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Monday Night Football

Monday Night Football began in 1970 at the instigation of NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle[?], who sought to extract from the American television networks the most money he could for the football team owners.

CBS was out, as they were already broadcasting the most lucrative games on Sunday, and had a winning prime time programming lineup. Oddly, Johnny Carson played a major role in the origins of Monday Night Football. NBC, trying to salvage a deal with the NFL, scheduled a Monday night football game in September 1968. At the time, the NBC Monday night schedule consisted of a feature-length movie. When Carson read about a professional football game being scheduled in prime time which could preempt some of his 90 minute long Tonight Show, he sputtered with rage.

Carson told NBC he would refuse to do his show if it didn't start at 11:30 PM eastern time. The football game ran until 12:06 AM, and Carson walked out, forcing NBC to cancel its programming for that evening -- an unheard of thing to do in that era.

This left ABC as the only network which could broadcast a professional football game in prime time. Roone Arledge fused state-of-the-art television with state-of-the-art sport for the 1970 season, and the NFL has been on Monday nights ever since.



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