ESPN Names MNF Crew

Tony Kornheiser and Mike Tirico will join Joe Theismann in the broadcast booth for Monday Night Football when it moves to ESPN next season. Sideline reporters will be Suzy Kolber and Michele Tafoya. ESPN also said it will move up the kickoff time to 8:40, with one ESPN exec joking it was to help out Kornheiser, who is used to an early bedtime.

Al Michaels and Theismann had initially been announced as the team and last November Michaels called it the best job in the world. But according to John Skipper, ESPN executive VP, Michaels said "he was not comfortable and let us know he was not comfortable, with the direction of the show. We want to work with those who want to work with us, so we quickly made the decision to move on."

ESPN also said Wednesday that Mike Breen will be lead NBA play-by-play commentator, teaming with Hubie Brown.

SportsCenter anchor Tirico has handled a variety of duties, including covering NFL games and hosting ESPN's Monday Night countdown show since joining in 1991. Kornheiser, sports writer for The Washington Post, hosts ESPN's Pardon the Interruption with Post colleague Michael Wilbon and has appeared on SportsCenter.

Kornheiser had been courted by various sports outlets, including MNF, according to a sports section story in the Post over the weekend. He said his two biggest concerns are travel--he doesn't like to fly--and staying up through the game since he normally goes to bed about 9:30. When asked the last time he had been up past midnight, he said probably at his bar mitzva.

Theismann, former Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the Washington Redskins,  has been calling ESPN's Sunday night games.

Theismann and Kornheiser both like to talk, but Theismann said they recognized that and would apply the requisite discipline of learning "how, when, and where to talk  We understand the format we are working in."

Al Michaels will reportedly join John Madden on NBC's NFL Sunday broadcasts next season. He and Madden had been the latest in a long line of big names to occupy the MNF booth, which started with Don Meredith, Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell in 1971.
John Skipper, ESPN Executive VP, content, for ESPN described MNF as an all-day multimedia event, or what they bill as a "mini-Super Bowl" every week, with SportsCenter and Pardon the Interruption originating from each host city. Skipper predicted that ESPN would be able to double the aggregate audience for the game across all its platforms.

ESPN is testing out its multimedia roadblocking March 4 with coverage of the Duke/North Carolina basketball game on all its properties, including braodband, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, EPSN classic and ESPN magazine.

ESPN said it will keep the familiar theme, but reinvent the graphics of the game.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.