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Football Night in America Ready to Flourish After Several Changes

While there are plenty of familiar faces returning, the on-air personalities will bring a new mix of unique experience and perspective to each broadcast, leading up to Sunday Night Football with Mike Tirico, Cris Collinsworth and Melissa Stark.

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Football Night in America

The most-watched studio show in sports is making its return tonight as the revamped Football Night in America crew gets viewers set for the NFL regular season kickoff matchup between the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams and Buffalo Bills. While there are plenty of familiar faces returning, the on-air personalities will bring a new mix of unique experiences and perspectives to each broadcast, leading up to Sunday Night Football with Mike Tirico, Cris Collinsworth, and Melissa Stark.

“[It’s] a big-time touchdown for us,” said Sam Flood, who oversees production for the show. “We’re excited across the board… let’s get it going.”

Now as the NFL season commences, Flood will oversee a studio crew that aligns with consumer interests, including in-depth analysis, fantasy sports, and sports betting. Tirico, who regularly hosted the show beginning in 2018, has moved into the play-by-play role for Sunday Night Football following Al Michaels’ move to Amazon Prime Video. The network also added Maria Taylor, who joined the network last July following the expiration of her ESPN contract. Since signing on, she has served as a host at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and 2022 Beijing Olympics, while also co-hosting Football Night in America with Tirico throughout last season.

“I am honored, blessed and so happy to be able to work with these guys and just be the point guard,” said Taylor, who is the first female full-time host in the show’s history. “….I feel like we have an incredible, dynamic show and… the legend of [the show] continues to live on. We’re just honored to kind of be the flag bearers for it this season.”

Former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett was also added to the team this past offseason, giving the show perspective from someone who was recently on the sidelines. After being let go by “America’s Team” following the 2019 season, Garrett was not sure whether he would receive another opportunity to work in football. Now with NBC Sports, Garrett is joining Football Night in America and will also serve as a game analyst for the network’s broadcast of Notre Dame Football – games called by Collinsworth’s son Jac.

“The words that keep going in my mind are excited and grateful,” Garrett said. “I’m so excited for this opportunity and grateful to be in a room with these guys. It’s the marquee show – maybe in all of television – certainly in football.”

The Cowboys will appear three different times on Sunday Night Football this season, including Sunday night’s Week 1 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which should make for plenty of opportunities for Garrett to demonstrate his unique perspective having recently worked for the team. The same can be said for Tony Dungy during the first week, as he too is a former head coach – albeit for the Buccaneers – and has been with Football Night in America since 2009, three years after its initial launch.

Dungy is excited to welcome Garrett as a regular member of the show, but is also looking to continue keeping studio-based pregame shows relevant in an era where many fans are interacting on social media and other platforms of dissemination. That is a challenge in and of itself; however, it is something he is ready to tackle from his viewpoint as a former two-time Super Bowl champion – once as a player and once as a coach – a clear differentiator in today’s congested media landscape.

“One of the things that we have always taken pride in is we try to tell the audience why things happen,” Dungy said. “A lot of people can show you highlights and tell you what happened and give you the score and that, but being able to see – ‘Well, here’s why it happened; here’s why it’s important; here’s what this team has to do’ – we take pride in bringing that. I’m excited to have Jason with us so we can delve more into that.”

“I think that we are still the show of record,” Taylor added. “I believe that we as a pregame show – as all the games come to an end, we are still valued in this landscape and the shoulder programming we provide is really something that can’t be found anywhere else almost because of where the timing is and because of the specific analysts and expertise that we have on the set.”

Unique perspectives of action both on- and off-the-field are appealing to many contemporary sports viewers, and the addition of Matthew Berry recognizes the growing popularity of fantasy sports. Berry recently departed ESPN after 15 years to join NBC Sports, where he will not only be a regular talent on Football Night in America, but will also host a new two-hour show on Peacock called Fantasy Football Happy Hour.

Berry recognizines the show’s prominence and distinction in the football world, but as someone invested in fantasy sports, he did not ever think it would be possible for him to appear on it – let alone be one of its talents. Now though as the world of sports and entertainment continues to shift towards appealing to the consumer in a quest to stand out amid a battle for both consistent ratings and revenue streams, additions like Berry are becoming more common across the industry.

“The idea that I’m here is a true pinch-me, insane, crazy moment for me. I’m very excited,” Berry said. “When I left ESPN, I was very flattered to get offers but the minute NBC said ‘Hey, we’re interested,’ I stopped talking to everyone else because I’ve watched Football Night in America for years and years and years. It’s the show of record.”

Being able to ingratiate himself to the audience on NBC Sports is something Berry views as an opportunity, especially being surrounded by other media members who garner great credibility and longevity in their careers. Being among them, according to Berry, will help him perform his role and try to make fantasy sports a regular aspect of these types of programs.

“I feel like just the fact that I’m sitting there with [the entire cast] and the support they’ve been [giving me] – I think for the people that are unfamiliar with me, they will give me the benefit of the doubt,” Berry articulated. “Ultimately it will be up to me and my work and analysis to win them over, but I’m excited for the opportunity and I think just… being a part of Football Night in America… gives me a big head start.”

Taylor, Garrett and Berry join the aforementioned Tony Dungy and Jac Collinsworth, along with Mike Florio, Chris Simms and Rodney Harrison. The show will be live from SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on NBC and streaming on Peacock with exclusive coverage beginning at 7:00 PM ET leading up to the Rams-Bills NFL regular season kickoff matchup at 8:20 PM ET.

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Sports TV News

ESPN’s NFL Programming Sees Big September Growth

For ESPN, September has been a really strong month with their NFL programming.

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For ESPN, September has been a really strong month with their NFL programming.

Sunday NFL Countdown is averaging 1.4 million viewers per show thus far in 2022. That up 15% from 2021’s first three shows of the NFL season. The season premiere – Sunday, Sept. 11 – averaged 1.6 million viewers, tying the network’s best Week 1 audience for the show since 2016 and is up 35% year-over-year.

NFL Live experienced large growth too. The episode airing after the first NFL Sunday, on Monday September 12, averaged 664,000 viewers which beat every NFL Live episode last season, including the most-watched episode on 2021 (December 17) which grabbed 635,000 viewers.

Monday Night Countdown is averaging 1.3 million viewers for its two, non-staggered September episodes, which aired in its traditional timeslot (6-8 pm).

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ESPN Assigns Broadcast Teams for MLB Wild Card Round

In preparation for the postseason, ESPN has assigned the broadcast teams for the series forthcoming.

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There are just a few games left in the MLB season and the postseason begins this weekend with the Wild Card round. In preparation, ESPN has assigned the broadcast teams for the series forthcoming.

Andrew Marchand reports that the team assigned to the presumptive New York Mets Wild Card series will be Karl Ravech, David Cone and Eduardo Perez. The Mets still mathematically can win the NL East but they trail the Braves by two games with three to play.

He also reports that the St. Louis Wild Card series will be called by Michael Kay and Alex Rodriguez. The Cleveland series will be broadcast by Boog Sciambi and Doug Glanville while the Toronto series will be called by Dave Flemming, Jessica Mendoza and Tim Kurkjian.

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Stugotz: ‘Sean McDonough Hates The Aaron Judge Cut-Ins’

“If you look at the numbers, if you look at the interest, if you look at the revenue that it generates for the networks, it makes more sense to have an Aaron Judge at-bat interrupted by an Iowa State field goal attempt than it does the other way around.”

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College football fans are not being shy with how they feel about Aaron Judge. Whether it is private conversations or social media posts, people are making their disdain for the cut-ins to college football games on ESPN networks when the Yankee slugger comes to bat known. On Monday morning, Stugotz added that it isn’t just fans that are unhappy.

The Dan Le Batard Show discussed the second straight week of cut-ins on Monday morning. Stugotz pointed out that one of ESPN’s primary college football voices sounds just as annoyed as fans are.

“Sean McDonough hates the toss to Aaron Judge,” he said. Hates it!”

Last week, ESPN and ABC cut into games when Judge was sitting on 60 home runs. This week, he was sitting on 61. A 62nd home run would be the most in American League history.

Stugotz added that has to be part of McDonough’s frustration.

“In his defense, what are we cutting in for? I have no idea if [Aaron Judge] is breaking a record, what record he’s breaking, if he’s clean. I have no idea!”

Producer Mike Ryan Ruiz said the fact that Judge is yet to deliver is making the cut-ins more frustrating for fans.

“I think what hurts the whole thing is that Aaron Judge has been terrible during these cut-ins,” Ruiz said. “He’s been God awful during these cut-ins. I haven’t seen a single home runs during one of these cut-ins. There was genuine fury at a watch party I was at. Fury! At Aaron Judge.”

A popular criticism of ESPN has been that this kind of attention would not be paid to Aaron Judge if he was chasing a mark that wasn’t the home run record if he played anywhere other than New York. According to Ryan, the mistake is bigger than that. Why would regular season baseball ever interrupt college football?

“If you look at the numbers, if you look at the interest, if you look at the revenue that it generates for the networks, it makes more sense to have an Aaron Judge at-bat interrupted by an Iowa State field goal attempt than it does the other way around.”

There are four games left in Major League Baseball’s regular season. You can bet college football fans will make plenty of signs for College GameDay if Judge cannot hit number 62 before the playoffs start.

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