ESPN Girds for Gridiron Action

NEW YORK NFL Monday Night Football on ESPN will come on the air at 8:30 p.m., a half hour earlier than last year on ABC, with the kickoff at 8:40 p.m. instead of 9:10 p.m.

Mike Tirico, veteran ESPN broadcaster, will do the play-by-play, while Joe Theismann moves over from the ESPN Sunday night telecast to be one of the analysts. The third announcer will be Tony Kornheiser, who is currently the co-host of the ESPN show Pardon the Interruption and a sports columnist for the Washington Post.

Veteran Al Michaels was under contract to continue as play-by-play announcer, but asked out of the contract and ESPN complied. “As long as Al was committed to us, we were committed to him,” said John Skipper, ESPN’s evp of content. But Skipper said Michaels “was not comfortable with our vision and where we were going. We want to work with those who want to work with us, so we made a decision quickly to move on.”

Suzy Kolber and Michelle Tafoya, who handled the sideline reports during the Super Bowl telecast on ABC, will perform those roles on the new ESPN MNF telecasts.

Skipper said the ESPN MNF telecast will be somewhat different than ABC’s, because ESPN can provide programming leading up to the game.

“We will innovate on this broadcast,” Skipper said. “We do not think of it as a mere three-hour window. We think of this as an immersive cross-platform experience that will make use of all the assets of ESPN,” including live telecasts from the host city the night before the game and play-day coverage across numerous network programs.

ESPN is based in Bristol, Conn.