This week we’ll do something new at Awful Announcing – a series that is a great intellectual endeavor for us that will put fear into the hearts of network executives around the country. In this series, we’ll imagine a scenario where we are put in charge of each of the major sports networks for one day with the mandate that we can change five things at the network. The five things can be anything… but they have to be somewhat based in reality and possible to implement. Hey, we’re realists here, no monkey’s paws allowed.
So what are the five changes we would make if AA was king for a day…. at NBC Sports.
I’ll be honest, it was hard to come up with five things to change at NBC Sports. The network has arguably the best in-game production of anyone in the business and has some of the best announcers in the country—heck, the world—for everything from weekly offerings to marquee events.
Sure, NBC Sports Network’s overall schedule during the week is a bit mundane. Wednesday’s afternoon slate consisted of a show about saltwater fishing, two different car garage-set programs, original NASCAR programming and ProFootballTalk, before an evening of more gear-head TV marathons. The weekday schedule on NBCSN needs some work, but when NBC actually covers live sports, they do it very well.
And still, the exercise would prove futile if we didn’t find some things to change. With that, here are five changes we would make to NBC’s Sports division if we were the ones riding around on a rainbow peacock for a day.
1. Figure out the mass of humanity on Sunday Night Football
I’m going to try to do this off the top of my head. The number of people featured on-air for Football Night in America and Sunday Night Football is… 10.
Was I close?
Football Night in America has Dan Patrick, Rodney Harrison and Tony Dungy on the set in New York. At some point (or points) in the show, the New York crew shuttles in Peter King and Mike Florio to offer breaking NFL news and information before sending the coverage out to the site of the game where Bob Costas gives his thoughts on the topics in the NFL or throws to a pre-taped interview or two.
Last year, NBC spent beaucoup bucks to bring Josh Elliott into the mix (more on him in a minute), giving him time on the Sunday Night Football shows as well, often conducting his own pre-taped interviews nearly identical in format to what Costas does.
That’s seven people already, but we can’t forget the three calling the game! With Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Michele Tafoya handling those duties, that makes 10 people—TEN PEOPLE—to work a pre-game show, one football contest and whatever post-event wrap-up is needed before signing off.
But wait! I cheated by using the NBC Sports Group bio page to see who I forgot, a list that includes Alex Flanagan, who is often reporting from the site of a game earlier in the day, and Hines Ward, who has occupied the on-location analyst chair next to Costas since joining NBC.
A dozen! A dozen people!
But wait again! NBC’s website also credits Carolyn Manno and Kathryn Tappen as Football Night reporters as well, putting the number of NBC faces at a robust 14 for Sunday night coverage.
And no, that number does not include Carrie Underwood, who has surely been waiting all day for us to mention her name on the Sunday Night Football family tree.
NBC’s Football Night in America is an 80-minute program, so with 14 different people getting time, that’s an average of just over four minutes and 15 seconds per person. Take out two people if Manno, Tappen and Flanagan all fill the same role on different weeks, and that’s still just five minutes per person once commercials are factored in, time that includes any features done on the actual people playing in the game that night. Hines Ward is lucky to get 30 seconds at halftime some weeks.
Why is the show so bloated, and how can we fix it? The first answer is obvious — NBC loves to acquire talent first, and figure out how to use them second.
The second answer is simple, take half that list and send them home. NBCSN doesn’t need Peter King from Sports Illustrated and Mike Florio from their in-house ProFootballTalk to both be in studio. Either let them alternate weeks, cut ties with King and go with your branded guy or relegate Florio to NBCSports.com for in-game rumor-mongering and interactivity on the live-stream.
Surely NBC realizes what little value Hines Ward provides at the game, but his presence serves as a vehicle for Costas to do more on-site hosting during the show, which is probably NBC’s biggest issue, in that Costas, Patrick and Elliott all do the same thing. Al Michaels recently joined Patrick’s radio program and dropped a hint that Costas and Patrick may be switching roles for a few weeks this season, so they literally will be doing the same things in 2015.
There’s never been a need for two co-hosts for a pre-game show, but NBC has figured out a way to make it work with Patrick in New York and Costas on location. Adding Elliott made the situation, frankly, ridiculous.
NBC should not need more than ten people to run a pre-game show. In reality, they shouldn’t need more than three. Five seems fine. Eight is enough. More than a dozen is bordering on absurd.