Amazon’s Prime Video Thursday Night Football broadcasts to date have been interesting not just for the in-booth commentary team of Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit, but also for the studio show. The pregame, halftime, and postgame show, typically featuring host Charissa Thompson and analysts Tony Gonzalez, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Richard Sherman, has been a key part of these broadcasts to date. And it’s been interestingly differentiated from the competition on CBS, Fox, NBC, and ESPN, particularly in how recently Fitzpatrick and Sherman played in the NFL. And part of that is with Prime Video building its NFL broadcasts from the ground up, rather than working off long-running shows. On a media call earlier this month, Gonzalez said that’s a key advantage for their show:
“Working with these guys, the relationships that they bring; obviously they’re fresh off the field and they know what’s going on in the NFL, but I remember our first preseason runthrough that we had, and you could see the guys, Richard and Ryan, going up to people they used to play with. Especially for Ryan, he played with everyone in the league. And going up and saying hello, and that will translate to television. I remember when I first got off the field, it made my transition a lot easier, that I was able to talk about guys that I had played with and gone against. That’s a huge advantage to have, and something I think that we all welcome.”
Thompson said she sees that advantage of recent experience as well, and she also welcomes how Sherman and Fitzpatrick aren’t locked into preconceived notions of what NFL studio shows should look like.
“To Tony’s point, being so close to the game, that is the huge advantage. But for me, as the host…it’s nice to have, rookies, for a lack of a better word, because of their willingness. They don’t have these pre-fixed ideas of what TV should be or look like. And I don’t want to say malleable, but they are so willing to learn and be open to those things. I couldn’t ask for a more humble desk, to begin with.”
“Tony and I have had the luxury of working together before, but my relationship with Richard, and now with Fitz, it’s just, I can’t stress this enough, everybody wants to win. And for me, taking that philosophy from the field to the desk, is that we’re all playing together and we’re all trying to bring out the best in one another. So for those two being straight off the field, it’s now about the willingness and want to be great at this new role in their lives.”
Fitzpatrick pointed out the importance of having a veteran like Thompson lead them through this, and said she’s been crucial to translating their on-field experience into broadcast insights.
“It’s been great, first of all, to have Charissa, because we would be lost without her. She is a true pro. And it’s been a lot of fun, just in the brief time we’ve had on air and some of the walkthroughs we’ve done, just to be able to do a segment, have something led by her, but then talk to her afterwards and figure out ‘What’s right, what’s wrong, what felt awkward here, what can I do better?'”
Fitzpatrick also said Gonzalez has been vital for his TV experience.
“And to lean on Tony as well, who’s been through it and done it at multiple places, and just listening to some of his wisdom, and his dad jokes. …With the Sherm stuff, we’ve got a budding bromance as I would call it. I never really loved him as a player because he was on the wrong side of the ball and was real brash, and I was never teammates with him, and if you’re not a teammate, you probably don’t like him that much. But now that we’re teammates, I absolutely love the guy. We’ve broken bread over waffles and chicken. We’ve had a lot of good conversations off-air. And I’m interested to see a lot of his perspectives from the defensive side of the ball, I think that’s going to play really well.”
Sherman said he’s thrilled to get to work with this team.
“And to finish it off, I’m just grateful. I don’t think I could have walked into a better situation with a better team of people on and off the camera. Behind the scenes, we’ve got great producers, we’ve got great people working in the trucks who do a really great job for us. Obviously, Charissa is really making it very easy for all three of us to do our jobs. Even when it’s not going great, she gives you the freedom to do as you please, because you know she’s going to pick it up or save the day if you make a mistake. So that’s really comforting.”
“And the same with Tony, the experience they have, it gives you a different comfort level, just being out there with veteran crew and knowing that if I mess something up, it won’t be the end of the world, it won’t be a crazy big thing. They can easily spin it, and they can easily bring it back, and they have several times throughout rehearsals. And Fitz mentioned our bromance, and that’s been really, really cool, a cool part of working together and coming together as a team, guys you competed against, and that’s just getting to know them better and know their depth of knowledge of the game, and their families, and their kids, and then getting to talk the game. It’s still really fun. It’s the game we love to play and the game we love to talk about, and I still can’t believe we’re getting paid to do it.”
When asked about the “new media” idea of current or recently-retired athletes and the dimensions they bring to commentary, Sherman said there’s an important new perspective there.
“It’s just a different perspective. Different parts, everybody has a place. Different parts of the media see the game, and the perspective that everybody has is valuable. And I think it’s a unique perspective we have coming from players who recently played, or played in the past. It’s unique in terms of just understanding how things work on the field, the concepts people are using, the mindsets, the locker room dynamics. Things that only players who have been in in those situations and experienced those things can speak to in depth. And I’m excited, it’s an exciting time and an exciting thing to be a part of.”
And Gonzalez said he’s already clicked well with these new figures.
“It’s all about trust, and the chemistry comes from really liking each other, people that you actually want to hang out with. And I think it couldn’t have gotten off to a better start with these guys.”
Thompson credited Amazon vice president of global sports video Marie Donoghue for putting together this team, and said it’s a great combination of skills.
“It’s not my job to assemble the cast, that’s Marie’s department. But to Tony’s previous point, if I got my say in it, this is definitely the group I’d want to have. I do think it’s, in my tenure being on a NFL desk, it’s a quarterback-driven league, and you’ve got to have that on the desk. And you always want some perspective on the defensive side of the ball. And as per Tony’s credentials, they speak for themselves. It’s nice if you can get all of that. I can’t ask for a better group. …If our text chain is any indication of what the show will be like, it won’t be boring.”
One particularly notable thing Thompson said was that she appreciates how this group’s willing to break the molds of established NFL TV analysis. But she said that’s not so much about conscious pre-determined changes as it is about reactions to what the analysts have to say.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of looking to do anything different. I think that, as Tony previously stated, I like when things go off the rails. As a viewer, I like watching uncomfortable situations that can be made comfortable by the people that are on the desk, or whoever’s hosting the show. So as a consumer of other broadcasts, I like when things aren’t perfect, because they seem more relatable.”
“And again, my objective in any show I’ve ever hosted is to entertain and inform. And if you can strike a balance between those two, however you go about achieving that, it’s a win. Chemistry’s No. 1. And you never want to underestimate the viewers’ intelligence, and you never want to overestimate that as well. Because they will read between the lines quickly if the crew likes each other or not. So we’re not looking to do anything different per se, but just be the show that I enjoy watching.”