'Manningcast' draws nearly 2 million viewers, but trails traditional MNF broadcast

The Manningcast is drawing plenty of headlines, but it's not in danger of surpassing the main ESPN "Monday Night Football" broadcast ... not yet, anyway.

Peyton and Eli's companion broadcast, running on ESPN2 and featuring an array of A-list guests who every once in a while talk about the game that's actually on, drew an average of 1.6 million viewers, about 14 percent of the main broadcast's 11.2 million viewers, per Sports TV Ratings.

That Manning figure is twice the initial number of viewers from Week 1. In those long-ago days, Peyton and Eli drew 800,000 viewers to their debut performance. Huge word-of-mouth jacked that figure to 1.86 million for Week 2 and 1.89 million for Week 3. This week marked the first show back after a short, scheduled break.

The question now is how much more room the Manningcast has to grow. A show that's already featured LeBron James and Tom Brady as guests doesn't have a whole lot more upward room for top-tier guests — presidents and Oscar winners, maybe — and the brothers' back-and-forth is already a known commodity. Some viewers appreciate the fact that the conversation often veers wildly from what's actually happening on the field; others much prefer just the facts of the game without all the associated jibber-jabber. (The Mannings return for Chiefs-Giants on Monday.)

Every NFL season features a couple of dud matchup weeks, and Week 7 certainly qualified. Lots of blowouts and dull pairings did little for ratings, and for the first time all year, no game reached a double-digit rating (percentage of television sets tuned to a given game).

Last Thursday's Denver-Cleveland game was a ratings success, up 29 percent in viewership from 2020 with an average of 12.99 million viewers. Early-window games held roughly steady, but the Chicago-Tampa Bay afternoon game on CBS, an ugly blowout, dropped 22 percent from 2020 while still averaging 17.75 million viewers. Sunday night's Indianapolis-San Francisco game was up 13 percent over 2020, averaging 16.1 million viewers.

Although it's still early in the season, the NFL clearly appears to have recovered its momentum from a COVID-sapped 2020. New wrinkles like the Manningcast may further divide the audience, but the appetite for football — in any form — remains strong.

Oct 25, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (2) passes against the Seattle Seahawks during the first quarter at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports


Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at