NFL Kickoff 2022: NBC’s Sunday Night Football Ushers in New Chapter With 1080p HDR
New producer, new play-by-play voice, and new tech will debut in property's 17th season
It’s the dawn of a new era for one of the biggest properties in the history of sports television.
NBC Sports will open a new season of the National Football League on Thursday night when it broadcasts the NFL Kickoff game between the Buffalo Bills and the Los Angeles Rams from SoFi Stadium in L.A. (8 p.m. ET, NBC, Peacock). With it begins the 17th season of NBC Sunday Night Football, a series that for the past 11 years has rated as primetime’s No. 1 TV show by Nielsen.
It also opens the book on a new chapter for the storied show. With the 2022 NFL season comes a new play-by-play man (Mike Tirico), a new sideline reporter (Melissa Stark), and a new producer in Rob Hyland, who replaces the man who has produced SNF since its inception in 2006: Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer Fred Gaudelli.
The makeover doesn’t stop there, however. SNF is also making a notable move on the operations and technical side as game coverage is migrating to 1080p HDR this season. It’s a substantial shift behind the scenes for such a high-profile production, and, even though the broadcast won’t be delivered to homes in HDR, it’s an upgrade that the NBC Sports crew believes will make a significant increase in image quality.
“We feel there’s enough benefit from being natively produced in progressive- and bt.2020-color space that those at home will notice a difference,” says Craig Bernstein, VP, remote technical operations and engineering, NBC Sports. “We’re excited about that.”
According to John Roché, senior technical manager, Sunday Night Football, NBC Sports (and another Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer), mobile-unit partner NEP bolstered SNF’s unit, ND1, by upgrading all scopes and monitors for video and replay servers to EVS XT-VIA’s to move to 1080p HDR.
There has also been a sweeping upgrade in cameras with 15 Sony HDC-5500’s integrated into the lineup. With that also came upgrades across the arsenal’s Canon-heavy lens line. There are more than 35 Canon lens on SNF, including nine Canon 122×8.2s at the top end.
Ken Goss, EVP, studio, remote operations, and production planning, NBC Sports, notes that, although SNF is preparing to move into a new production truck for the 2023 season, the crew considers it important to make some of these leaps this year.
NBC is also adding some new camera angles this season: a second end-zone camera (now there are cameras up behind the end zones on both sides of the field), a second slash camera, and the season-long inclusion of 12 PylonCams (provided by BSI and featuring Dream Chip cameras) and two line-to-gain PylonCams (Also BSI with Marshall cameras). The reverse 50-yard-line camera is among the upgrades to the Sony 5500 with the Canon 111×8.3 lens and has been bumped up to a 6X SSMO.
Returning stars this year are a completely rebooted graphics package that debuted at Super Bowl LVI in February and a SkyCam Wildcat in 4K (Sony HDC-P43 camera and Fujinon 18×5.5 lens).
Tonight’s opener in Los Angeles will feature 60 cameras, including a dual-camera cart on each sideline, a fixed-wing airplane for aerial shots above SoFi, 19 cameras capable of shooting in super-slow-mo, and five 4K-capable cameras.
It’s an embarrassment of riches for returning director Drew Esocoff (a Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame Class of 2022 inductee) and Hyland to play with. New to the SNF front bench, Hyland is a 25-year veteran of NBC Sports and one of the broadcaster’s top producers on the roster, having produced Thursday Night Football, Notre Dame Football, and the Kentucky Derby and served as current primetime producer of NBC’s Olympics coverage.
He’s no stranger to the big stage, but it’s still special to take the front bench at Sunday Night Football, a property that he was a part of in its first three seasons; in the first season, he served as a tape producer under Gaudelli and Esocoff.
“For all the shows I’ve worked over that time,” says Hyland, “I’m not sure anything was more formative in my career than the three years I spent on Sunday Night Football. The lessons I learned laid the foundation of who I am as a producer. I am so looking forward to starting the next chapter with this team. What has made Sunday Night Football the gold standard in sports television is best-in-class storytelling and coverage of the football game, and those two things will remain the same. To be given the opportunity to lead Sunday Night Football, I pinch myself every morning I wake up, and that’s the truth.”
“It has been terrific [working with Rob],” says Goss. “I’ve known him for 25 years. I’ve done Notre Dame Football with him. I’ve done the Olympics with him. I’ve done horse racing with him. Drew and Rob do horse-racing together. We’re used to that tandem. It’s a great tandem. Rob has terrific leadership skills. Obviously, all of us have benefited from Fred [Gaudelli] and his leadership over the years, but we’re looking forward to this.”
The NFL season begins tonight with NBC Sports’ broadcast of the NFL Kickoff game between the Buffalo Bills and defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams at 8 p.m. ET on NBC, Peacock, and Universo. The Sunday Night Football slate begins Sunday with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Dallas Cowboys, also at 8 p.m. on NBC, Peacock, and Universo.