ABC is adding ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” games to its prime-time schedule as the ongoing dual entertainment industry strikes will delay new scripted programming until next year.
The games typically air only on ESPN’s cable channels, with occasional simulcasts and exclusive games on ABC, as both networks are owned by the Walt Disney Co.
But with no new programming to serve up, ABC will carry an NFL Monday game every week throughout the rest of the season.
A representative for ESPN confirmed the programming move.
According to people familiar with the discussions, ABC executives requested the additional games as even if the strikes were to end soon, new series episodes would not be available until next year.
Production of new TV episodes has been shut down since the spring as the Writers Guild of America went on strike on May 2. The performers represented by SAG-AFTRA joined the picket line on July 14.
Both guilds are looking for improved residual payments, greater transparency regarding data on streaming audiences and protections against the use of artificial intelligence.
The WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios and streamers, are set to resume bargaining on Wednesday.
Broadcast networks are feeling the impact of the strikes the most, as they generally launch new programming in the fall. With no new sitcoms or dramas available, they have largely depended on game shows, reality series and live sports to fill their prime-time schedules.
ABC had four exclusive games scheduled, including Monday’s Cleveland Browns-Pittsburgh Steelers contest that will finish out the NFL’s second week. The network also has exclusive games on Oct. 2, Dec. 11 and Dec. 25.
ABC will simulcast the ESPN games each week between Oct. 8 and Dec. 4, as well as Dec. 18, Dec. 30 and Jan. 6. Those games can be watched without a cable or satellite TV subscription on KABC Channel 7 in Los Angeles and other ABC stations with an over-the-air antenna.
“Monday Night Football” was a staple of ABC for decades. As escalating rights fees made the games too costly to support with over-the-air ad-supported TV, the games moved in 2006 to ESPN, as its networks receive revenues from pay TV operators as well. (Disney now gets fees for pay TV carriage of its ABC stations as well.)
ABC also carries the NFL Wild Card playoff games that are scheduled on ESPN.