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Broncos-Seahawks Was ESPN’s Highest Rated Monday Night Football Broadcast Since 2009

ESPN paid a lot of money this offseason to poach Troy Aikman and Joe Buck away from Fox Sports to be their new broadcast team for Monday Night Football, and through one week it’s certainly looking like the four-letter is getting the returns it hoped.

For years, ESPN has been searching for a top Monday Night crew, ever since Jon Gruden left for the Raiders, followed by Mike Tirico’s exit to NBC. In their place they’ve tried a number of combinations of play-by-play voices and analysts, but they just couldn’t create the right grouping to capture the audience and meet the standard most wanted for one of the league’s premier broadcasts. In getting Buck and Aikman from Fox, they achieved that in in their first game on ESPN, they demolished recent ratings, proving the Worldwide Leader right to spend big to bring them on board.

Per ESPN, they pulled in 19.85 million viewers across all networks (ESPN, ABC, ESPN2, ESPN+, and ESPN Deportes) for Russell Wilson’s return to Seattle, which certainly helped increase interest in a Broncos-Seahawks matchup that would otherwise not have a ton of juice. The game being very competitive also helped, as did being simulcast on network television with ABC, but to be the third highest-rated regular season broadcast since ESPN got Monday Night Football, and the highest since 2009, feels like a testament to the Buck and Aikman additions — that 2009 season also happened to be Gruden’s first year in the booth for ESPN. The Manningcast aided those numbers as well, as they pulled in 1.5 million on ESPN2, as their second season got off to a much bigger start than a year ago, as fans have grown to love the chaos and honesty of the Manning’s alternate feed.

There have been other very good Monday Night games in the past and plenty that have also been on ABC’s airwaves, but for those (like myself) who have wondered how much a big-name broadcast team matters to NFL ratings, this offers an indication of that. Buck and Aikman being on a game makes it feel like a big deal and, at least to start, ESPN is receiving a considerable ratings boost with their presence.