NFL Kickoff 2023: NBC’s Sunday Night Football Returns With Rediscovered Comfort in Crew, Loaded Schedule, New Truck
NBC collaborates with NEP on a new mobile production facility for its premiere property
Last year was a transition season for NBC Sports’ – and sports TV’s – premiere property: Sunday Night Football. And it didn’t miss a beat.
Despite the departures of a pair of Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famers – producer Fred Gaudelli and play-by-play man Al Michaels – SNF extended its streak as primetime’s top television show for a 12th consecutive season in 2022.
Now, with coordinating producer Rob Hyland, play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico, and sideline reporter Melissa Stark entering their second seasons in their roles full-time, there’s a newfound level of comfort in the truck as NBC’s NFL coverage returns Thursday night for the NFL Kickoff game (Chiefs-Lions, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, Universo) before Sunday Night Football returns on Sunday (Cowboys-Giants, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, Telemundo, Universo).
“Now we all know what we’re in for between Thursday and mid-January, and I cannot wait for this to start,” says Hyland. “It is truly a pleasure and a privilege to be part of this football family with such a great production and engineering team.”
One of the main areas of consistency in Sunday Night Football lies in another pair of Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fames: director Drew Esocoff (inducted in December 2022) and analyst Cris Collinsworth (will be inducted in December 2023).
“The coolest part of last year was, for Rob and Melissa and me, how awesome Drew Esocoff and Cris were,” says Tirico, “in not just making any transition as smooth as possible but also willing to do new things and fun things. It was a great season.”
On the operations side, a big change coming to Sunday Night Football this season is the introduction of a new mobile production facility infrastructure built by NEP.
Another major trend shift in NFL television this season is the growth of flex scheduling. It’s been a secret weapon of NBC Sports’ to ensure a great matchup or a game with playoff implications would air in the Sunday Night Football window. This year for the first time, however, both ESPN (Monday Night Football) and Prime Video (Thursday Night Football) are a part of the flex scheduling mix.
NBC Sports has access to flex scheduling in Weeks 11-18. It also can exercise the right to flex a game in Weeks 5-10 no more than twice. According to NBC, “only Sunday afternoon games are eligible to be moved to Sunday night, in which case the tentatively scheduled Sunday night game would be moved to an afternoon start time.”
Flex scheduling for ESPN Monday Night Football may be used “at the NFL’s discretion” in Weeks 12-17. Prime Video and Thursday Night Football may flex up to two games between Weeks 13-17.
At the end of the day, what games end up in what windows is of no mind to Hyland and his team. They plan to bring their best effort to whatever game sits on their scheudle.
“I think that’s more for the business side,” says Hyland. “We’re tasked with putting on the best product every Sunday night, and we hope we are giving the viewer the best game every Sunday night that we can. I think the landscape has gotten obviously more competitive, as you note, but we will do the absolute same job with any game on our schedule.”
“If you look at our schedule, it looks pretty darn good,” he adds, “I think that’s pretty much all I can say about that. I hope the NFL works with us if one of our games doesn’t pan out the way it looks today when we get there. But again, we expect and are hopeful that our schedule will hold up and that we don’t need to flex. But we understand the landscape is now different.”