ESPN’s devotion to all things football is well known. But next week, it will cover a decidedly different version of that game.
The Walt Disney-owned sports-media outlet intends to make exclusive reveals of the player ratings in Madden NFL 21, the latest title in EA Sports’ Madden NFL franchise. starting on Monday, July 13, on “Get Up.” Other ESPN daytime programs like “First Take,” “SportsCenter” and “NFL Live” will also devote segments to Madden NFL, says Andy Tennant, a senior coordinating producer overseeing the project. Hosts on “First Take” will debate superstar ratings. Anchors on “SportsCenter” will reveal positional rankings. . All of the excitement will culminate in a “SportsCenter” special breaking down the ratings process on Friday, July 17 at 7 p.m. on ESPN, where Laura Rutledge, Louis Riddick, Field Yates and Mina Kimes will interview players and reveal any remaining ratings.
“This is one of the biggest original content initiatives we are producing this year at ESPN,” he says in an interview, adding: “The story we are going to tell all week long will appeal to fans from all walks of life and to football fans and non-football fans as well.”
ESPN has made cultivating younger viewers a priority in recent years, launching a version of “SportsCenter” for Snapchat and moving more readily into the world of combat sports by signing deals with UFC and boxing promoters. And while the network has certainly covered esports in the past, next week’s maneuver will thread coverage of the topic through some of its most traditional coverage.
The week will culminate in a “SportsCenter” special airing Friday, July 17 at 7 p.m. on ESPN, where Laura Rutledge, Louis Riddick, Field Yates and Mina Kimes will interview players and reveal any remaining ratings.
ESPN’ has scrambled in recent weeks to fill hours of its schedule devoted to live game coverage and to analysis of it thanks to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The network has secured rights to classic WWE “WrestleMania” broadcasts and Korean baseball game broadcasts. But its alliance with EA Sports was devised well in advance of this anomalous situation.
The effort commenced in earnest with a segment on the network’s “E:60” newsmagazine, where producers decided to take viewers behind the scenes of how Madden Ratings Performance Adjustors do their work. The Madden NFL ratings offer insight into how a player will perform on the virtual gridiron in Madden NFL based on their performance on the real NFL field. Ratings are decided by the Adjustors, who calculate ratings of speed, awareness, strength, catching and other qualities. Adjustors analyze player performances each week of the NFL season and make changes based on how well a player performed. In addition, NFL legends like Barry Sanders, Michael Vick, Steve Young and Chad Johnson have all lent their expertise to the process.
When ESPN producers monitored reaction to last year’s ratings reveal, says Tennant, they found lots of excitement around the event. knew they could do something on ESPN that would get viewers interested. “We watched how NFL players reacted on social media, how NFL players reacted on ‘SportsCenter’ or across various football sites, “That was really intriguing content,” Tennant recalls.
“We are thrilled to collaborate with ESPN to announce Madden NFL 21 player ratings, one of our most anticipated moments each year that sparks intense debate across the sports world,” says Julie Foster, vice president of marketing for, EA Sports. “Madden ratings are a direct reflection of the on-field performance of players, so it’s no surprise that fans, and the NFL players themselves, are so passionate about them. We can’t wait to see the discussion unfold on ESPN in the coming week.”
Viewers can expect more. “We are going to learn a lot from our production, our storylines, and the content we create next week,” says Tennant. “Our plans are to build this content initiative into an annual franchise and an annual collaboration.”