A Taste of ESPN’s Super Bowl Plans, Al Michaels and Tony Dungy Fails: NFL Playoff Media Thoughts
The sports media loves promotional press releases with as much passion as Rick Blaine loved Ilse Lund — and no sports property issues more promotional copy each year than NFL. As a preview for the company’s coverage of Monday night’s match between Cowboys and Buccaneers, ESPN sent out a release with more than 1,100 words covering the campaign headed to Tampa for an NFC game. The game was broadcast on five platforms (ESPN, ABC, ESPN2, ESPN+ and ESPN Deportes), including entertainment alternative broadcast featuring Peyton and Ellie Manning. Then there was an armada of live studio shows from Tampa Bay. The release even featured news of a new exclusive trailer that debuted during the hiatus for The Mandalorian Season 3.” We look forward to “Get Up with Grogu” in the distant future.
In the composition his long-term rights deal along with the NFL, ABC/ESPN will carry the Super Bowls in the 2026 and 2030 seasons. This will be the first time an ESPN-NFL deal includes Super Bowl rights. (ABC last televised the Super Bowl in February 2006). The company is also adding a divisional round to its schedule along with the current wild card game starting in 2023.
So if you were looking for a sneak peek at how ESPN might cover the Super Bowl, Monday was a good place to start. One day I logged on to ESPN.com and was rewarded with a giant box of promises to “AIKMAN AND STEVEN A. TELL US HOW BRADY CAN HURT THE COWBOYS.” By 2026, I think you’ll see multiple Super Bowl alternate telecasts on the ESPN networks (assuming it didn’t happen before) and what essentially amounts to a seven-day pre-Super Bowl show.
Monday’s game, unfortunately, wasn’t exactly Mane unless you’re a die-hard Cowboy. Dallas won, 31-14, and the biggest drama centered on whether the Cowboys hit. Brett Maher would finally score an extra point after missing four in a row until the fourth quarter. But ESPN executives would unequivocally say the year was a success because the broadcast team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman delivered what ESPN management desperately wanted — to make “Monday Night Football” feel bigger and destroy the criticism it had received. the most important property (often through self-inflicted wounds).
This did not mean additional viewers. ESPN and ESPN2’s Monday Night Football telecasts averaged 13.419 million viewers in 2022, down five percent from last year’s 14.130 million, according to Sports Business Journal’s Austin Karp. As I hope you have already understood, the number of spectators depends on the matches and the quality of the games.
MNF’s regular season viewing numbers above do not include the shortened broadcast on January 2nd, which I believe was the program’s best performance of the season. An unprecedented scene Buffalo security Damar Hamlin collapsing on the field in a game against of Bengal pushed Buck, Aikman and reporter Lisa Salters into an unprecedented situation. Everyone was careful never to speculate on the specifics of Hamlin’s prognosis, and the trio quickly realized the gravity of the situation. A successful first year for this group.
A part of sports media writing that I’ve found to be particularly irrelevant over the last few years is evaluating the on-air performances of sports broadcasters. I’ve spent years talking to producers, directors and on-air talent, spending time in truck broadcasts, and I appreciate the rigors of the job. Live TV isn’t easy, not even bad live TV.
But the essence of all this is subjectivity. My opinion on performance has no more weight than yours.
This is a precursor to offering some brief thoughts on NBC’s broadcast last Saturday of the Jaguars’ remarkable comeback at Chargers. The highlight of the broadcast was that Al Michaels and Tony Dungy were incredibly flat. It was a crazy, crazy last quarter, but we didn’t feel it as an audience. The call of the winning shot was embarrassingly understated. Someone like Gus Johnson, a broadcaster who can create his own momentum independent of a partner, would be incredibly valuable on Saturday. I’m most bullish on Dungy, who in my view is too reserved to be a game analyst. It was also a very clear case of two people not working together this season.
Those looking to write Michaels off won’t find an ally here. After watching most of Amazon’s schedule, I don’t think Michaels has lost his enthusiasm or fastball on the air. There were some games as he discussed in this column last week it was just awful. Little could be done to save them. But if Michaels calls a playoff game for NBC next year, he’ll benefit from an analyst who brings a ton of energy, especially one he’s worked with before.
Some viewing figures for NFL studio shows this season:
NBC’s “Football Night in America”: 7.24 million viewers, up one percent from last season.
“Fox NFL Sunday”: 4.542 million viewers, up two percent from 2021.
CBS’ NFL Today: 3.345 million viewers, up eight percent from 2021.
ESPN’s NFL Sunday Countdown: 1.240 million viewers, up seven percent from 2021.
“Fox NFL Kickoff”: 1.304 million viewers, up nine percent from 2021.
Note: All sports TV ratings have grown over the past two years thanks to out-of-home viewers.
On Saturday night in Jacksonville, Fred Gaudelli, executive producer of the NFL for NBC Sports and executive producer of “Thursday Night Football” for Amazon, wrapped up one of the NFL’s greatest production streaks. The Jaguars’ win over the Chargers was his last game as the NFL’s lead producer. I asked him to hand over his career numbers:
• Produced 670 NFL games, including seven Super Bowls, 35 postseason games, 532 regular season games, 85 preseason games and 11 Pro Bowls.
• First game as NFL anchor producer: Aug. 5, 1990, during a preseason game in Tokyo between Denver and Seattle.
• First regular season game as NFL lead producer: Nov. 11, 1990, 24-6 San Francisco win over Dallas.
• His most memorable game: Super Bowl XLIII (Pittsburgh against Arizona, February 1, 2009): “Two of the most important plays in Super Bowl history, and our team opened them with precision — James Harrison’s 100-yard interception for a touchdown late in the first half and Ben Roethlisberger’s hit to Santonio Holmes with less than a minute left in the game.” corner of the end zone to win it,” Gaudelli said. “Larry Fitzgerald had a crazy second half. It was John Madden’s last broadcast, although no one on our team knew.”
Gaudeli is not retiring. He will oversee the production of “Sunday Night Football” and work on the SNF schedule with the league. He will also attend a number of Amazon’s Thursday night games and will oversee the production of TNF.
Fox NFL analyst Greg Olsen’s excellent work this season continued in the Giants’ win over the Vikings.
that’s probably the best halftime analysis I’ve ever heard from a color commentator pic.twitter.com/OI6MdoLJhD
— Josh Hermsmeyer (@friscojosh) January 15, 2023
Amazon’s “Thursday Night Football” on Prime Video averaged 9.58 million viewers per game in its first season, via Nielsen. The company said those numbers rose to 11.3 million viewers when Nielsen data was combined with Amazon’s own internal metrics. These key figures are not published. AthleticBill Shea did an in-depth analysis of Amazon’s first-year viewership.
Next week’s Bengals-Bills game in Buffalo will mark the third week in a row that the team of Jim Nantz, Tony Romo and Tracy Wolfson will be assigned to play in Buffalo.
An interesting behind-the-scenes look at the feedback used by NFL Fox rules analyst Mike Pereira. By the way, the “Horn” here is Pereira’s producer Roger Root, not Roger Goodell. Zee is produced by Richie Zoentz.
My magic box. Press the red button and I’m on the air. The middle four are the people I interact with directly. Forget about what’s going on. This is for emergency use only. Who are the middle four people? pic.twitter.com/DVw5KwmpeX
— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) January 15, 2023
• Great work. The softer side of the promissory note mafia. Sports Illustrated’s Steve Rushin.
• Shaq and Kobe, $10K Bets and Digger Phelps Bagels: An Oral History of New York’s Hidden Gem Practice. Written by Joe Vardon from Athletic.
• In the NFL, players are divided into playing surfaces. Jourdan Rodrigue and Daniel Popper from Athletic.
• I saw horrible things when I played in the NFL. By Nate Jackson for The Atlantic.
• Will any team sign Trevor Bauer despite the controversy he will bring? Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe.
• Iranian chess judge argues with governing body over women’s solidarity. Reuters’ Gabriel Tetro-Farber.
• FIFA’s legal process could be involved in the case of Fox, a major player in soccer. Ken Bensinger of The New York Times.
• ‘The SNL of Sabermetrics’: How a group of message board misfits changed baseball. Rustin Dodd and Jason Jenks of Athletic.
• The Long COVID: Key Findings, Mechanisms, and Recommendations. Nature Reviews Microbiology. Hannah E. Davis, Lisa McCorkel, Julia Moore Vogel, and Eric J. Poplar.
• Vigilant over views: YouTube pranksters harass suspected scam subscribers in India. Andrew Deck and Raksha Kumar the rest of the world.
• World News (Canada) spent months investigating misinformation about COVID three years into the pandemic.
• The Dave Bautista method. By Yang-Yi Guo of GQ.
• Documents probe sheds light on Biden’s frantic final days as vice president. Peter Baker and Michael D. Scheer of The New York Times.
• Inside Mastbaum High, a shelter for Philly children at the epicenter of the opioid epidemic. By Kristen A. Graham of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
• Stuck with Santos. By Kimberly Welle of The Bulwark.
• The school did not have an inclusive playground. Students stepped in to raise $300,000 for construction. CBS News’ Steve Hartman.
• A few weeks ago, but a strange piece: The Mysterious Case of the Doctor Who Disappeared at Sea. Michael Wilson of The New York Times.
• Do you want to read about a real hero? Read it on Adolf Kaminsky.
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