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NFL to return to ABC under ESPN simulcast deal

US network ABC will broadcast its first NFL American football game in 10 years next season, with sports broadcaster ESPN agreeing to a simulcast deal for the Wild Card Weekend on January 9-10.

The Wild Card playoff game, as well as ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown pre-game show, will be simulcast on ABC for the first time.

Earlier this year, ESPN televised the first NFL playoff game in the company’s 36-year history. The Carolina Panthers’ 27-16 victory over the Arizona Cardinals averaged 21.678 million viewers in the US, representing the ninth most-viewed broadcast in cable television history.

ESPN already produces Saturday night college football, NBA basketball games and other sports events on ABC. ESPN said the decision to simulcast the Wild Card game was made in conjunction with the NFL to maximise the audience across the two networks.

Home to Monday Night Football for 35 years from 1970 to 2005, the Wild Card will be ABC’s first NFL game since Super Bowl XL on February 5, 2006.

“Our first Wild Card playoff game was one of ESPN’s highest-rated and most-watched events ever,” ESPN president John Skipper said. “By leveraging the broadcast platform we have on ABC, the upcoming Wild Card will rank among the most-watched programs of the year and we will reach even more fans during the NFL postseason.”

ABC and ESPN are both owned by the Walt Disney Company.