Football could be returning to ABC on a regular basis.
The original home of Monday Night Football and an NFL mainstay for over 30 years, ABC hasn’t held the NFL rights since 2005. ESPN obtained the Monday Night Football rights beginning in 2006 and has held them since.
With the exception of a rare simulcast, ABC hasn’t factored much into NFL broadcasting since ‘MNF’ left. That could change as soon as 2021.
ABC aired NFL games from 1970-2005
The story of the NFL can’t be told without broadcast rights and everything that happened on Monday Night Football.
From the famous trio of Frank Gifford, Howard Cossell, and “Dandy Don” Meredith to Al Michaels and John Madden, ‘MNF’ was a mainstay for decades.
In the days before Michaels and Madden — and later, Cris Collinsworth — called Sunday Night Football on NBC, ‘MNF’ served as the NFL’s premier weekly game.
Many of the NFL’s signature moments happened on the original Monday Night Football. Packers legend Brett Favre threw four touchdowns in 2003, a day after his father died.
Raiders running Bo Jackson bowled over Seahawks linebacker Brian Bosworth on a 91-yard touchdown in 1985. It was on a Monday night that Howard Cossell told a national audience that John Lennon of the Beatles died in December 1980.
The network has aired some NFL simulcasts in recent years
In 2006, the NFL broadcasting world changed. ESPN, which owned the rights to Sunday Night Football, obtained the Monday night rights.
In return, NBC took over the Sunday night rights. That left ABC without NFL games for the first time in over 45 years.
ABC has occasionally aired NFL simulcasts, both in the form of games and the NFL draft. The first game in the AFC wild-card round has appeared on ABC every year since 2016.
However, the network hasn’t produced its own games since Michael and Madden left for NBC.
ABC is in ‘increasingly strong position’ to air games in 2020
The days of ABC not being involved in the NFL’s broadcasting package could be coming to an end.
Front Office Sports recently reported ABC is an “in an increasingly strong position to score its first live NFL game package in 15 years.”
The site also reported that if ESPN retains the MNF rights, ABC could regularly simulcast or ‘megacast’ those games. ESPN’s rights to Monday Night Football expire after next season.
The ‘megacast’ involves different camera angles and gimmicks. ESPN used megacasts featuring coaches analyzing the game in a studio, a sideline view featuring the sideline commentators and guests, and so forth during the College Football Playoff.
Wesley Hyatt, a Monday Night Football historian, told the site that an NFL rights agreement “would be the nest news ABC could have right now.”
“It would give [ABC] three hours they don’t have to worry about each week. It would give the network some preeminence. Even if they use ESPN announcers and reporters to cover it and brand it that way. Which they will.”
It is not known if ABC will simulcast any games this season.