There is no programming more valuable in television than the National Football League. Last season an average of 16.6 million people watched regular season NFL games, which was 105 percent higher than the average primetime viewership (8.1 million) for the Big Four networks.
Each NFL broadcaster increased its numbers during the regular season from the previous year, from ESPN (up 20.2 percent) to NBC (16.7 percent) to Fox (12.4 percent) to CBS (6.1 percent) to the NFL Network (48.4). The robust ratings extended into the playoffs with a record 106.5 million watching the Saints beat the Colts in the Super Bowl on CBS, topping the previous alltime mark held by the 1983 finale of "M*A*S*H," which was seen by 106 million viewers.
"Looking at the TV landscape, if you had to pick out one property that you would place some money in terms of stability and consistency of ratings year after year, you would pick the NFL," said CBS Sports and News president
But what about the people who bring you the league you love? Here's SI.com's NFL broadcasting guide to the 2010 season:
In what should be an entertaining team for viewers, Eagle replaces
"Dan understands all facets of broadcasting and that's rare," Eagle said. "Chemistry you can't force, but I've always thought my biggest strength is adjusting and bringing out the strength of my partners. In this day and age you are judged as a combo, and maybe now more than ever. It's not how I sound, how he sounds, it's how we sound together. Dan has a fun side and I think I can bring that levity out. And trust me, over a long season, that's important." (Eagle should know. He's the voice of the New Jersey Nets.)
• Tasker moves up one spot from last season while Dedes, the 31-year-old television voice of the Los Angeles Lakers and a thoughtful game-caller, will be paired with Cross.
Same as it ever was. CBS traditionally preaches understated game coverage and pathologically avoids major shake-ups in talent. The network employs no sideline reporters and keeps the focus on the nuts and bolts of the game.
Here's a short definition of hilarious:
• Last year viewers needed to watch ESPN's
"I think we are primarily about the game on the field and I think we've tried to lessen the effect the announcers might have on the game. We've tried to stick to the basic fundamental coverage of the game itself. Not to say we don't have some really good personalities, but we really try to stick to basics more. I think week in and week out for the football fan and the casual viewer that plays very well." --
"For any coach, the most important thing is to be yourself, and I don't think there is any question Rex is the kind of guy players respect because he is very consistent with his message. When he says things, he is still very respectable. He respects the game. He certainly does not lack confidence but this is a football team that needed some. I think in a lot of respects it is refreshing to have a Rex Ryan in the NFL because he is being himself. The one thing you cannot do is be something you are not."
"We're going to take it to the next level," said
Remarkably, the talent above has not changed from last year. Neither has the enthusiasm from ESPN executives for all things Gruden. "He's got the juice, man," said Rothman. "He's got just a unique ability to inform, educate, entertain. He's creative as hell. He looks at things differently. He's fun, energetic; he has the juice, and the glam factor. He's a rare bird, man. He raises the level of camera operators, replay folks, he gets people to perform."
This has been said in this space before, but Johnson tends to dominate
"I see myself as a kind of a chameleon when it comes to the groupings that we've had, the changes that's we've had, and the adjustments that I've had to make over the years," Jackson said. "I know I started out closer to Boom [Chris Berman].... But I think I have effectively understood more and more about TV, and when more is less and less is more."
• Berman remains a house organ for the NFL but
• Schefter and Mortensen have increased their reach significantly via Twitter and it's odd that Paolantonio and Werder, both excellent reporters, have not done the same.
• Lastly, Gruden's enthusiasm and knowledge of the game is enjoyable, but he does need to
"You know what? I think the guys that are calling our game are credible, they work their asses off and they are very much in the know. It's not just reading Internet clips or articles. Jon and Jaws watch every frame of tape and every play and analyze everything, and their analysis and opinions are based on what's on tape. They do read but it's not based on secondhand information. I just think we have two of the most credible guys and I believe our play by play guy is unmatched in terms of his knowledge and talent and how he steers the ship. We have a good thing going and we relish it. We never give up on games. We work until the clock hits zero."
"I always had this thing about the football Gods. I told our teams that when you die you go to heaven and you watch football games. Acting like that, they'll strike you dead. There's a certain etiquette or sportsmanship we have all been taught since Day One. Don't give your opponent anything to put on a bulletin board. Obviously, this guy is who he is. He sticks to his guns and I do admire people who do that. But I can tell you that it motivates the guys I have talked with."
Plenty. Fox's major tweak this season comes with the hiring of Pereira, the former NFL vice president of officiating. He'll work from a control room at the FOX Network Center in Los Angeles with access to every game on the schedule. Fox says Pereira will have assistance from 16 college and high school officials (as well as former NFL replay officials), who'll be watching the game with him. If circumstances warrant a rules interpretation or explanation, he'll be available to interact with the studio crew as well as every
"We think it will be pretty damn interesting, and anyone who knows Mike knows that his 15 years as head of officiating was merely a steppingstone to a TV career," said Fox Sports president
• Warner was a bright and effusive interview subject. Now we'll see if that translates to the booth. His first assignment comes Oct. 10, when the Saints play at the Cardinals. At the moment he's only scheduled to do a handful of games.
• Network executives are high on Mora Jr., the former Falcons and Seahawks coach who will call his first game Sept. 12 in Pittsburgh. "We did a rehearsal game in Denver with his crew and he has an aggressiveness about him," Shanks said. "He's not afraid to tell you exactly what he's thinking or what he thinks a team should be doing. I think he's going to be very good."
• Fox will air Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6 from Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Look for the network to bang that drum throughout the season.
The trio of Aikman, Buck and Oliver -- who have been together for nine years -- has now surpassed
For starters, we'd permanently ban
"My personal opinion is people who have fantasy teams are the most aggressive at finding the information that matters most," Shanks said. "If we had a dedicated fantasy analyst, I don't think it gets you one more viewer, because we cast a pretty wide net on Sundays. The fantasy person is locked into his or her websites, where information is flowing back and forth. I think the Fantasy audience gets served in a different way. The hour before kickoff on Sunday is a place to start getting settled in, to be entertained and to get some broader information."
• Siragusa's shtick is tired but Fox brass seems enamored with him.
"I think that we are constantly innovating with new things and Mike Pereira is a good example of it. At the core of it, we have this thing called "Fox Attitude." We do the games better than anybody else, but once you have the cornerstone of doing the games better than anybody else, you are able to go to that next level to what we call "Fox Attitude," which is making sure the guy on the couch is having fun listening to announcers that like each other."
"He doesn't make a tackle. He doesn't run a ball. He doesn't make a catch or throw a ball. He just sits over there. Unfortunately, I don't think his players are quite as strong-minded as he is... He's putting a lot of pressure on his young quarterback. If they can't run the ball, they're going to have to throw it, and they can't pass protect. He'll shut up real quick. You know what? I don't like guys like that, OK?" -- Bradshaw,
Look for Dungy and Harrison to start leading more conversations during the pregame show. "The big thing we stressed to them during our August meetings was you are not rookies anymore," said NBC Sports executive producer
The network wants sideline reporter
• Pro Football Talk.com editor and founder
Michaels and Collinsworth enter their second year together in the booth after a debut season that went as smoothly as possible following the retirement of Madden. "John has a great passion and reverence for the game of football and Cris has a great passion and a dose of irreverence for the game of football," Gaudelli said. "In that regard, it was definitely different. John wanted everything focused on the game and, to a great extent, that's why people do tune in. Cris has worn a lot of different hats in broadcasting and he likes to go different places, as does Al. Al would always step outside the box with John and go at some things alone. With Cris. he now has a willing partner."
• How can a pregame show draw traction with viewers competing against live games? "I think because of the people on the set and the game we are leading up to," Flood said. "Week after week this is the game you want to see. People are going to want to come and be ready for that game. Then you have our talent."
NBC has improved its broadcast over the past couple of years with some wise cuts (
"Why does NBC do football better? I would boil it down to two things: Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth. That's why we do football better."
"If you're the Jets, you haven't owned the AFC East. The Patriots have honestly owned the AFC East. I've said this before: It's one thing if a player trash talks. You can handle your business against that player on the field. But if a coach starts trash talking, guess what? He hasn't made one tackle. He hasn't caught the ball. He hasn't thrown one touchdown. As a player, you get even more frustrated when a coach starts trash talking. You better believe the Patriots have that circled. They hate the Jets and they hate them even more now. "
The hiring of Theismann was as uninspiring as it was unoriginal. It's also a canard for anyone at the NFL Network to assert that Theismann bashing originates with critics. Viewers have consistently and clearly, through blogs, social media and other means, asserted that they do not enjoy listening to Theismann on game coverage. He dominates the airwaves, often to the point where his three-man booth becomes a one-man play. He is provocative, for sure, and more apt to say something memorable than Millen, which is why Theismann would be better in the studio. He's tight with broadcasting and NFL executives and that plays into decisions with talent (represented by high-powered agents) who have moved around the dial.
Since its first season, The NFL Network has had issues of continuity in the booth. Its game broadcast has included
Mariucci's a little too rah-rah for me but his access to
• After a heavy press campaign last year for her, Dales seems to have disappeared from the network.
• NFL Network executive producer
Faulk doesn't have the Q-rating of a Dan Marino or a Steve Young but he's a terrific analyst who is ahead of the curve time after time. I really like him. Last year he made a prescient call on Titans quarterback
• I give Irvin credit for convincing another network that he's a good analyst. The loquacious one adds another gig as one of the analysts on
First, we'd scour the earth to put together the smartest minds to build a time machine. Then, we'd travel back two weeks ago and make a strong pitch to NFLN executives to not go down the Theismann path.
"We do it every day of the year. Better is an interesting word. It may be a little different. Everyone is doing some high-class football productions. We are pushing each other to do more and more. Why we do it different, or why do we think we do it better is we focus on football and we focus on access that we get to players and coaches. We have a camera at every facility and we are behind the scenes more than anyone else can be. It's just a football fan's dream. We give more content than anyone else and we are promoting football more than anyone else. I think our talent across the board is working at a very high level and I think it's because we are on 24 hours a day." --
"Your coach writes "SOON TO BE CHAMPIONS" on a bus that's going around the country? Wait a minute. It's one thing for us to think we're internally confident and know what we can get done inside this building. It's another thing to write it on the side of a bus that is driving around the country because every team on the NFL schedule has now checked you off on the schedule and said, 'Here's how we measure ourselves against the Soon-To-Be Champions.' " -