This past weekend, the BBC celebrated 50 years of its venerable soccer highlights program, Match of the Day. The program hasn’t been on every week and there have been a couple of periods when it wasn’t on the air, but the show remains the BBC’s longest-running sports series.
As MOTD reaches a big milestone, it got us to thinking whether there’s an American program that could reach Match of the Day’s longevity. There are a few candidates:
Inside the NFL: The longest running show in cable television has been on the air continuously since 1977. It’s spanned two different networks and was saved from going extinct by Showtime after airing on HBO for three decades. The cast has seen plenty of turnover in recent years including the addition of Bears WR Brandon Marshall this season.
SportsCenter, ESPN: Airing daily since ESPN’s inception since September 7, 1979, this program probably has a great chance to run for 50 years and even longer as long as the network remains in operation. On throughout the day either on ESPN, ESPNews or ESPN2, there hasn’t been a day when it hasn’t aired. The highlight show will stay on the air, warts and all.
NFL Primetime, ESPN: Probably the closest program to MOTD until the American version of Match of the Day began on NBCSN in 2013, this has aired continuously since 1987 hosted either by Chris Berman or Trey Wingo.
And while it’s not on Sundays anymore, the show that brings viewers nothing but NFL highlights has been copied by NBC and NFL Network with highlight shows of their own. However, the show may be imitated, but Primetime remains the original. ESPN may not have the original on Sunday nights, but it does have Berman and Tom Jackson on SportsCenter opposite NBC’s Football Night in America. It’s Primetime not in name, but it’s the show in disguise.
As long as ESPN doesn’t lose the rights to the NFL, Primetime will most likely remain on the air.
The NFL Today, CBS: Technically, this program dates back to 1961 when it was called “Pro Football Kickoff” and was the first pregame show in US sports television history. It was then titled “NFL Kickoff” in 1962 and 1963. In 1964 it was rebranded as “NFL Report” and hosted by Frank Gifford. During that season, the show was renamed “The NFL Today” which it has kept until the present.
It first ran for 15 minutes until the 1967 season when it became a half-hour program. The NFL Today ran through the 1993 season when CBS lost the rights to the NFC to Fox. Between 1994 and 1997, the show remained dormant, but returned in 1998 when CBS obtained the rights to the AFC and then became an hour show.
Using the BBC formula, the show has already been on the air for 50 years and more. However, if you want to subtract the years when the show wasn’t on the air and be technical for the program’s inception, CBS would have to wait until 2018.
So perhaps CBS will wait four years to mark 50 years for The NFL Today.
So there are the programs that have the longevity and can look to celebrate 50 years and perhaps many more.