The National Football League announced today that ESPN will televise a Wild Card playoff game during the 2014 season, the first NFL playoff game in the company’s 35-year history. The game will air during the Wild Card Playoff Weekend in January 2015.
The NFL and ESPN reached a new eight-year extension in 2011 for Monday Night Football and broad studio, multimedia and international rights. The agreement – which began this spring and extends through the 2021 NFL season – provides the NFL with an option to air a postseason Wild Card playoff game on ESPN, which the NFL has opted to exercise this season.
“We’re thrilled to televise our first Wild Card playoff game and we thank the NFL for the opportunity,” said ESPN President John Skipper. “This game will be among the highest-rated programs of the year on cable and it is compelling content that will help us better serve football fans during the postseason.”
ESPN’s MNF team of Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and sideline reporter Lisa Salters will call the Wild Card game, as well as the 2015 NFL Pro Bowl (Jan. 25, 2015) at University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona, which returns to ESPN this season as part of the company’s new rights agreement.
Similar to regular-season MNF games, ESPN’s Wild Card telecast will be simulcast on over the air stations in the primary markets of the participating teams; it will also be available via WatchESPN for fans who subscribe to an affiliated provider.
Notable ESPN NFL Milestones:
1980: ESPN televises the NFL Draft for the first time
1985: ESPN launches the NFL GameDay studio show (now Sunday NFL Countdown)
1987: ESPN televises NFL games for the first time – a late-season package of Sunday night games
1998: ESPN begins its first full season of Sunday Night Football
2006: ESPN televises its first Monday Night Football game (after the series’ first 36 seasons on ABC)