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ESPN's "ManningCast" embodies both the enormous strength and potential weakness of the NFL and its media apparatus

  • Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli Manning has been hailed as the best thing to happen to NFL broadcasting in years. But, says Derek Robertson, it's not going to solve the NFL's problem of Generation Z's disinterest in football. "Hopelessly addicted football nerds like myself were always going to love the Manning-cast," says Robertson. "But it seems unlikely that the answer to the league’s wider existential dilemma is to lean so heavily on two Brooks Brothers–clad 40-somethings. Football’s powers that be have finally taken a stab at something new. But in doing so they’ve revealed the extent to which the league and its media partners are captured by their own success, stuck drawing from a wellspring of nostalgia and tradition even when trying to power the future. Although the Manning-cast adopts some very Gen Z aesthetic trappings, you don’t have to watch for long to figure out that neither Manning is an obvious star for the TikTok cohort. Peyton has a dadcore style and demeanor, while Eli’s relentless deadpan is not exactly made for YouTube...This particular approach to such a flagship product might be understandable, given the long history of ignominious failed attempts at innovation in the booth. And the league’s core of older viewers, resistant to big changes, still props up a remarkably massive enterprise: Billions in ad revenue are wrapped up in NFL broadcasts, a number that’s only expected to rise as America emerges from the pandemic and years of mostly unwanted gridiron political controversy fade away. Still, that creates a fundamental tension in which one of the biggest drivers of media ad dollars is unable to tap into the coveted 18-to-49-year-old (and, more and more, 18-to-34-year-old) demographic that those dollars are spent to reach."


    • ESPN "took a leap of faith" with the Manning brothers: "Only in rare instances will ESPN green-light a new show that has not been solidified...Yet that's what the network did when it announced in July that its 'Manningcast' featuring brothers Peyton and Eli Manning would be a secondary broadcast on Monday Night Football this season," reports USA Today's Chris Bumbaca. "First off, rehearsals didn't start until after the July announcement, and continued throughout the summer. Locations were brainstormed, ultimately settling on Eli shooting from his New Jersey home, and Peyton at a private memorabilia warehouse in Denver. And hosts tried out. Mina Kimes of ESPN and Kyle Brandt of the NFL Network each sat in with the Mannings. Between their feedback and executives’ assessments, the decision to nix the host role became clear, one person with knowledge of the rehearsals said."
    • Eli Manning has a "Charles Barkley-like quality": "While Peyton Manning is the star of the Manning-cast, Eli Manning is the one who makes it go," says Andrew Marchand. "The reason? Eli has a Charles Barkley-like quality of saying what everyone is thinking and being natural, acting the same way on TV as he would just hanging out. Hence, late in Monday’s jazzed-up Zoom, Eli dropped a double bird, referencing Eagles’ fans, and, innocently, thought the TV wizards could blur it out. (He apologized quickly, though you’d have to try hard to be very offended.) Earlier, Peyton’s armpit sweat was showing through his shirt, and Eli, displaying brotherly love, pointed it out. It is Eli making fun of Peyton that brings a spark to the show. Barkley busts on everyone, which is the whole key to the iconic run of Inside The NBA. But how many people, besides Eli, could or would point out Peyton’s pit sweat?
    • "ManningCast" is taking a month-long break: The Mannings agreed to only do 10 of Monday Night Football's 17 games, so they'll return on Oct. 25 for the New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks game.
    • Chris Cuomo attributes Eli and Peyton Manning's success to them being brothers: “People are saying ‘god, I didn’t know Eli…or Peyton was this funny.’ You know why? They’re brothers," the CNN anchor said on his SiriusXM radio show. "There is complete trust between them. When you’re on TV with people, you’re a little nervous…you don’t have that with your brother.”
    • The Mannings went from having 13.4% of last week's Monday Night Football audience to 14.6% this week

    TOPICS: Peyton Manning, ESPN2, Monday Night Football, Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli, Eli Manning, Generation Z, NFL