Disney Taps ‘Monday Night Football’ to Boost ABC’s Strike-Hampered Schedule

“Monday Night Football” was for many years a staple of ABC’s Monday-night line-up before it moved to ESPN in 2006. This fall, it will be so again.

ABC will air ten more “MNF” games than previously expected this season, simulcasting then with Disney TV sibling ESPN in a move that will help the broadcast network as the industry grapples with ongoing strikes by WGA and SAG-AFTRA. ABC said last week that the show previously scheduled for Monday, “Dancing With The Stars,” would launch on Tuesdays instead.

The football stratagem is seen as a one-time-only maneuver made due to extraordinary circumstances. ABC, like its rivals, will have fewer scripted originals this fall due to the strikes and live sports have proven, perhaps, to be the one format still able to lure an attractive, large audience all watching content simultaneously — a dynamic still craved by advertisers and distributors.

ABC has already recalibrated most of its fall schedule, largely to accomodate a handful of “MNF” simulcasts that were already planned. On Mondays, “DWTS” was to have been paired with “The Golden Bachelor,” while Celebrity Jeopardy” and “Bachelor in Paradise” were originally slated to air back-to-back on Tuesdays. Now, “The Golden Bachelor” and “Bachelor in Paradise” will air on Thursdays starting Sept. 28.

To make the Monday-night schedule, Disney enlisted the help of the NFL. Sports leagues remain interested in getting their games in front of the broadest possible audience, and the league proved willing to let Disney make the new schedule moves owing to this fall’s unique circumstances, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Viewers who tune in may see an opening segment aimed at luring big crowds. ESPN said Monday that it would open “Monday Night Football” with a new music video featuring Chris Stapleton, Snoop Dogg, and drummer Cindy Blackman Santana performing the Phil Collins hit “In The Air Tonight.” Traditionalists need not worry: “Heavy Action,” the longtime “MNF” theme, remains a part of the proceedings.

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