ABC SENDS FOOTBALL BACK TO ORIGINAL TIME ON MONDAY NIGHTS

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After posting its worst ratings ever by starting "NFL Monday Night Football" at 8 p.m. (ET) last year, ABC has moved the starting time back to 9 p.m.

"Last year was a worthwhile experiment. It became clear it wasn't working and that our viewers prefer the 9 p.m. start," said new ABC Sports President Howard Kurtz. "We really couldn't change people's viewing habits."

While the move will appease West Coast affiliates that suffered the most from the early starting time, it will also force programmers to fill a large schedule block.

ESPN GETS PREGAME SHOW

ABC will scrap the "Monday Night Blast" pregame show. ABC sibling ESPN will schedule its "Monday Night Countdown" pregame show to lead into the football game.

Mr. Kurtz said the decision was made before he began working at ABC Sports last week.

While the earlier starting time improved East Coast ratings 3% to a Nielsen Media Research 12.5 average, ratings on the West Coast dropped 14% to an 18.5 rating. Ratings in the Central time zone also dropped 14%, to a 17.3 rating.

ABC affiliates on the West Coast were badly hurt by the early start time because they couldn't run local evening newscasts on Mondays and were left with prime time to program after the games.

In addition, late news suffered with weak lead-ins.

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