The NFL season kicks off this week, which means it is time to look at the top storylines for what is the most popular programming in American TV history.
1️⃣ How will Jim Nantz and Tony Romo sound?
The crew that has the Super Bowl always receives extra scrutiny. CBS will broadcast the game from Las Vegas in February, putting Nantz and Romo under the glare of the most watched event of the year.
It is kind of amazing that in their seventh season together they are the longest-tenured team at one network. Since Romo shot out like a cannon as the biggest NFL TV analyst sensation since John Madden, earning him praise and a 10-year, $180 million contract, he and Nantz have gone in the wrong direction. Lack of preparation from Romo and chemistry issues with Nantz have made the big money crew a question mark.
2️⃣ The SpongeBob Super Bowl
Come Super Bowl week, this will be a big story, as Paramount, which owns CBS, will have an alternative broadcast on Nickelodeon. It will again feature Nate Burleson as the analyst and Noah Eagle on play-by-play. Eagle is now with NBC as its Big Ten prime time play-by-player, but NBC is letting Eagle appear in Slimetime, where he and Burleson have been big hits.
3️⃣ The Tom Brady Question
We are a year away from Brady broadcasting mania — or are we? Fox Sports signed Brady for 10 years and $375 million to be its No. 1 game analyst. If he goes through with it, he will start next year, when Fox Sports has the Super Bowl. He says he is doing it, but our Brady Meter™ has it at 50-50.
Meanwhile, Fox has Greg Olsen, who already has one strong Super Bowl under his broadcasting belt. Kevin Burkhardt and Olsen are back for their second season in the No. 1 booth.
4️⃣ Settle down
Last offseason was the craziest in NFL broadcaster history. Joe Buck and Troy Aikman went to ESPN and stabilized what had been a perpetual problem. Al Michaels started Amazon Prime Video’s Thursday Night package with Kirk Herbstreit. And Mike Tirico took Michaels’ “Sunday Night Football” spot. It’s Year 2, so everything will feel a little more comfortable until — if — Brady shows up next year.
5️⃣ Amazon is back
The biggest thing Amazon did right was being on-air. There were not many reports of outages.
This was the streamer’s biggest win.
Moving forward, there may be a big fight about ratings — and how Nielsen should count them — but whatever the numbers are, Amazon now owns Thursday nights, the same way ESPN owns Monday nights and NBC owns Sunday nights.
6️⃣ New faces
While there was not the same incredible big-name movement of last year, there will be some new faces on your television sets this fall.
J.J. Watt will be a contributor to CBS and will be part of its Super Bowl coverage. CBS also added Matt Ryan, Jason McCourty and Ross Tucker as game analysts. Tiki Barber will receive a full schedule, teaming with Ryan on a three-man crew.
At NBC, Devin McCourty settles into a big chair after retiring, joining the studio crew for “Football Night in America.”
At Fox, its pre-pregame show, “Fox NFL Kickoff,” will see Julian Edelman slide into the spot vacated by Sean Payton’s return to coaching.
And on MNF, the pregame will be revamped with Scott Van Pelt hosting, joined by Marcus Spears, Ryan Clark and Robert Griffin III.
ESPN had done alternate broadcasts for a long time, but nothing became a cultural phenomenon like Peyton and Eli Manning’s brother act, which was even parodied on “Saturday Night Live.” It gave ESPN some MNF glamor back, which it added to with Buck and Aikman.
Now, the Manningcast is in its third season, meaning it needs to keep reinventing itself so it is not stale. Peyton is incredible, as he hosts the show and still can pick out nuances. It is interesting to imagine how good he would be in a straight booth. But the chemistry with Eli is excellent.