ESPN recently made an under-the-radar change to its “Monday Night Football” booth that carries significant ramifications, and was reportedly orchestrated in part by Troy Aikman.
Earlier this week, ESPN announced Derek Mobley and Steve Ackels have been named director and producer of their NFL broadcasts. MNF’s previous director, Jimmy Platt, will now direct the College Football Playoff National Championship and ABC’s Saturday Night Football.
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New York Post sports media reporter Andrew Marchand said on his podcast this week that ESPN execs knew Aikman wanted a different production team. “It’s not fair to say that Joe Buck or Troy Aikman made this change. But there was a feeling from people close to the situation that Aikman wanted a different producer,” said Marchand.
Last year, ESPN signed Aikman to a five-year, $92.5 million to call MNF and select playoff games, including the Super Bowl in three years. The WorldWide Leader also inked his longtime partner, Joe Buck, to a five-year deal worth between $60 million and $75 million.
As part of its new multibillion-dollar rights deal with the NFL, ESPN will carry the Super Bowl in 2026 and 2030.
Marchand says the network wants to get its production crew in order before those dates.
“The way ESPN looks at is, they got the rights to the Super Bowl a couple years ago,” he said. “Then they brought in Buck and Aikman. Now, they have three years until their Super Bowl, and they want to get their production team working together for the next three years.”
Despite Buck and Aikman’s presence, ESPN MNF games experienced a three-percent ratings decrease last season. Those numbers show that announce crews and production teams pale in comparison to the on-field product itself when it comes to attracting viewers.