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Fall promo palooza: dawn of the nighttime NFL (ABC, 1970)

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Putting the NFL in prime-time seems like a no-brainer today, with no reference to concussions intended.

But back in fall 1970, ABC took what many considered to be a foolish gamble by premiering Monday Night Football with a trio of Keith Jackson, Don Meredith and Howard Cosell in the booth.

The network was replacing a fall 1969 Monday night lineup of Harold Robbins’ The Survivors and Love, American Style to see if viewers were ready for some football. MNFwasn’t an immediate hit, failing to make prime-time’s list of 30 most popular shows in its first season. But in the 1971-72 TV campaign, football ranked No. 25. And it’s been a reliable ratings performer ever since.

Below is ABC’s very first MNF promo, which provides retro-cool animation with a little game footage and a hard-hitting, brass-knuckled voice-over. The final image is of a silhouetted receiver making a leaping catch against a full moon backdrop.

“Under the lights, every Monday night.” Indeed. Add Sundays and then Thursdays, and the rest is still ratings gold.

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