Voices of the NFL
While the name Tia Texada is unlikely to ring a bell among pro football fans, you’d recognize her voice if you are a regular watcher of The NFL Today. She is the lone woman to appear regularly on the CBS pregame show, and you first encounter her voice around the 10-minute mark. Last Sunday, for example, after The NFL Today host James Brown asked viewers to stay with the group through commercial, here is what viewers heard from Texada:
“Still ahead, in Mile High, Peyton Manning and the Broncos welcome in the undefeated Chiefs. Will KC be up to the test? Or will there be a changing of the guard atop the AFC West? (Pause). And who survives the battle of Ohio? The Browns are looking to close the gap in the AFC North but can the Bengals snap their slide and regain control? Plus, the NFC East picture is far from clear. Whose going to step up and take charge? We’ll tell you … when The NFL Today continues.”
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Texada is one of the many voice-over artists used by the football-airing networks, an important though never-seen part of the Sunday television production. During the 44 minutes that the NFL Today runs without commercials, Texada informs viewers prior to three breaks which segments are coming up next on the pregame show. CBS producers refer to those spots as “bumps to the break” or the "outbreak."
"I never want to lose viewers,” said Drew Kaliski, the producer of The NFL Today. “When we go to commercial break, everyone channel surfs, but you never want to throw away any part of your show, and your bumps are part of what is selling your show.”
Last July, Kaliski went to a number of talent agencies that employ voice-over actors and came away with tapes from 20 candidates to be the new voice of The NFL Today. He narrowed his list to four finalists and sent scripts to each voice-over actor from 2012 editions of the show. He ultimately came away favoring the voice of Texada, whose acting credits include being part of the cast of Third Watch from 2002 to 2005.
"When women around the country are watching The NFL Today, I really do think that when they hear a woman's voice, they turn to their husbands or boyfriends or kids and say, ‘That's a really interesting voice,' ” said Kaliski. “It's creating a conversation in living rooms amongst families, people and fans of the game. … Tia can do different levels with her voice, go serious or fun, and she has range. I just thought she was a unique voice. Also, when you have all male voices on a show, a dynamic female voice would not be a bad thing.”
Texada’s work is all done remotely. Kaliski’s production group sends a script to her home in Los Angeles every Saturday evening before The NFL Today airs, and the actress then goes about researching names on the script and familiarizes herself with the pace and inflection of the read. Texada has a soundproof home studio with an office, and at about 8:30 p.m. ET she connects with The NFL Today producers and an engineer through an ISDN line (basically a high-quality audio phone line). She’ll tape her read with the music the show uses during the promos, though she does not see the NFL footage that viewers will see airing over her words on Sunday. The whole process takes usually between 45 minutes and an hour. (CBS uses another voice-over actor to do sponsored elements and in-game billboards.)
“It’s a woman working in the NFL, which I think is pretty cool,” Texada said. “I think people get excited when they hear my voice. I love it. It is such a fun job, and I could not be more honored and happy to work with great people at CBS. I fully appreciate their hard work and level of excitement for what they do.”
While Texada is in her first year at The NFL Today, voice-over artist Mike McColl has performed a more expanded role for Fox’s NFL coverage since 2001. His voice is the one you hear on promos for the network’s NFL coverage no matter what market you live in. (You can hear McColl here.) He’s also the voice that introduces FOX NFL Sunday as well as the in-game voice you hear when you see a billboard promoting the game (“Today’s game on FOX is brought to you by...”).
McColl said FOX Sports producers email him scripts multiple times during the week for in-game billboard spots, sponsored elements and promos for regional games and national doubleheaders. Like Texada, he records from a home studio, with a FOX Sports producer and engineer on the line. McColl said he approaches his scripts as if he is one of two characters—the hardcore, tough football guy or a fun-loving fan talking to another fan.
“When David Hill [the former Fox Sports chairman] first hired me, he told me he wanted me to be part of this brand experience and that includes being a football guy with the mentality of toughness. I try to deliver a gritty read for them. [The role] is something I hope to do it as long as my voice stays solid and I can deliver year-over-year consistency. I also want be able to adjust if there is a new producer who wants to try something different such as higher energy. It’s been an amazing gig, and I consider myself a very lucky guy to be part of that family and to be part of something that is so special to the people of our country. I take great pride in it.”
Kaliski, who previously worked at the NFL Network and is in is first year as the producer of The NFL Today, said when hard news breaks, Texada is often bumped. For instance, two weeks ago, when The NFL Today was in a thoughtful discussion on the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin story, he killed Texada’s out bump and had Brown bring the show to break. Kaliski said the advantage of using a voice-over artist is that the segments will be professionally delivered, the audio will usually match the video, and the lead host (in this case, Brown) does not have to worry about the responsibility of bringing the show to break. This gives the host more time to focus on the stories of the week.