NFL on NBC
|NFL on NBC|
The NFL on NBC logo used since 2006.
|Created by||NBC Sports|
|Starring||Pregame Show panelists
NFL on NBC game commentators
|Country of origin||United States|
|Running time||180 minutes or until game ends|
|Original airing||1939 (Philadelphia Eagles vs. Brooklyn Dodgers)|
NFL on NBC is the brand given to NBC Sports coverage of National Football League games until 1998, when NBC lost the NFL American Football Conference rights to CBS. NFL coverage returned to NBC on Sunday, August 6, 2006 under the title NBC Sunday Night Football, beginning its pre-season with coverage of the NFL Hall of Fame Game.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Beginnings through the 1950s
- 1.2 1960s
- 1.3 1970s
- 1.4 1980s
- 1.5 1990s
- 1.6 2000s
- 1.7 2010s
- 2 Pregame/Studio programs
- 3 Commentators
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Beginnings through the 1950s
The program (which has aired under numerous program titles and formats) actually goes back to the beginnings of NBC's relationship with the NFL in 1939, when they (technically, NBC's flagship station out of New York, which was then known as W2XBS) aired the first-ever televised pro football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the now defunct Brooklyn Dodgers football team.
By 1955, NBC became the televised home to the NFL Championship Game, paying US$100,000 to the league. NBC had taken over broadcast rights from DuMont, which had struggled to give the league a national audience (NBC's coverage of proto-Canadian Football League games was more widely available at the time) and was on the brink of failure; the NFL's associations with NBC (as well as with CBS) proved to be a boost to the league's popularity. The 1958 NFL Championship Game played at Yankee Stadium between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants went into sudden death overtime. This game, known since as the "Greatest Game Ever Played", was seen by many throughout the country and is credited with increasing the popularity of professional football in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
From 1955–1963, NBC televised the NFL Championship Game, the precursor to the Super Bowl. The contract for the title game was separate than the regular season contract held by CBS, who started televising NFL games in 1956. Prior to 1962, each team had its own individual television contract.
NBC also had the rights to the televise Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Colts home games in 1959, 1960 and 1961. While blacked out in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, games were seen on other NBC stations. In some cases, the broadcast was seen on CBS in the visiting team's home region. NBC covered 11 games in 1960 and 13 games in 1961 in a "Game of the Week" format. NBC would take one week off due to its coverage of the World Series.
During this era, NBC broadcast edited videotapes (one hour, including commercials) of its games in the off-season under the title "Best of Pro Football".
NBC also during this period had the rights to the Pro Bowl (which was also under a separate contract from the NFL's regular season and the NFL Championship Game) via the Los Angeles newspapers' charities. NBC televised the Pro Bowl following the 1951 and 1952 seasons and again from the 1957–1964 seasons.
On April 5, 1961, NBC was awarded a two-year contract (1961–62) for radio and television rights to the NFL Championship Game for US$615,000 annually, $300,000 of which was to go directly into the NFL Player Benefit Plan. On May 23, 1963, NBC was awarded exclusive network broadcasting rights for the 1963 NFL Championship Game for $926,000.
NBC resumed football telecasts on a regular basis in 1965. With NBC paying the American Football League US$36 million on January 29, 1965 to televise its games, and the increased, heated battle over college prospects, both leagues negotiated a merger agreement on June 8, 1966. Although they would not officially adopt an interlocking schedule until 1970, two of the conditions of the agreement were that the winners of each league's championship game would meet in a contest (which would eventually become known as the Super Bowl) to determine the "world champion of football", and that there would be a common player draft.
On December 13, 1966, the rights to the Super Bowl for four years were sold to CBS and NBC for $9.5 million. The first ever AFL-NFL World Championship Game was played on January 15, 1967. Because CBS held the rights to nationally televise NFL games and NBC had the rights to broadcast AFL games, it was decided by the newly merged league to have both of them cover that first game, though only CBS' cameras and technical crew were allowed to work the game with NBC picking up the CBS video feed, but with NBC's own commentators. The next three AFL-NFL World Championship Games, later renamed the Super Bowl, were then divided by the two networks: CBS broadcast Super Bowls II and IV while NBC covered III.
The Heidi Game
One of the most remembered games on NBC was a 1968 game known as the Heidi Game. With its nationally-televised game between the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets running late, the network began to show the movie Heidi just moments after the Jets' Jim Turner kicked what appeared to be the game-winning field goal with 1:05 remaining. While millions of irate fans, missing the finale, jammed NBC's phone lines, the Raiders scored 2 touchdowns in eight seconds during the final minute to win 43–32.
The reaction to The Heidi Game resulted in the AFL, and most other sports leagues, demanding that networks thereafter televise all games to their conclusion. NFL contracts with the networks now require games to be shown in a team's market area to the conclusion, regardless of the score.
At NBC, the network installed a new phone in the control room wired to a separate exchange, becoming known as the Heidi Phone, to prevent this situation from occurring in the future.
- Super Bowl I – As previously mentioned, the first ever Super Bowl is the only Super Bowl to have been broadcast in the United States by two television networks simultaneously (no other NFL game was subsequently carried nationally on more than one network until December 29, 2007, when the New England Patriots faced the New York Giants on NBC, CBS, and the NFL Network). At the time, CBS held the rights to nationally televise NFL games while NBC had the rights to broadcast AFL games. It was decided to have both of them cover the game. Each network used its own announcers: Ray Scott (doing play-by-play for the first half), Jack Whitaker (doing play-by-play for the second half), and Frank Gifford provided commentary on CBS; while Curt Gowdy and Paul Christman were on NBC. NBC did have some problems. The network did not return in time from a halftime commercial break for the start of the second half; therefore, the first kickoff was stopped by the game's officials and was redone once NBC was back on the air. NBC was also forced to broadcast the game over CBS' feed and cameras (CBS received prerogative to use its feed and camera angles since the Coliseum was home to the NFL's Rams). In other words, NBC's crew had little to no control over how the game was shot.
- Super Bowl III – When NBC Sports broadcast Super Bowl III, they were at the time, still a "Service of NBC News" (indeed, sports at NBC would remain a part of the news division until well into the 1970s, long after both CBS and ABC had moved sports out of their news divisions into their own separate departments). Curt Gowdy handled the play-by-play duties and was joined by color commentators Al DeRogatis and Kyle Rote in the broadcast booth. Also helping with NBC's coverage were Jim Simpson (reporting from the sidelines) and Pat Summerall (helping conduct player interviews for the pregame show, along with Rote). In an interview later done with NFL Films, Gowdy called it the most memorable game he ever called because of its historical significance. While the Orange Bowl was sold out for the game, the live telecast was not shown in Miami due to both leagues' unconditional blackout rules at the time. This game is thought to be the earliest surviving Super Bowl game preserved on videotape in its entirety save for a portion of the Baltimore Colts' fourth quarter scoring drive.
Curt Gowdy, who covered the first five seasons of the American Football League with broadcast partner Paul Christman on ABC, moved over to NBC in the fall of 1965. For the next decade, Gowdy was the lead play-by-play announcer for the network for both AFL football (AFC from 1970 on) and Major League Baseball, but Gowdy also covered a wide range of sports, earning him the nickname of the "broadcaster of everything." Besides Paul Christman, Curt Gowdy's other football broadcast partners were Kyle Rote, Al DeRogatis, Don Meredith, John Brodie, and Merlin Olsen.
On January 17, 1971, NBC's telecast of Super Bowl V between the Baltimore Colts and Dallas Cowboys was viewed in an estimated 23,980,000 homes, the largest audience ever for a one-day sports event. On January 14, 1973, NBC's telecast of Super Bowl VII between the Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins was viewed by approximately 75 million people. NBC's telecast of Super Bowl IX between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings was viewed by approximately 78 million people.
On December 16, 1973, NBC cameras were there to cover O. J. Simpson as he rushed for 2,000 yards in one season. On that particular day, Simpson's Buffalo Bills would go on to beat the New York Jets at Shea Stadium.
In 1975, because of NBC's coverage of Game 2 of the World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox, NBC's 1 pm NFL telecasts were cancelled. All games except New England at Cincinnati were picked up by local stations in visiting team markets. Meanwhile, at 4 pm, NBC showed Oakland at Kansas City nationally. As the 1975 World Series progressed, NBC would advertise its upcoming weekend schedule during the breaks. They said,
|“||If we have a Game 7, we'll have The Baseball World of Joe Garagiola at 12:30 and Game 7 from Fenway. Otherwise, we'll have GrandStand at 12:30, and Buffalo/Miami for most of you at 1:00. Either way, you win at NBC.||”|
As it turned out, no baseball was played that Sunday. Three days of rain in Boston forced Game 6 to be postponed until the following Tuesday, October 21, followed by Game 7 the next night.
On January 9, 1977, 81.9 million people (the largest ever to view a sports event at that point) watched NBC's telecast of Super Bowl XI between the Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Vikings. Only three other television events prior to that time, all of which aired on all three commercial networks of the era (the funeral of President John F. Kennedy, the 1969 moonwalk of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin; and the 1974 resignation speech of President Richard M. Nixon), attracted more viewers that did Super Bowl IX.
On October 12, 1977, Commissioner Pete Rozelle negotiated contracts with the three television networks to televise all NFL regular season and postseason games, plus selected preseason games, for four years beginning with the 1978 season. ABC was awarded yearly rights to 16 Monday night games, four prime time games, the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl, and the Hall of Fame Games. CBS received the rights to all NFC regular season and postseason games (except those in the ABC package) and to Super Bowls XIV and XVI. NBC received the rights to all AFC regular-season and postseason games (except those in the ABC package) and to Super Bowls XIII and XV. Industry sources considered it the largest single television package ever negotiated.
After the 1975 World Series, Curt Gowdy was removed from NBC's baseball telecasts, when sponsor Chrysler insisted on having Joe Garagiola (who was their spokesman in many commercials) be the lead play-by-play voice. Gowdy continued as NBC's lead NFL announcer through the 1978 season, with his final broadcast being the memorable Super Bowl XIII between Pittsburgh and Dallas. With NBC now anxious to promote Dick Enberg (who hosted NBC's pre-game and post-game coverage of Super Bowl XIII) to the lead NFL position, Gowdy moved over to CBS to call more football, as well as baseball on radio.
NBC's January 21, 1979 telecast of Super Bowl XIII between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys was viewed in 35,090,000 homes, by an estimated 96.6 million fans.
- Immaculate Reception – In 1998, during halftime of the AFC Championship Game, NBC showed a replay from its original broadcast. The replay presented a different angle than the NFL Films clip that is most often shown. According to a writer for the New York Daily News, "NBC's replay showed the ball clearly hit one and only one man[:] Oakland DB Jack Tatum."
- Super Bowl V – Super Bowl V featured play-by-play announcer Curt Gowdy and color commentator Kyle Rote. Although the Orange Bowl was sold out for the event, unconditional blackout rules in the NFL prohibited the live telecast from being shown in the Miami area. The blackout was challenged in Miami-Dade District Court by attorney Ellis Rubin, and although the judge denied Rubin's request since he felt he did not have the power to overrule the NFL, he agreed with Rubin's argument that the blackout rule was unnecessary for the Super Bowl.
- Super Bowl VII – Super Bowl VII featured play-by-play announcer Curt Gowdy and color commentator Al DeRogatis. This was the first Super Bowl to be televised live in the city in which it was being played. Despite unconditional blackout rules in the NFL that normally would have prohibited the live telecast from being shown locally, the NFL allowed the game to be telecast in the Los Angeles area on an experimental basis when all tickets for the game were sold. The league then changed its blackout rules the following season to allow games sold out at least 72 hours in advance to be televised in the host market. No subsequent Super Bowl has ever been blacked out in the city is has been played in, since all of them have been sold out.
- Super Bowl IX – Super Bowl IX featured play-by-play announcer Curt Gowdy and color commentators Al DeRogatis and Don Meredith.
- Super Bowl XI – Super Bowl XI featured play-by-play announcer Curt Gowdy and color commentator Don Meredith. This was Meredith's last broadcast with NBC, as he returned to ABC to rejoin the Monday Night Football crew for the 1977 season, where he had been a commentator from 1970–73. Bryant Gumbel and Lee Leonard with analyst John Brodie anchored NBC's pregame, halftime and postgame coverage.
- Super Bowl XIII – Super Bowl XIII featured Curt Gowdy handling play-by-play and color commentators Merlin Olsen and John Brodie. Dick Enberg served as the pregame host for the broadcast. Also taking part in NBC's coverage were Bryant Gumbel and Mike Adamle. This was Gowdy's seventh and final Super Bowl telecast, and his last major event for NBC before moving to CBS later in 1979. Enberg had essentially succeeded Gowdy as NBC's lead NFL play-by-play announcer in the 1978 regular season, and network producers didn't decide until nearly the last minute which man would get the Super Bowl call. NBC preceded the game with the first network broadcast of Black Sunday, a 1977 motion picture that depicts a terrorist attack on a fictitious Super Bowl game in the Orange Bowl between Pittsburgh and Dallas (and which utilized footage shot during Super Bowl X). The pregame festivities featured the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and several military bands. The Colgate Thirteen performed the national anthem. The coin toss ceremony featured Pro Football Hall of Famer and longtime Chicago Bears owner/head coach George Halas. The national radio broadcast of Super Bowl XIII was carried by the CBS Radio Network, with Jack Buck and Hank Stram calling the action. Locally, Verne Lundquist and Brad Sham called the game for the Cowboys on KRLD-AM in Dallas, while Jack Fleming and Myron Cope called it for the Steelers on WTAE-AM in Pittsburgh. A technical glitch led to Fleming and Cope's commentary going out over NBC's television broadcast in place of the network's own audio during the coin toss ceremony.
NBC made history in the 1980s with an announcerless telecast (a one-shot experiment credited to Don Ohlmeyer, between the Jets and Dolphins in Miami on December 20, 1980 known as the "silent game"), as well as a single-announcer telecast, coverage of the Canadian Football League during the 1982 players' strike (the first week of broadcasts featured the NFL on NBC broadcast teams, before a series of blowout games on the network and the resulting low ratings resulted in NBC cutting back and eventually canceling its CFL coverage), and even the first female play-by-play football announcer (which in its own way set the mold for female sportscasters of today).
Television ratings in 1980 were the second-best in NFL history, trailing only the combined ratings of the 1976 season. All three networks posted gains, and NBC's 15.0 rating was its best ever. CBS and ABC had their best ratings since 1977, with 15.3 and 20.8 ratings, respectively. In 1981, ABC and CBS set all-time rating highs. ABC finished with a 21.7 rating and CBS with a 17.5 rating. NBC however, was down slightly to 13.9; this was, at the time, the nadir of the Fred Silverman era, when ratings for the network were down across the board.
In 1982, the NFL signed a five-year contract with the three television networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) to televise all NFL regular season and postseason games starting with the 1982 season.
On March 6, 1985, NBC Radio and the NFL entered into a two-year agreement granting NBC the radio rights to a 37-game package in each of the 1985–1986 seasons. The package included 27 regular season games and 10 postseason games. Also in 1985, the NFL showed a ratings increase on all three networks for the season, gaining 4 percent on NBC, 10 on CBS, and 16 on ABC.
The 1985 season saw a new theme utilized throughout both the pregame show and game-opening sequence. This theme would be utilized for the remainder of the decade. Another music selection was used for the "Great Moments" segment, a segment of clips from older games on NBC that was unique in that instead of the NFL Films footage, NBC used their own footage and audio. This segment would be featured at the beginning of the pregame show for much of the latter part of the 1980s.
On January 26, 1986, the Chicago Bears defeated the New England Patriots 46–10 in Super Bowl XX at the Louisiana Superdome. The NBC telecast replaced the final episode of M*A*S*H as the most-viewed television program in history, with an audience of 127 million viewers, according to A.C. Nielsen figures. In addition to drawing a 48.3 rating and a 70 percent share in the United States, Super Bowl XX was televised to 59 foreign countries and beamed via satellite to the QE II. An estimated 300 million Chinese viewed a tape delay of the game in March. NBC Radio figures indicated an audience of 10 million for the game.
In January 1987, NBC Radio's broadcast of Super Bowl XXI between the New York Giants and Denver Broncos was heard by a record 10.1 million people. Also in 1987, new three-year TV contracts with ABC, CBS, and NBC were announced for the 1987–1989 seasons at the NFL's annual meeting in Maui, Hawaii on March 15.
During September of the 1988 season, NBC brought in some legendary broadcasters to fill-in for their regular play-by-play men. This was because, much of their key personnel (namely, Dick Enberg, Marv Albert, Don Criqui, Charlie Jones, Tom Hammond as well as NFL Live! commentators Bob Costas, Ahmad Rashad, and Gayle Gardner) were away in Seoul, South Korea for NBC's coverage of the Summer Olympic Games. In the meantime, filling-in were names such as Curt Gowdy, Ray Scott, Chuck Thompson, Marty Glickman, Merle Harmon and Al DeRogatis. Bob Costas' predecessor, Len Berman, filled-in for him at the anchor's desk while Gayle Sierens (who a year earlier, made history by becoming the first female play-by-play announcer in NFL history) was also added to the studio team.
NBC's 1989 telecast of Super Bowl XXIII between the San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals was watched by an estimated 110,780,000 viewers, according to A.C. Nielsen, making it the sixth most-watched program in television history.
Starting in 1989, NBC commissioned musician (and then-Entertainment Tonight co-host) John Tesh, who had composed "Roundball Rock" for the debut of The NBA on NBC to compose a new theme, called "Gridiron Dreams" which lasted until 1991. The versions used on the pre-game show are different from the version supplied on Tesh's albums. For the 1992 season, John Colby composed a theme only used that year through the 1992 AFC Championship Game in which the Buffalo Bills beat the Miami Dolphins 29-10.
- The Fumble – Dick Enberg, the play-by-play announcer of the television broadcast on NBC, noted: "And wasn't it ironic that Denver got the ball back on the 2-yard-line? Wasn't it just 1 year ago where the Broncos were on their own 2 before putting together what became 'The Drive'?"
- Super Bowl XV – Super Bowl XV featured Dick Enberg handling the play-by-play duties and color commentators Merlin Olsen, John Brodie, and Len Dawson (who wasn't in the broadcast booth with Enberg and Olsen). Bryant Gumbel and Mike Adamle of NFL '80 anchored the pregame, halftime and postgame coverage.
- Super Bowl XVII – Super Bowl XVII featured Dick Enberg handling the play-by-play duties and color commentator Merlin Olsen in the broadcast booth. Len Berman and his NFL '82 castmates, Mike Adamle, Ahmad Rashad and Pete Axthelm anchored the pregame, halftime and postgame coverage. As previously mentioned, NBC's national Nielsen rating of 48.6 was the second-highest for a Super Bowl broadcast, trailing only the 49.1 garnered by Super Bowl XVI on CBS the year before. Following the game, NBC aired the premiere episode of The A-Team, beginning the tradition of the game's host network airing programming after the game.
- Super Bowl XX – Super Bowl XX featured play-by-play announcer Dick Enberg and color commentators Merlin Olsen and Bob Griese (who was not in the booth with Enberg and Olsen). While Dick Enberg, Merlin Olsen and Bob Griese called the game, Bob Costas and his NFL '85 castmates, Ahmad Rashad and Pete Axthelm anchored the pregame, halftime and postgame coverage. The Last Precinct debuted on NBC after the game.
- Super Bowl XXIII – Super Bowl XXIII featured Dick Enberg handling the play-by-play duties and color commentator Merlin Olsen in the broadcast booth. This would be Olsen's final Super Bowl broadcast, as he was demoted the following season to make room for Bill Walsh. Bob Costas along with Gayle Gardner hosted the pregame, halftime, and postgame coverage with analysts Paul Maguire and then-Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula, pregame roving reporter Jim Gray (who was also working as a researcher for NBC Sports at the time) and Marv Albert, who interviewed Boomer Esiason after the game. Meanwhile during NBC's pregame coverage, Ahmad Rashād and John Candy hosted the Diet Pepsi Talent Challenge at the Miami Seaquarium. Also, Frank Deford delivered a special segment profiling recently deceased Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney. This was also the first NFL game that NBC covered with their new "Quantel Cypher" graphics system, which was introduced during their coverage of the 1988 Seoul Olympics (they had used Chyron for their graphics prior to Super Bowl XXIII). NBC also introduced their "cursive font" logo during this broadcast. Before, it was just the 1986 peacock logo with "NBC SPORTS" in their generic corporate font. With the win, the 49ers became the first team to win Super Bowls televised on three different networks (CBS-XVI, ABC-XIX, and NBC). Since then, the Washington Redskins (in 1992), the Green Bay Packers (in 1997), the Pittsburgh Steelers (in 2006) and the New York Giants (in 2008) have accomplished this same feat. This was the last outdoor Super Bowl to start earlier than 6 pm Eastern Standard Time, as it started just after 5 pm. The movie Brotherhood of the Rose aired after the game.
On March 12, 1990, at the NFL's annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, new four-year TV agreements were ratified for the 1990–1993 seasons. The networks that were included were ABC, CBS, NBC, ESPN, and TNT. The contracts totaled US$3.6 billion, the largest in TV history. The television contract for 1990–1993 had each network having one Super Bowl telecast as part of the package. The fourth Super Bowl (XXVIII) was up for a separate sealed bid. NBC won the bid, and since they were last in the rotation for Super Bowl coverage in the regular contract, ended up with two straight Super Bowls (although they were originally scheduled to broadcast Super Bowl XXVI; CBS instead televised the game as part of a swap with the network). CBS is the only other network to televise two Super Bowls (I and II) in a row.
On December 18, 1993, the NFL announced new 4-year television agreements with ABC, ESPN, TNT, and NFL newcomer Fox, which took over the NFC package from CBS. The NFL completed its new TV agreements by announcing that NBC would retain the rights to the AFC package on December 20.
Starting in 1995, NBC unveiled a new theme composed by veteran composer Randy Edelman, which was used for both their pregame show (now simply titled The NFL on NBC) and during the game. This theme would be used until the end of the 1997 season, including Super Bowl XXXII between the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers. NBC lost AFC television rights after 1997 to CBS which currently has them today. The NFL would not return to NBC until 2006 for Sunday Night Football. NBC still uses the 1995-1997 era theme, but only for Sunday Night Football online (dubbed NBC Sunday Night Football Extra) if you open the feed prior to the game start time.
- The Comeback (American football) – Buffalo's Rich Stadium did not sell out for this game 72 hours in advance of the kickoff, and was therefore blacked out in Western New York and Southern Ontario. As a result, local fans did not get to see the game broadcast on TV.
- Super Bowl XXVII – Super Bowl XXVII featured Dick Enberg handling the play-by-play duties and color commentator Bob Trumpy in the broadcast booth. Bob Costas hosted all the events with analyst Mike Ditka. After the game, Homicide: Life on the Street premiered on NBC.
- Super Bowl XXVIII – Super Bowl XXVIII featured play-by-play announcer Dick Enberg and color commentator Bob Trumpy. Jim Lampley hosted all the events with the help of analysts Mike Ditka and Joe Gibbs and sideline reporters O.J. Simpson (on Buffalo's sideline) and Will McDonough (on Dallas' sideline). It was the first time a network had held consecutive Super Bowls outright. As previously mentioned, the five-year NFL contract signed in 1989 had a provision where the last Super Bowl in the contract (XXVIII) would not be rotated, but would go to the highest bidder. NBC, which had held XXVII (according the original rotation, NBC would have had XXVI and CBS XXVII, but the NFL allowed the networks to switch the two games in order to allow CBS a significant lead-in to its coverage of the 1992 Winter Olympics), was the only network to bid on XXVIII. Previously, the league alternated the Super Bowl broadcast among its television networks, except for Super Bowl I in which both NBC and CBS televised it simultaneously. CBS broadcast Super Bowl II, then the league rotated the broadcast between CBS and NBC until 1985 when ABC entered the rotation when they broadcast Super Bowl XIX. NBC aired the premiere of The John Larroquette Show following the game.
- Super Bowl XXX – Super Bowl XXX featured play-by-play announcer Dick Enberg and color commentators Phil Simms and Paul Maguire. Greg Gumbel hosted all the events with the help of then-NBC analysts Ahmad Rashad, Mike Ditka, Joe Gibbs, and Joe Montana. All three Super Bowl wins for the Cowboys in the 1990s were broadcast on NBC. Following the game, NBC broadcast an hour-long episode of Friends, restarting a trend in which the prized post-Super Bowl time slot was given to an established program. Previously, networks typically used the occasion to premiere a new show, with little success. Of the new series premiering after the Super Bowl from 1983–95, only The A-Team (NBC, after Super Bowl XVII), The Wonder Years (ABC, after XXII), and Homicide: Life on the Street (NBC, after XXVII) had lengthy runs.
- Super Bowl XXXII – Super Bowl XXXII featured play-by-play announcer Dick Enberg and color commentators Phil Simms and Paul Maguire. Greg Gumbel hosted all the events, and was joined by co-host Ahmad Rashad and commentators Cris Collinsworth, Sam Wyche, and Joe Gibbs. Following the game, NBC aired a special one-hour episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun, which opened live at the game site with Gumbel playing himself before he was "attacked" by show star John Lithgow. This broadcast was the last for NBC as the AFC network after 33 years (CBS has held the AFC broadcast rights ever since), their last NFL broadcast overall until 2006, when they signed on to televise Sunday Night Football, and their last Super Bowl broadcast until 2009 (Super Bowl XLIII).
NBC loses to CBS
NBC's rebound in their overall ratings in both the 1980s and 1990s (after years in the bottom of the ratings cellar) was attributed in part to its continuing coverage of the NFL. But with television contract re-negotiations in early 1998 ushering in the era of multi-billion dollar broadcasting agreements, an era of pro football broadcasting would soon come to an unceremonious conclusion.
CBS, stung by Fox's surprise bid four years earlier, aggressively pursued NFL broadcast rights when the contract came up for renegotiation in 1997. CBS agreed to pay US$4 billion over eight years ($500 million per season) to take over NBC's AFC broadcast rights, which the network still holds today. NBC, meanwhile, had indicated a desire to bid for Monday Night Football rights in 1998, but eventually gave up and the rights were retained by ABC.
As previously mentioned, NBC's 33-year consecutive run as a football broadcaster came to an end with Super Bowl XXXII, played on January 25, 1998 between the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers. The Broncos won 31–24 to snap the AFC's 13-year losing streak in the Super Bowl (since then, the AFC has won eight additional Super Bowls to the NFC's four).
After NBC lost its NFL rights to CBS at the end of the 1997 season, it in the process, marked the beginning of a slow decline for its sports division, culminating in the unproductive 2004–05 prime time season (despite heavy lineup promotion during the 2004 Summer Olympics), when NBC carried no major sporting championships during prime time (NBC had already lost Major League Baseball broadcasting rights in 2000 and National Basketball Association rights in 2002; they had acquired National Hockey League rights in 2004, but that league was in lockout).
NBC's attempts to replace the NFL with other professional football, including the XFL in 2001 and the Arena Football League coverage from 2003 to 2006, proved to be very unsuccessful. Like CBS before it, NBC would later decide that not having NFL rights did too much damage to its overall ratings to justify foregoing the high rights fees required.
In 2005, NBC reentered the NFL picture during negotiations. The network was able to take advantage of a league desire to be able to switch the schedule so non-competitive games would not air in the league's marquee timeslot. Since this would require a move to Sunday night in order to happen, and since ABC decided to relinquish their rights to Monday Night Football, NBC was able to bid on the Sunday Night Football package and won the rights after ESPN (corporate sibling to ABC and who had previously held those rights) elected to take over the Monday Night Football rights instead. As previously mentioned, on Sunday, August 6, 2006, NBC resumed airing NFL football with coverage of the annual AFC-NFC Hall of Fame Game.
NBC's rights package consists of everything that was previously in the ABC package; the Hall of Fame Game (as previously mentioned), one additional preseason game, the National Football League Kickoff game, and two Saturday playoff games. NBC also received the rights to two Super Bowls in its bidding, Super Bowl XLIII and Super Bowl XLVI as well as the Pro Bowls in each of those two years. ABC did not have the right to be flexible with their Monday Night Football schedule and picked matchups based on a team's record in the previous season (as NBC does), which often led to teams with losing records playing each other on Monday night later in the season. The moves were intended to break NBC out of its ratings slump; however, this didn't happen right away, and although NBC Sunday Night Football is the network's top rated program and in the top 30 for viewing audience, it had no affect on the rest of the network's schedule for several years.
Al Michaels, the longtime voice of Monday Night Football and other events for ABC, is the play-by-play man for Sunday Night Football. Michaels was originally slated to continue calling Monday Night Football for ESPN, but a trade was worked out between NBC and Disney, ABC and ESPN's parent company. In the trade, Michaels was able to join NBC in exchange for Disney acquiring from NBC's corporate sibling Universal Pictures, among other things, the rights to the cartoon character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, which was created at Universal by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks before the founding of Disney's studio (and then given to Walter Lantz, whose most famous creation would be Woody Woodpecker). Tom Hammond was NBC's secondary play-by-play man, calling one of NBC's two games on Wild Card Weekend.
John Madden (who had last worked with Al Michaels on Monday Night Football for ABC) was one of the first people hired by NBC, chosen to continue as a color analyst. Cris Collinsworth substituted for Madden when he was unavailable, called wild card games alongside Hammond until 2008, and took over on a permanent basis for the 2009 season when Madden decided to retire from broadcasting. Prior to this he served as a studio analyst for Football Night in America, NBC's pregame show. For the 2009 season, Joe Theismann and Joe Gibbs took Collinsworth's place in the booth for the first game of Wild Card Weekend. Andrea Kremer meanwhile, was the sideline reporter.
As of the 2014 season, Football Night in America is hosted by Bob Costas, who hosts from the game site, with Dan Patrick emceeing from the Stamford, Connecticut studio. Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison are studio analysts. Sports Illustrated reporter Peter King serves as a feature reporter. FNIA was broadcast from Studio 8G (and then from Studio 8H) from the GE (now Comcast) Building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York from 2006-2013 before its own relocation to Stamford in September 2014, joining all of NBC Sports' other operations and NBCSN.
The NFL also has a strict policy prohibiting networks to run ads during the Super Bowl from the gambling industry, and has rejected ads from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. It had been reported that if the television program Las Vegas was still on the air when NBC televised Super Bowl XLIII in 2009, they likely would not have be allowed to promote the series during the entire block of programming. As Vegas ended during the 2007–2008 television season, this was no longer an issue for NBC.
With an average U.S. audience of 98.7 million viewers, Super Bowl XLIII was the most-watched Super Bowl in history, and at that point the second-most-watched U.S. television program of any kind (trailing only the final episode of M*A*S*H in 1983; both would be broken by Super Bowl XLIV the following year). However, the Nielsen rating of 42.1, was lower than the 43.3 rating for the previous year's game.
On December 14, 2011, the NFL, along with Fox, NBC and CBS, announced the league's rights deal with all three networks was extended to the end of the 2022 season. The three network rights deal includes the continued rotation of the Super Bowl yearly among the three, meaning NBC will air Super Bowls XLIX (2015), LII (2018), and LV (2021). The new rights deal also includes NBC receiving the primetime game of the Thanksgiving tripleheader previously carried by NFL Network, along with a division playoff game and one wild card game rather than the full Wild Card Saturday package.
Sunday Night Football was the most watched program in the United States in the 2011-12 season and again in the 2013-14 season, in the latter case, NBC finished the season as the #1 network among 18-49 year olds for the first time since 2004 and #2 in overall viewers behind longtime leader CBS.
- Super Bowl XLIII – As previously mentioned, Super Bowl XLIII was NBC's first Super Bowl broadcast since Super Bowl XXXII at the end of the 1997 season, and was available in 1080i high definition. Play-by-play announcer Al Michaels and color commentator John Madden were in the booth, with Andrea Kremer and Alex Flanagan serving as sideline reporters. The pre-game show – a record five hours long – was hosted by the Football Night in America team headed by Bob Costas, and preceded by a two-hour special edition of Today hosted by the regular weekday team live from Tampa and the NFL Films – produced Road to the Super Bowl. Matt Millen was part of the coverage as a studio analyst. The Today contribution included portions of a taped interview with President Obama and pictures of troops viewing the proceedings in Iraq. John Madden was the first person to have announced a Super Bowl for each of the four major U.S. television networks, having called five Super Bowls for CBS, three for Fox, and two for ABC prior to joining NBC in 2006. Meanwhile, Al Michaels was the third man to do play-by-play for a Super Bowl on NBC television (following in the footsteps of Curt Gowdy and Dick Enberg). Also, Michaels became the second person (after Pat Summerall on CBS and Fox) to be the lead Super Bowl play-by-play announcer for two different major U.S. networks (ABC and NBC). This would prove to be the final game Madden would call, as he announced his retirement from broadcasting on April 16, 2009. The Super Bowl was one of two major professional sports championship series NBC broadcast in 2009, as they would also broadcast the Stanley Cup Finals. Both championship series involved teams from Pittsburgh winning championships. Mike Emrick, Ed Olczyk, and Pierre McGuire mentioned this when they called the Stanley Cup Finals. Super Bowl XLIII was the final Super Bowl to air in the analog television format in the United States before the nationwide digital television transition. The transition, originally scheduled for February 17 was pushed back to June 12, the same day the Penguins won the Stanley Cup.
- Super Bowl XLVI – It was also streamed live online, both to computers (via NFL.com and NBCSports.com) and mobile devices (via Verizon Wireless's NFL Mobile app), the first legal online streaming of a Super Bowl telecast in the USA. Al Michaels called play-by-play for NBC. marking the eighth time that he was behind the microphone for a Super Bowl and the second time he called a Super Bowl for NBC (Michaels had previously done play-by-play for Super Bowls XXII, XXV, XXIX, XXXIV, XXXVII, and XL for ABC and Super Bowl XLIII for NBC). Cris Collinsworth was the color analyst for the game, his second Super Bowl as a game analyst and first since he was in the booth for Super Bowl XXXIX for Fox. Michele Tafoya was the sideline reporter. Bob Costas and Dan Patrick (who also presided over the trophy presentation ceremony) hosted the pregame, halftime, and postgame coverage for NBC with Football Night in America analysts Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison and special guest analysts (who were seated next to Costas during the pre-game festivities), Aaron Rodgers and Hines Ward. Also helping out on NBC's broadcast were reporters Alex Flanagan and Randy Moss and NFL insiders Mike Florio and Peter King.
- List of NFL on NBC commentator pairings
- List of AFL Championship Game broadcasters
- List of NFL Championship Game broadcasters
- List of AFC Championship Game broadcasters
- List of NFC Championship Game broadcasters
- List of Super Bowl broadcasters
- NFL on NBC Radio
- NFL on NBC music
- Richard Sandomir, TV SPORTS; Two Generations of Reminiscences by Gowdys, The New York Times, January 24, 1995, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990CE7DD1E3FF937A15752C0A963958260&sec=&spon=&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink
- Raissman, Bob, "With NFL, Networks Can't Win for Losing," New York Daily News, January 13, 1998, p.57.
- William N. Wallace (January 14, 1971). "All of a Sudden, Miami Is Excited About Super Bowl, as Indicated by TV Blackout Fight". The New York Times.
- CFL on NBC at the Wayback Machine (archived October 27, 2009)
- CFL on NBC in 1982
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- Sandomir, Richard (January 26, 1998). "Lead-In Show Drags Down A Good Game". The New York Times. Retrieved February 24, 2008.
- Sandomir, Richard (January 27, 1998). "Last Half-Hour Rang the Nielsen Bell". The New York Times. Retrieved February 24, 2008.
- Friess, Steve (August 4, 2005). "NFL may ban 'Vegas' promos during games". USA Today.
- Barron, David (December 14, 2011). "NFL extends broadcast agreements through 2022, generating billions". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved December 19, 2011.
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- NHL on NBC: Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals (television). NBC Sports. June 12, 2009. Emrick, Olczyk, and McGuire mentioned about Pittsburgh having two championships in the same year, as the Penguins won the Stanley Cup.
- Effron, Lauren (December 20, 2011). "Super Bowl Will Be Live-Streamed Online for First Time". technology Review (ABC News). Retrieved January 4, 2012.
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