on Thursday, Sept. 7. According to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, New England will “almost certainly” be hosting the Chiefs. The Patriots also have the Falcons on their schedule this year in a Super Bowl rematch, but Volin says Atlanta likely will get the season-opening Sunday night football spot vs. team TBD.
Or, maybe it’ll be Cowboys-Giants again in the Sunday night opener
Francesa just came on with the Giant schedule…they open in Dallas on Sunday Night…home opener the next week on Monday vs the Lions
— Evan Roberts (@EvanRobertsWFAN) April 20, 2017
Dallas and New York were flexed into the Sunday night slot late last season and also squared off in the late-afternoon slot in Week 1.
Heck, here’s the Giants’ entire schedule
— New York Post Sports (@nypostsports) April 20, 2017
In case you were curious
Looking ahead to 8pm ET:
Broncos have “hardest” 2017 schedule, with a .578 opponents’ winning percentage.
Colts have “easiest” at .424.
— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) April 20, 2017