NFL access for local news outlets was once much different than it is today, and Denver7 was the beneficiary in a big way.
Back in 1988, Denver7 (then known as Channel 7 or by our call letters, KMGH) aired The John Elway Show on Tuesday nights during the football season. At the time, Elway was the NFL’s reigning MVP and had been selected to back-to-back Pro Bowls as the Denver Broncos’ quarterback.
The show was hosted by Denver7’s Mike Haffner – a Broncos wide receiver from 1968-1970 – and Gary Cruz.
A program bulletin from July 20, 1988 described the show like this:
“Highlights of the last game looking ahead to the next opponent with Elway interjecting with viewpoints. We will also follow what’s going on around the league and Elway’s community projects.”
The first episode was slated to air on Aug. 9 of that year, bumping Entertainment Tonight out of the 6:30 p.m. and 10:35 p.m. slots on the KMGH schedule.
Fellow players would join Elway on the show as well. One clip in the Denver7 archives shows Karl Mecklenburg – a six-time Pro Bowler who is also in the Broncos’ Ring of Fame – recording a video with a Channel 7-branded microphone asking Elway to be invited on the show. The footage shows Elway inviting Mecklenburg to join the show on Nov. 1 of that year.
Denver7 won negotiations for the rights to the show, beating out the other local news stations in a months-long bidding war, according to an Associated Press article published by the Loveland Reporter-Herald.
Denver7’s general manager at the time, Bob White, told the AP he believed the station won the contract because the show would “make a vehicle” for Elway instead of adding him to an existing sportscasting team.
“The Channel 7 series will offer an excellent opportunity for Denver-area residents to learn about John Elway as a person,” Steve Petrucci, an attorney who handled Elway’s negotiations at the time, told the AP. “He has an insight to the game and a relaxed, congenial style which will be effective on television.”
According to the paper, the contract was for several years, though it’s unclear today how long the show aired on Denver7. The AP article cited a Rocky Mountain News report that the station paid Elway $100,000 per year for 20 half-hour episodes.