The breakdown of what to expect on each network that carries pro football, from pregame shows to the broadcast booth and beyond
There were the usual broadcast truisms for the opening week of the NFL season: The late Sunday afternoon national game drew the highest ratings (Fox had a 16.9 overnight rating for the Giants' 20-19 win over the Cowboys), the pregame shows featured over-the-top male laughter, and ESPN’s features producers proved yet again their massive skill.
With the NFL broadcast rosters all set, we offer The MMQB NFL Broadcast Guide to the 2016 NFL season.
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1. Jim Nantz/Phil Simms/Tracy Wolfson
2. Ian Eagle/Dan Fouts/Evan Washburn
3. Greg Gumbel/Trent Green/Jamie Erdahl
4. Kevin Harlan/Rich Gannon
5. Spero Dedes/Solomon Wilcots
6. Andrew Catalon/Steve Tasker/Steve Beuerlein
7. Tom McCarthy/Adam Archuleta
8. Carter Blackburn/Chris Simms
Jay Feely will serve as a kicking analyst.
Main pregame show talent: James Brown (host), Boomer Esiason, Bill Cowher, Tony Gonzalez, Bart Scott (analysts), and Jason La Canfora (insider).
What’s new: Mike Carey, a two-year Internet punching bag, was relieved of his duties as the network’s NFL rules analyst. (There was no replacement.) The NFL Today studio show will check in with game announcers at each regional site around 12:30 p.m. ET, with updates on last minute news and activity at the stadium pertaining to the game you are scheduled to see at 1 p.m. Brad Nessler, who comes over from ESPN, will likely call some late-season NFL games.
Best game: Patriots at Broncos, Dec. 18, 4:25 p.m. ET.
Ratings of note: For the 2015 NFL regular-season, The NFL On CBS averaged 19.1 million views, a +2 percent increase over 2015.
The Boast: CBS will broadcast the most games of any network between its Sunday afternoon and Thursday Night Football packages.
Thursday night setup: CBS will broadcast Weeks 2-3 and Weeks 5-7, which will also be simulcast on NFL Network and Twitter. CBS also will produce four TNF games to be televised on NFL Network.
Most polarizing figure: Simms, who draws ire every week on social media. Here’s a story on his bosses backing him up.
Week 1 thought: The NFL Today group discussed Colin Kaepernick and athletes and social justice. Much of the focus was on how it impacts an NFL team, which I didn’t find personally compelling but you might.
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Broadcast team: Monday Night Football: Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden (analyst) and Lisa Salters (reporter).
Main pregame show talent: Suzy Kolber (host), analysts Trent Dilfer, Matt Hasselbeck, Randy Moss, Steve Young and Charles Woodson (Monday Night Countdown). The Sunday show features host Chris Berman with Dilfer, Hasselbeck, Moss and Woodson. Wendi Nix will also host segments on Sundays. The NFL insiders are Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter. Matthew Berry is the fantasy expert. Michelle Beisner-Buck will contribute features for Monday Night Countdown.
What’s new: No network had more offseason talent changes than ESPN. First, they made a major shift on the broadcast team with McDonough replacing Tirico after Tirico left for NBC in July. “I'm 54 years old, so the clock was sort of ticking,” says McDonough. “But I'm grateful they've given me this opportunity, and certainly well aware of the standard that's been set by the people who have filled this role before me. And I'm going to do everything I can to uphold the high standard that viewers of Monday Night Football have become accustomed to for 46 years.”
The studio team was reworked in an effort to provide more currency for viewers. Hasselbeck and Woodson are recent retirees and Moss moved from Fox to ESPN. Longtime stalwart Tom Jackson walked away from a final year. Cris Carter and Ray Lewis were let go. Keyshawn Johnson was re-assigned. Seth Markman, who runs ESPN’s NFL studio show, has a very tricky assignment this year. He has to figure out ways to help forge the chemistry of his new group (and manage egos), knowing they will have a new host next year while simultaneously making sure not to alienate the current host (Berman), whose agent has already said he’s not retiring. Whatever ESPN’s NFL Sunday and Monday studio shows ultimately become for viewers, they will not become it this year.
Best game: Ravens at Patriots, Dec. 12, 8:30 p.m. ET.
Ratings of note: Monday Night Football averaged 12.9 million viewers in 2015, down three percent from 2014 (13.35 million).
The Boast: From producer Jay Rothman on Gruden: “Jon established himself as a premier analyst in sports television. And just as he was as a Super Bowl-winning head coach, the things that got him that Super Bowl trophy are what makes him great at this job. He's smart, creative, a great innovator. His work ethic is second to none, just as it was as an NFL coach. He brings the same work ethic to Monday Night Football and coaches all of us up.”
Most polarizing figure: Berman.
Week 1 thought: There will be a lot of attention on this pregame show given the massive staff changes. Passing judgment off the first week is a fool’s errand so some quick thoughts: The chemistry obviously needs work (they talked over each other a lot) and the show predictably—and sadly—started with some takes hotter than the Arabian Peninsula. But a discussion on Kaepernick was authentic, honest and tension-filled television given how different Moss and Woodson viewed Kaepernick’s actions compared to Dilfer. (On the latter many Bay Area sports writers have tweeted the opinion that Dilfer is carrying the water for Niners GM Trent Baalke. It will be interesting to see if Dilfer or ESPN brass addresses this charge.)
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1. Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Erin Andrews
2. Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch and Pam Oliver
3. Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston and Laura Okmin
4. Thom Brennaman, Charles Davis and Peter Schrager
5. Chris Myers, Ronde Barber and Jennifer Hale
6. Dick Stockton, Chris Spielman and Kristina Pink
7. Sam Rosen, David Diehl and (rotating reporters) Shannon Spake/Holly Sonders
Brady Quinn and Matt Millen will contribute as game analysts.
Main pregame show talent: Curt Menefee (co-host), Terry Bradshaw (co-host), Howie Long, Jimmy Johnson, Michael Strahan (analysts), Jay Glazer (insider).
What’s new: Spielman, a terrific analyst, moves from college to the NFL this season to work with Stockton and Kristina Pink. On the sidelines, Okmin is now a fulltime part of team of Albert and Johnson. Tony Siragusa is no longer with Fox. Schrager gets fulltime duty. Spake, a former ESPN-er, makes her Fox NFL debut. Washington cornerback Josh Norman will split appearances between Fox NFL Kickoff (11 a.m. ET) and Fox NFL Sunday. He’ll participate in talkbacks via satellite, pre-packaged features shot during the practice week and also serves as an analyst in studio on Nov. 6, during Washington’s Week 9 bye.
Best game: Arizona at Carolina, Oct. 30, 4:25 p.m.
Ratings of note: The NFL on Fox averaged 20.745 million viewers across all games, second to only 2013 (21.2 million), which was the network’s most-watched season since broadcasting NFL games in 1994.
The Boast: Fox will air Super Bowl LI, Fox’s eighth Super Bowl, from Houston’s NRG Stadium on Feb. 5, 2017. Buck, Aikman and Andrews have the call.
Most polarizing figure: Buck.
Week 1 thought: Given the market size of the NFC cities, Fox will never lose its dominance when it comes to the Sunday morning pregame shows. For the opening week, Fox NFL Sunday posting a 3.7 overnight, beating The NFL Today (2.5) handily. Comic Rob Riggle had a pretty funny bit rifting off the musical Hamilton.
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Broadcast team: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, and Michelle Tafoya (Sunday Night Football); Michaels, Collinsworth and Heather Cox (Thursday Night Football). Mike Tirico will call selected TNF games late in the season.
Main pregame show talent: Tirico (Football Night in America on-site host), Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison, Dan Patrick (studio host), Mike Florio and Peter King (insiders). Bob Costas will serve as the host of the pregame show for NBC’s Thursday Night Football package, with Dungy and Harrison joining him at the site.
What’s new: NBC joins CBS as one of the partners on Thursday Night Football. Cox comes over from ESPN to work as the main sideline reporter on TNF. Tirico, who joined NBC from ESPN in July, will host FNIA on Sundays and call selected games.
Best game: Panthers at Seahawks, Dec. 4, 8:25 p.m.
Ratings of note: NBC’s Sunday Night Football averaged 22.5 million viewers in 2015—the best viewership ever for SNF on NBC.
The Boast: NBC says Sunday Night Football finished the 2015-16 season as television’s No. 1 primetime show in household rating (13.0) for the fifth consecutive season, and ranked as the No. 1 show in the 18-49 demographic for the sixth consecutive TV season.
Thursday night setup: NBC will air games Week 11, 13-16. Those games will be simulcast on NFL Network and streamed on Twitter. NBC Sports will produce four TNF games to be televised on NFL Network, two of which will be called by Mike Tirico and Doug Flutie due to schedule conflicts for Michaels and Collinsworth.
Most polarizing figure: Harrison
Week 1 thought: In my media column this week, I highlighted an interesting exchange between Dan Patrick and Tony Dungy on the topic of players taking knees during the anthem.
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Broadcast teams: The Thursday broadcast teams are provided by CBS and NBC for NFL Network games.
Main pregame show talent: The NFL Network features more than 15 hours of live coverage on Sunday starting with NFL GameDay First (Melissa Stark, Shaun O’Hara, Michael Robinson and Brian Billick). That’s followed by NFL GameDay Morning (Rich Eisen, Steve Mariucci, Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner, Michael Irvin, and insider Ian Rapoport).
What’s new: NFL Media analytics expert Cynthia Frelund will appear on NFL GameDay Morning.
Best game: Ravens at Steelers, Dec. 25, 4:30 p.m.
Thursday night setup: The games exclusive to the NFL Network include Week 4, Weeks 7-10 and Week 15-16. Games aired by CBS and NBC will be simulcast on the NFL Network.
Ratings of note: For the 16 games of the 2015 schedule, Thursday Night Football on CBS and NFL Network (and over-the-air stations) averaged 13.0 million viewers, up 61 percent from 2013 when there were 13 games solely on NFL Network. (This is why the league moved games to over-the-air television.)
Most polarizing figure: Deion Sanders.
Week 1 thought: Really liked this Andrea Kremer-fronted piece on the relationship between the New York Giants and 9/11, featuring interviews with former Giants players Michael Strahan, Tiki Barber, Jason Garrett, Jason Sehorn and former front office head Ernie Accorsi.
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