Last month, NBC leaned heavily on its SkyCam overhead camera during a foggy Sunday Night Football game between the Patriots and Falcons, to general acclaim. The angle helped NBC avoid the dense fog, produced some beautiful shots and gave the broadcast an appealing video-game feel. SNF producer Fred Gaudelli called the camera “a lifesaver.”
Now, after SkyCam’s success as a Plan B, NBC is turning to it as Plan A. The network announced Thursday that SkyCam will be the primary viewing angle for the Titans-Steelers Thursday Night Football game on Novmber 16.
“We are excited to present a game with the majority of live-action coverage coming from SkyCam,” Gaudelli said in a statement. “After pivoting out of necessity to SkyCam in the New England fog, we’ve been aggressively planning and testing with the intent of utilizing the system for a full game. Younger generations of NFL fans have grown accustomed to watching football from this angle through their love of video games. This telecast will have a look and feel akin to that experience.”
Gaudelli said the broadcast will still feature traditional angles, but that “the viewing experience of the game will come from the SkyCam angle.”
The question for NBC is how many of the viewers praising SkyCam in October simply appreciated the novelty or recognized the need to cut through the fog and how many truly enjoyed the angle. It’s possible that on a clear day, the SkyCam won’t feel quite as valuable, and by featuring it for a full game, out of choice not necessity, NBC risks over-exposing a cool technology.
Still, you’ve got to applaud NBC for its willingness to experiment with a nontraditional format. The safe move would be to continue using the same angle football broadcasts have featured for decades. Trying out a popular new angle risks turning off viewers who are uncomfortable with the change, but it also carries potential as a distinctive and compelling new look. If the SkyCam fails Thursday, NBC never has to emphasize it again. And if it once again succeeds, the network may have just found a revolutionary new approach.