Nate Burleson dangles from the Nickelodeon blimp. Nate Burleson dangles from the Nickelodeon blimp. (Awful Announcing on Twitter.)

When a Nickelodeon alternate broadcast for Super Bowl LVIII was announced back in August, there were a lot of questions. The Super Bowl had never seen a wildly different alternate English-language U.S. broadcast. There was one English-language simulcast, with CBS and NBC both offering Super Bowl I broadcasts, but both were traditional calls.

That lack of previous alternate broadcasts was for good reason. The audience, advertising, and local affiliate issues around the Super Bowl make alternate broadcasts quite challenging, as CBS/Paramount Global execs discussed soon after that initial announcement. There were some reported ad demand challenges with the Nickelodeon broadcast at least through early January, although that inventory wound up selling out (and got mostly there by the end of that month).

There were also many technical challenges to address, especially with the bold plan to set the entire game in the SpongeBob Squarepants universe and its key underwater setting of Bikini Bottom. That led to three technology tests at Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium (home of the actual game) during this NFL season. And that’s to say nothing of the huge teams brought in, from traditional commentators Noah Eagle and Nate Burleson to actors Tom Kenny and Bill Fagerbakke voicing their characters of SpongeBob Squarepants and Patrick Star in the booth, to even further characters on the field and the animation teams making it all work.

But the actual broadcast seemed to go incredibly well for the first time this had been tried on this scale. Yes, Nickelodeon is used to doing NFL broadcasts at this point, including two past playoff games and two Christmas Day games (including one this year). But the Super Bowl is very different on many levels, and the production Nickelodeon put into this was much more elaborate. That was clear right from the start with an animated intro showing how Allegiant Stadium was transported down to Bikini Bottom thanks to the “Bigifier 3000.”

Soon after that, the broadcast gave us “Sweet Victory,” the power ballad from the S2 SpongeBob episode “Band Geeks” (aired on September 7, 2001).

From there, a variety of elements were quickly worked in, including the “booth” (actually in section 101 of the stadium and used more as a studio, but presented as next to the Kelce suite where Taylor Swift was on the broadcast).

Speaking of Travis Kelce, Nickelodeon funnily introduced him, doing much better than main broadcast analyst Tony Romo’s repeated references to Swift as his wife during the season.

We soon saw the first of many “you have to firmly grasp it” lines from SpongeBob fame, with those reaching at least seven throughout the night (one of the many helpful tidbits that ran above the Nickelodeon scorebug at one point).

NFL on Nickelodeon broadcasts have often seen some maneuvering of people around the field, including Andy Reid on a Big Claw during this year’s Christmas game. This time around, Burleson dangled from a blimp/submarine hook to pump up the 49ers.

When some points finally came, on a field goal, the graphics unit produced Krabby Patties for all:

There was certainly slime, both after scoring plays and just on general principles.

Another repeated highlight on the night was the Nick-specific player profiles.

The celebrities in the crowd were fun as well.

And there were also educational graphics on spelling players’ names.

The tension ramped up appropriately on the broadcast as the game did, relaying the excitement that was going on during the fourth quarter and overtime. But that was done in a great Nickelodeon way, with SpongeBob and Patrick hyperventilating and getting excited, and with some tension-diffusing cuts to different SpongeBob characters:

And the calls struck a good mix of serious and silly.

The mileage on this broadcast obviously depends on what the viewer wants. For very serious football-and-only-football people, this is probably not the broadcast of choice. But for the Paramount Global goals of “the co-viewing experience” (per Shawn Robbins, coordinating producer of Super Bowl LVIII on Nickelodeon for CBS Sports) and creating a broadcast that “broadens the reach of the Super Bowl” (per CBS Sports chair Sean McManus), this seemed about perfect.

It felt like the kind of broadcast many kids would love and engage with in a way they might not with a traditional football broadcast. And it was highly entertaining as an alternative to the oft-serious National Football League main feeds even for those watching it without kids around, especially for those who enjoy SpongeBob. This broadcast certainly was impressive and may pave the way for many more NFL on Nickelodeon broadcasts down the road.

This may even set up more Super Bowl alternate broadcasts, whether from CBS and Nickelodeon or other networks. Disney has tried this with Toy Story for a regular-season NFL game themselves. And there could be other alternate casts ahead.

At any rate, what Nickelodeon did here certainly seemed to work well for their purposes. And it won over plenty of fans, both young and older.

[Awful Announcing on Twitter/X]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.