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Monday Night Football leaves ABC after 35 years

Starting in 2006, Monday Night Football will now be broadcast on ESPN. ABC decided to give the series to its sister station, which will pay $1.1 billion a year for the show. NBC, which bowed out of broadcasting the NFL after the 1997 season, will broadcast Sunday night NFL games, paying $600 million annually.

End of an era

More than 300 million viewers watched the technology of television gradually change each week as a new generation of portable cameras, video graphics and first-ever special effects came of age on this very high-profile broadcast. It is hard to believe today, but before “Monday Night Football” there were only three U.S. broadcast networks and most games were still played on Sunday afternoons.

It was ABC producer Roone Arledge who had the vision to see a new way to produce football broadcasts. It was his idea to use ABC’s weekday broadcast rights to football to create an entertainment prime-time spectacle.

Chet Forte, the director of the program for more than 22 years, ordered twice the usual number of cameras to cover the games. He created the color man position and used computerized graphics within the show as well as instant replay. It was on the Monday broadcast that the first down marker was superimposed onto the field during play.

The broadcast normally requires a fleet of at least seven trucks, including what’s called the A unit: containing the main control room, digital and tape playback/recorders and an audio control room. The B unit houses robotics, more digital and tape devices, and audio submix facilities. The edit unit features an expandable truck that serves as a mobile edit suite and takes care of all the graphics requirements for the broadcast.

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