'Desperate' to entertain? Cross-promotion backfires

Updated: November 17, 2004, 1:24 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- ABC's "desperate" bid at cross-promotion backfired on Monday Night Football.

The network's steamy intro to the Philadelphia-Dallas game, featuring a naked Nicollette Sheridan jumping into the arms of Eagles receiver Terrell Owens, drew complaints from viewers and the NFL.

ABC Sports apologized Tuesday for the segment, used a day earlier to promote the hit show "Desperate Housewives" and broadcast just nine months after another football flap -- the Janet Jackson Super Bowl fiasco.

"We have heard from many of our viewers about last night's 'MNF' opening segment and we agree that the placement was inappropriate," ABC Sports said in a statement.

The NFL called the intro "inappropriate and unsuitable for our 'Monday Night Football' audience."

"While ABC may have gained attention for one of its other shows, the NFL and its fans lost," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

The spot showed Owens and Sheridan in an empty locker room, with Sheridan wearing only a towel and provocatively asking Owens to skip the game for her.

After she dropped her towel, he smiled, agreed to be late for the games and she jumped into his arms. Sheridan was shown only from behind and above the waist after she dropped the towel.

Then the shot panned out to two more stars of "Desperate Housewives," Teri Hatcher and Felicity Huffman, watching the scene unfold on a television and commenting on desperate women.

The Eagles said they appreciated ABC Sports' apology.

"It is normal for teams to cooperate with ABC in the development of an opening for its broadcast," the team said. "After seeing the final piece, we wish it hadn't aired."

ABC has broadcast Monday Night Football with a 5-second delay this season, a precaution after Jackson's wardrobe malfunction at February's Super Bowl.

At halftime of that game, Justin Timberlake ripped off part of Jackson's brassiere, exposing her right breast to a TV audience of some 90 million. The Super Bowl was broadcast on CBS, which was fined a record $550,000 by the FCC.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press