SBD/September 8, 2011/NFL Season Preview

President Obama's Speech Causes NBC To Push NFL Pregame Show To Cable

NBC will begin airing NFL coverage after Obama's speech on unemployment
Due to President Obama’s speech tonight, four NBCUniversal cable channels -- Versus, USA, Syfy and G4 -- as well as the NFL Network will begin coverage of the pregame show ahead of the season-opening Saints-Packers game at 7:00pm ET. The pregame show, which has been extended to 90 minutes, was originally scheduled to air on NBC. The broadcast network will join "NFL Kickoff 2011" in progress after its coverage of Obama's speech has concluded. The speech is not expected to conflict with NBC’s coverage of the game itself, scheduled for an 8:30pm kickoff (NBCUniversal). ADWEEK's Anthony Crupi wrote NBC's pregame show is "nothing to scoff at." Last year's show leading into the Redskins-Cowboys season opener "peaked at 19 million viewers." By "avoiding the game itself the president has sidestepped the greatest ratings challenge.” Last year’s season opener drew a record 27.5 million viewers, and NBC "fully expects to top that this time around” (ADWEEK.com, 9/7). Milwaukee's NBC affiliate, WTMJ, has elected to air pregame coverage "instead of President Barack Obama's speech," pushing the address to a digital channel (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 9/7). AD AGE's Brian Steinberg noted NBC likely is "trying to please advertisers" with its pregame coverage plans. Airing "NFL Kickoff 2011" on four NBCU cable nets "would presumably give advertisers the audience they were guaranteed." An NBC spokesperson “declined to comment on whether the same ad load would accompany the pre-game broadcast across all four channels” (ADAGE.com 9/7). In N.Y., George Vecsey writes under the header, "Obama Is President, But Football Is King" (NY TIMES, 9/8).

LIVE FROM GREEN BAY: NBC's "Today" this morning dedicated several segments to the start of the NFL season and showcased anchor Matt Lauer and weather reporter Al Roker live from Lambeau Field. Lauer said, “If you are a football fan, this is a shrine. This is the cathedral in Title Town, U.S.A., home to the Green Bay Packers.” Roker was in the stands with Packers fans, “some of those people lining up at 8 o’clock last night.” The show included a segment titled, “Welcome to Green Bay, Where Football is King,” on the city of Green Bay and its fans. The segment featured fans, including Father Andy Cribben of St. Willebrord Catholic Church and WNFL-AM's Mark Daniels, describing the Packers passionate fan base. A later segment had Lauer and NBC's Al Michaels inside the Packers locker room interviewing Vince Lombardi Jr. and actor Dan Lauria, who portrayed former Packers coach Vince Lombardi Sr. in a Broadway play last year. Lauria said the role of Lombardi was one of his “easier roles” because the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell were "so generous with all the information we needed and actual footage." Other segments included NBC sideline reporter Michele Tafoya and "Football Night in America" analysts Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison previewing the season, as well as an interview with former Packers Antonio Freeman and Ahmad Green ("Today," NBC, 9/8).

TOO MUCH FOOTBALL?
The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Jason Gay writes, “Can’t get pumped for Thursday night football. ... There’s something inappropriate, too much. It’s like a slot machine in an airport, or smoking in church.” Non-holiday Thursday night football “is an excessive incursion, a bet by the NFL that you’re a twitchy freak who can’t get enough.” The league-owned NFL Network “is all over the schedule creep,” slated to air "seven Thursday night games this season, including a third game on Thanksgiving night” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/8).
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