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Tuesday Cannon Fodder: alternative

NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony Photo by Gene J. Puskar-Pool/Getty Images

Last night, I watched the alternative Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli Manning doing their own commentary on the Raiders-Ravens game. It was great. They are funny, insightful, and it was a welcome change of pace from typical broadcasts.

The setup has the two of them on a stream together chatting about the game, bantering, whatever. They’re in different places (COVID-related, I’m guessing) but it’s as if they’re sitting in a basement watching the game together. And through the magic of parasocial relationships / interaction, it feels like you are there too.

They brought guests onto the show to watch with them. I saw Travis Kelce and Russell Wilson, who were both interesting in their own ways. It broke up the broadcast, added color, and helped fill some of the dead air.

I think the pair have some work to do, as does the broadcast setup overall. As you’d expect, at times Peyton was a bit too football-nerdy. He had a bit of the early Tony Romo broadcasting about him - spending too much time predicting plays and talking in jargon. That level of knowledge is great, but only when you add in the explainer of why you thought that would be the play and what the jargon means. Eli could improve by being a bit more forceful and not letting Peyton dominate the talking time quite as much — he’s actually quite funny in a clever, almost sarcastic way.

More generally, I think they could both benefit from understanding they don’t actually have to fill every second of the broadcast. At times, it felt like they were talking just because they felt like they should be talking rather than because they had anything to say.

But the format has legs. Esports personalities and broadcasters have been co-streaming events for a while with great success. Last season, CBS did something similar for the Champions League with Aaron West, Jenny Chiu, and Tosin Makinde — I thought that was great as well.

Is it something I’d watch every time over a traditional broadcast? No. I will definitely watch play-by-play for some matches. But I like the option of watching a more relaxed, conversational, you’re in the basement with your buddies format. Streaming platforms, second (and third) screens, personal brands, and content creation is the future (and that future is now). I’m glad that the “traditional” sports are starting to explore the space.