The most-watched studio show in sports is making its return tonight as the revamped Football Night in America crew gets viewers set for the NFL regular season kickoff matchup between the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams and Buffalo Bills. While there are plenty of familiar faces returning, the on-air personalities will bring a new mix of unique experiences and perspectives to each broadcast, leading up to Sunday Night Football with Mike Tirico, Cris Collinsworth, and Melissa Stark.
“[It’s] a big-time touchdown for us,” said Sam Flood, who oversees production for the show. “We’re excited across the board… let’s get it going.”
Now as the NFL season commences, Flood will oversee a studio crew that aligns with consumer interests, including in-depth analysis, fantasy sports, and sports betting. Tirico, who regularly hosted the show beginning in 2018, has moved into the play-by-play role for Sunday Night Football following Al Michaels’ move to Amazon Prime Video. The network also added Maria Taylor, who joined the network last July following the expiration of her ESPN contract. Since signing on, she has served as a host at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and 2022 Beijing Olympics, while also co-hosting Football Night in America with Tirico throughout last season.
“I am honored, blessed and so happy to be able to work with these guys and just be the point guard,” said Taylor, who is the first female full-time host in the show’s history. “….I feel like we have an incredible, dynamic show and… the legend of [the show] continues to live on. We’re just honored to kind of be the flag bearers for it this season.”
Former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett was also added to the team this past offseason, giving the show perspective from someone who was recently on the sidelines. After being let go by “America’s Team” following the 2019 season, Garrett was not sure whether he would receive another opportunity to work in football. Now with NBC Sports, Garrett is joining Football Night in America and will also serve as a game analyst for the network’s broadcast of Notre Dame Football – games called by Collinsworth’s son Jac.
“The words that keep going in my mind are excited and grateful,” Garrett said. “I’m so excited for this opportunity and grateful to be in a room with these guys. It’s the marquee show – maybe in all of television – certainly in football.”
The Cowboys will appear three different times on Sunday Night Football this season, including Sunday night’s Week 1 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which should make for plenty of opportunities for Garrett to demonstrate his unique perspective having recently worked for the team. The same can be said for Tony Dungy during the first week, as he too is a former head coach – albeit for the Buccaneers – and has been with Football Night in America since 2009, three years after its initial launch.
Dungy is excited to welcome Garrett as a regular member of the show, but is also looking to continue keeping studio-based pregame shows relevant in an era where many fans are interacting on social media and other platforms of dissemination. That is a challenge in and of itself; however, it is something he is ready to tackle from his viewpoint as a former two-time Super Bowl champion – once as a player and once as a coach – a clear differentiator in today’s congested media landscape.
“One of the things that we have always taken pride in is we try to tell the audience why things happen,” Dungy said. “A lot of people can show you highlights and tell you what happened and give you the score and that, but being able to see – ‘Well, here’s why it happened; here’s why it’s important; here’s what this team has to do’ – we take pride in bringing that. I’m excited to have Jason with us so we can delve more into that.”
“I think that we are still the show of record,” Taylor added. “I believe that we as a pregame show – as all the games come to an end, we are still valued in this landscape and the shoulder programming we provide is really something that can’t be found anywhere else almost because of where the timing is and because of the specific analysts and expertise that we have on the set.”
Unique perspectives of action both on- and off-the-field are appealing to many contemporary sports viewers, and the addition of Matthew Berry recognizes the growing popularity of fantasy sports. Berry recently departed ESPN after 15 years to join NBC Sports, where he will not only be a regular talent on Football Night in America, but will also host a new two-hour show on Peacock called Fantasy Football Happy Hour.
Berry recognizines the show’s prominence and distinction in the football world, but as someone invested in fantasy sports, he did not ever think it would be possible for him to appear on it – let alone be one of its talents. Now though as the world of sports and entertainment continues to shift towards appealing to the consumer in a quest to stand out amid a battle for both consistent ratings and revenue streams, additions like Berry are becoming more common across the industry.
“The idea that I’m here is a true pinch-me, insane, crazy moment for me. I’m very excited,” Berry said. “When I left ESPN, I was very flattered to get offers but the minute NBC said ‘Hey, we’re interested,’ I stopped talking to everyone else because I’ve watched Football Night in America for years and years and years. It’s the show of record.”
Being able to ingratiate himself to the audience on NBC Sports is something Berry views as an opportunity, especially being surrounded by other media members who garner great credibility and longevity in their careers. Being among them, according to Berry, will help him perform his role and try to make fantasy sports a regular aspect of these types of programs.
“I feel like just the fact that I’m sitting there with [the entire cast] and the support they’ve been [giving me] – I think for the people that are unfamiliar with me, they will give me the benefit of the doubt,” Berry articulated. “Ultimately it will be up to me and my work and analysis to win them over, but I’m excited for the opportunity and I think just… being a part of Football Night in America… gives me a big head start.”
Taylor, Garrett and Berry join the aforementioned Tony Dungy and Jac Collinsworth, along with Mike Florio, Chris Simms and Rodney Harrison. The show will be live from SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on NBC and streaming on Peacock with exclusive coverage beginning at 7:00 PM ET leading up to the Rams-Bills NFL regular season kickoff matchup at 8:20 PM ET.
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, Derek serves as a production manager, broadcaster, voiceover artist, technical director, audiovisual editor, and media engineer for Hofstra University’s WRHU. He has also worked on New York Islanders radio broadcasts. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @DerekFutterman.
Pedro Martinez: ‘Never Imagined’ TV Career
“And the reason I’m here, it’s not because of the camera, it’s actually because it gives me an opportunity to remain linked to the game, remain linked to what’s going on, the different changes the game is offering right now, adjusting to different things.”
As the Major League Baseball season comes to a close and preparations for the playoffs begin, MLB Network and TNT analyst Pedro Martinez joined The Press Box podcast to discuss his time as a television analyst.
When asked what he liked about working in television, Martinez didn’t hesitate with his answer.
“I think it’s a platform and the opportunity I have to bring to the audience what I know, what I think, what I understand and broadcasting gives me the opportunity to continue to have that communication with the people, the young athletes and fans. At the same time, I’m able to continue to learn and transmit some of the things that I would love to show everybody by playing but my body doesn’t allow me, but my mind does.
“This is a great way to bring the right information to the people, but I take advantage of the platform to communicate with my fanbase, the player’s fanbase, and the voice behind the players and the situations that come up, I can actually teach the audience some of the things that I understand from my point of view.”
A media career was never in the cards for Martinez. At least that’s what he thought during his playing career.
“I swear to god, it’s the only thing I never imagined. I never thought I would like being in front of a camera,” Martinez said. “And the reason I’m here, it’s not because of the camera, it’s actually because it gives me an opportunity to remain linked to the game, remain linked to what’s going on, the different changes the game is offering right now, adjusting to different things.
“You learn so much just by having access to information, having access to so many other different things. A lot of people would be surprised how much you can dig into and I think for everybody else, if they knew the kind of information we have access to, they’d be intrigued to come do what we do.”
He then said one of the things he would have never picked up on was how many pitchers tip their pitches, but due to all of the information, video, and relationships broadcasters have make that information readily available. He added his work in television has enabled more relationships with baseball players from his home country, the Dominican Republic.
Stephen A. Smith and Malika Andrews Get Heated Over Ime Udoka Coverage
“Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, I listened to you,” Smith interjected, “you’re the one telling me to stop on my show. It ain’t happening.”
On Friday’s First Take, Stephen A. Smith continued his stance regarding the public leaking of information surrounding Celtics’ Head Coach Ime Udoka relationship with a team staffer. He also went further by sharing his dismay that Udoka was seemingly the only person punished for the violation of company policy.
“Only he is in violation of the company policy?” Smith asked. “The woman who elected to have a consensual relationship with him is not in violation?”
Before the end of the show, ESPN NBA Today host Malika Andrews called in the program and wanted to address Smith’s comments.
“Stephen A., with all do respect, this is not about pointing the finger. Stop,” Andrews said. “The fact that we are sitting here debating whether somebody else should have been suspended or not, we are not here, Stephen A., to further blame women.”
Smith would replay saying that his intention was not blame anyone outside of the Celtics coach.
“First of all, let me be very clear, I don’t appreciate where you’re going with that, I’m not blaming anybody but Ime Udoka,” Smith stated. “The fact of the matter is, he deserves to be fired if they were going to fire him. If you’re not going to fire him, then don’t fire him. My issue is all of this being publicized.”
Andrews tried to jump back in for further commentary but Smith stopped that and noted he didn’t appreciate being interrupted on “my show”.
Andrews did thank Smith for clarifying his stance at the end of the segment. ESPN has removed access to the video from its YouTube channel by making it private.
Rich Eisen on Tom Brady Joining FOX: ‘I Gotta See It to Believe It’
“I think what Peyton Manning has done with his post-playing career is more of a blueprint that I would think Brady would follow.”
Is 2023 the year we see Tom Brady in the broadcast booth for FOX? Rich Eisen isn’t so sure.
“I still gotta see it to believe it, I’ll be honest with you, man. I know it’s a great chunk of change and it’s a lot of money. I don’t know,” the NFL Network icon said on the most recent edition of the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast.
Tom Brady has taken his foot off the gas in 2022 in a more public way than fans are used to. He voluntarily missed eleven days of training camp and has announced that he will not be available to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wednesdays during the season.
Eisen says if Brady is looking for a less demanding career, broadcasting isn’t the best option.
“It is a lot of work. And I’m not saying Brady’s not up for it, but if he’s been grinding for 23, 24 years, it’s still a grind in its own way.”
FOX signed Brady to a ten-year deal reportedly worth $375 million to start after he retires. He will be in the network’s top broadcast booth and also serve as an ambassador for the network’s coverage of the NFL.
Eisen says there is a much better model for Brady’s media career in his old rival Peyton Manning.
“I think what Peyton Manning has done with his post-playing career is more of a blueprint that I would think Brady would follow,” Eisen said. “Peyton Manning could be making that much money in the booth himself, right? Instead, he’s got his own production company and he’s doing the games, but not all of them, only 10 of them. And he’s doing them from his basement and he’s got the rights to the games!”
He added that Tom Brady “write his own ticket like that” if he chose to do something similar to what Manning has done with Omaha Productions.
Brady has not had much to say about his deal with FOX since the news became public. In June, he told Dan Patrick that he knows his first season in the booth will come with a lot of growing pains.