More Monday Night Football games will be broadcast on ABC this season than any other in almost two decades as the network struggles to fill time amid ongoing Hollywood strikes and moves its popular Dancing With The Stars series to Tuesday nights.
ABC will partner with ESPN, both owned by parent company Disney, to simulcast 10 more Monday Night Football games than originally anticipated between now and the end of the year.
All games between October 2 and December 4—which were previously exclusive to ESPN—will air on both networks in a deal anticipated by the Athletic to last only one year as ABC struggles with the loss of scripted originals due to the strikes.
Network shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Will Trent, 911 and Station 19 won’t return because of the strike, multiple outlets have reported, but reality shows like The Golden Bachelor, Dancing with the Stars, Celebrity Jeopardy!, Celebrity Wheel of Fortune and Shark Tank will resume this fall.
The news comes one week after Monday Night Football‘s highly anticipated season debut—when New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers tore his Achilles in the opening minutes against the Buffalo Bills—was watched by a record-breaking 22.6 million viewers across ESPN, ABC, ESPN2 (The Manning Cast), NFL+ and ESPN Deportes.
ABC was the exclusive broadcaster of Monday Night Football from 1971 to 2005, before it moved to ESPN for the 2006 season. Games have been simulcast across the two networks several times, including a rare two-game broadcast scheduled for Monday, September 18. Monday Night Football, and the NFL in general, has long been a ratings juggernaut for networks, and regular season football has already retaken the ratings throne this year. The season opener between the Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs drew 24.7 million people to NBC, and the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants Sunday night game was viewed by 20.1 million. Between the return of professional football, college football broadcasts and the U.S. Open, ESPN was the most-watched cable channel the week of September 7, knocking Fox News out of its long-held top spot. An average of 1.04 million viewers were tuned in to ESPN at any given time last week, a number that rose to 2.9 million in prime time.
The Writers Guild of America has been on strike for almost 140 days and it could soon become the longest WGA labor stoppage since a 154-day strike in 1988. The SAG-AFTRA union, which represents 160,000 actors and other performers, joined the writers on strike on July 13, bringing much of Hollywood to a halt. Both groups are pushing for artificial intelligence protections and greater residual payments for shows on streaming platforms. The writers are also calling for better wages and minimum staffing requirements. Networks have been announcing fall lineups that look much different than in years past. Most late night shows remain off the air, including those hosted by Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers and John Oliver, while some daytime shows have said they’ll return without use of union labor. The Jennifer Hudson Show is returning without its WGA writers while others, like The Drew Barrymore Show, remain off the air. Some shows like Live! With Kelly and Mark have returned because they do not employ WGA writers. Reality and competition shows are not subject to the same rules as scripted series.