SBD/September 9, 2010/NFL Season Preview

Networks Make Moves In Preparation For Upcoming NFL Season

Mike Pereira Joining Fox As NFL Rules Analyst

SI.com's Richard Deitsch offers his annual "broadcasters guide" to the upcoming NFL season, where he noted each network partner "increased its numbers during the regular season" in '09. CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus said, "Looking at the TV landscape, if you had to pick out one property that you would place some money in terms of stability and consistency of ratings year after year, you would pick the NFL." But Deitsch asked, "What about the people who bring you the league you love?" CBS "traditionally preaches understated game coverage and pathologically avoids major shake-ups in talent," as the network "employs no sideline reporters and keeps the focus on the nuts and bolts of the game." The biggest change is Ian Eagle replacing Dick Enberg as the play-by-play announcer for the third broadcast team. ESPN's NFL talent "has not changed from last year," and "neither has the enthusiasm from ESPN executives for all things" Jon Gruden, as the "MNF" analyst enters his second season in the booth. Fox' "major tweak this season comes with the hiring" of former NFL VP/Officiating Mike Pereira as a rules analyst. Pereira will "work from a control room at the Fox Network Center in Los Angeles with access to every game on the schedule." Network execs also are "high on" former NFL coach Jim Mora Jr. as a game analyst. Viewers of NBC's "Football Night In America" should look for analysts Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison to "start leading more conversations." Meanwhile, Deitsch wrote NFL Network's hiring of Joe Theismann as a game analyst was "as uninspiring as it was unoriginal." It also is a "canard for anyone at the NFL Network to assert that Theismann bashing originates with critics," as viewers "have consistently and clearly ... asserted that they do not enjoy listening to Theismann on game coverage" (SI.com, 9/8).

RULING THE AIRWAVES: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes Pereira "will appear on-air for Fox as the first former NFL official to serve as a network analyst." After appearing on the network's pregame show in L.A., Pereira "will do what he used to in the NFL's New York offices, where he oversaw the league's officiating: hover over TV monitors showing live games." Pereira will "go directly on-air ... with live rule explanations for viewers," and he "might pop up on various games as needed." Pereira: "We'll try to do video, but audio is quicker to get into. ... I'll roam the monitors. If you have some time, then I'd go on camera. But to quickly cite a rule, we'll just go with audio" (USA TODAY, 9/9). In a special to FOXSPORTS.com, Pereira wrote the network "has done research as to what fans want from their telecasts," and results indicate that fans "want the announcers and analysts to know the rules." Pereira: "I can't offer much about 'cover two' but I sure as heck can talk about why a runner being ruled out of bounds is not reviewable in replay" (FOXSPORTS.com, 9/8).

CHANGE OF PACE: USA TODAY's Weir & Leahy report NBC Sports confirmed that Keith Olbermann "would not return to the network's 'Football Night in America' highlights show on Sundays." The decision, originally reported in August by blog Sports By Brooks, was "motivated by the news division's preference" that Olbermann "devote more time to his primary job as host of 'Countdown' each weeknight" on MSNBC (USA TODAY, 9/9).

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