Nov 25, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Former New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is honored at halftime of the game between the New Orleans Saints and the Buffalo Bills at the Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Brees won’t pursue broadcast gig to spend time with family

Drew Brees said he’s staying on the broadcast sidelines this NFL season for four reasons: his kids.

The former New Orleans Saints quarterback and future Pro Football Hall of Fame member spent the 2021 season with NBC, but it was announced earlier this offseason that he wouldn’t return for a second season. And despite speculation he’d wind up with another network, he told The Spun that he’s not taking another job now.

“The reason I didn’t do it this year, from a broadcasting perspective, is my family,” Brees said. “You have to be gone for the weekends, and that’s what I basically did as a player. These are such valuable moments for my kids. I want to be as active and involved in their weekend activities. That doesn’t quite mesh right now with a broadcasting career.”

Brees and his wife, Brittany, have three sons and a daughter.

He told the outlet, however, that he is open to a future career in broadcasting or pursuing a different second act.

“I’ve got so many opportunities and things I’m considering right now. Staying involved with the game of football is one of my priorities, whether it’d be broadcasting or some other capacity,” said Brees, 43.

Brees retired after the 2020 season following 20 NFL campaigns and one Super Bowl championship. He threw for 80,358 career yards and 571 touchdowns — second only to Tom Brady in both categories.

–Field Level Media

Aug 26, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; Network television commentator Al Michaels before the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Al Michaels to call one playoff game for NBC as ‘emeritus’ contributor

Al Michaels and NBC Sports have reached an agreement that will keep Michaels on in an “emeritus role” going forward.

NBC announced the deal Tuesday, saying Michaels will continue to contribute to the network’s coverage of the NFL playoffs and the Olympics.

Michaels, 77, anchored NBC Sports’ “Sunday Night Football” broadcast team beginning in 2006, and his contract expired following the Super Bowl in February. NBC opted to promote Mike Tirico to the primary play-by-play announcer of “Sunday Night Football” alongside color commentator Cris Collinsworth.

Michaels, meanwhile, signed with Amazon to be the play-by-play voice of the company’s new “Thursday Night Football” broadcasts beginning next season.

Reports said Michaels will call one of NBC’s three playoff games next year with a partner yet to be named. Tirico and Collinsworth will handle the other games.

“I’m looking forward to continuing my longtime NBC relationship while also launching the Thursday Night Football package on Amazon this fallk,” Michaels said in a press release.

Michaels matched Pat Summerall by calling his 11th Super Bowl in February.

At Amazon, he will partner with ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit on “Thursday Night Football” broadcasts. Herbstreit will continue in his role as ESPN’s lead college football commentator.

–Field Level Media

Feb 13, 2022; Inglewood, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) holds the Lombardi Trophy as he is interviewed by NBC sports host Mike Tirico after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals during Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Tirico, Melissa Stark added to NBC’s SNF team

NBC officially named its roster for its “Sunday Night Football” team.

The network announced Tuesday that Mike Tirico will handle the play-by-play responsibilities, Cris Collinsworth will remain as the game analyst and Melissa Stark will report from the sidelines. The trio’s first game together will be the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 4, with the regular-season opener slated for Sept. 8.

“Sunday Night Football is destination viewing and we are thrilled to have Mike, Cris and Melissa call the action and tell the stories that football fans have come to expect from primetime TV’s No. 1 show,” NBC Sports chairman Pete Bevacqua said.

Tirico effectively replaces Al Michaels, who officially joined Amazon last month. Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit will serve as the broadcast team for “Thursday Night Football” beginning in 2022.

Collinsworth will begin his 14th season in the NBC Sunday Night Football broadcasting booth this fall. He also spent three seasons on NBC’s Football Night in America (2006-08).

Stark takes over for Michele Tafoya, who stepped away from sports journalism after Super Bowl LVI to transition to a career in social and political issues. Stark spent three seasons as a sideline reporter for ABC’s Monday Night Football (2000-02) and served as a host and reporter with NFL Network since 2011.

–Field Level Media

Dec 15, 2018; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; NFL network broadcaster Melissa Stark interviews Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) after a game aNew York Jets at MetLife Stadium. The Texans defeated the Jets 29-22. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Melissa Stark new ‘SNF’ sideline reporter for NBC

Melissa Stark is joining NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” crew as a sideline reporter, the New York Post reported Friday.

Stark, 48, has worked for NFL Network since 2012. Her previous jobs include sideline reporter with ABC’s “Monday Night Football” from 2000-03 and national correspondent with “Today” on NBC beginning in the summer of 2003. With the network, she also covered the Olympics.

NBC has turned over two thirds of its “Sunday Night Football” talent ahead of the 2022 season. While Cris Collinsworth remains as game analyst, Mike Tirico is replacing Al Michaels on play by play.

Stark takes over for Michele Tafoya, who stepped away from sports journalism after Super Bowl LVI to transition to a career in social and political issues.

Kathryn Tappen, who worked the Super Bowl sideline for NBC along with Tafoya, had been considered the leading candidate for the job.

–Field Level Media

USFL

NBC announced as broadcast partner for USFL revival

The return of the USFL in 2022 will be televised, with NBC announcing Wednesday it will pick up 21 of the league’s 43 games to be broadcast on multiple platforms, including its main network, along with USA Network and the streaming service Peacock.

The spring professional football league is owned by Fox Sports, with the other 22 games televised on Fox Sports platforms.

The USFL originally played six seasons starting in 1982 and included players like Jim Kelly, Steve Young, Reggie White, Herschel Walker, Doug Flutie and Mike Rozier. While the new league obtained original USFL trademarks, including logos and team names, it is not associated with the previous entity.

The new USFL will begin play next year with eight teams, all with names of teams from the past: Birmingham Stallions, Houston Gamblers, Michigan Panthers, New Jersey Generals, New Orleans Breakers, Philadelphia Stars, Pittsburgh Maulers and Tampa Bay Bandits.

Although teams will have cities attached, all games are expected to be played next year in two Birmingham, Ala., locations.

–Field Level Media

Feb 7, 2020; Tampa, FL, USA;  General view of the NFL Shield logo on the field before Super Bowl LV between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Ex-ESPN host Mike Golic joins NBC’s Peacock

Former NFL defensive lineman Mike Golic signed on with Peacock as a football analyst.

Golic, who spent more than 20 years with ESPN, will appear every Monday during the NFL season on “Pro Football Talk” with Mike Florio. They will analyze Sunday games and discuss other news from around the NFL.

The first appearance for Golic, 58, will be Monday. “Pro Football Talk” streams live on Peacock’s NBC Sports on Peacock channel from 7 to 9 a.m. ET weekdays.

A member of the National Association of Broadcasters Broadcasting Hall of Fame, Golic paired with Mike Greenberg from 2000-17 on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike” before teaming with Trey Wingo on “Golic & Wingo,” which ended last year.

Golic spent nine seasons in the NFL after the Houston Oilers selected him in the 10th round of the 1985 draft. He also played with the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins.

–Field Level Media

Sep 9, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates after a Buccaneers touchdown  against the Dallas Cowboys during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs-Cowboys opener is TV’s most-watched show since Super Bowl

The NFL returned to television Thursday night, and the public tuned in.

The season opener between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys attracted an audience that was the biggest for any TV show since the Super Bowl in February, NBC announced Friday.

Around 24.4 million viewers watched the Thursday game on NBC, with a peak of 25.4 million viewers between 9:45-10 p.m. ET.

The game also was available on Peacock, NBC Sports Digital and NFL Digital platforms. When counting those sources, the Total Audience Delivery (TAD) average was around 26 million, per NBC.

The TAD for the Buccaneers’ 31-29 win was up 20 percent from last year’s NFL kickoff game, a 34-20 Kansas City Chiefs win over the Houston Texans. It also was the highest for an NFL Thursday opener since 27.4 million watched the New England Patriots beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 28-21 in 2015.

The 2015 game and Thursday’s game had a major similarity: Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, two of the NFL’s most marketable players, connecting for multiple touchdown passes — six years ago for New England, this year for Tampa Bay.

The Average Minute Audience for Peacock and digital platforms of 1.6 million broke NBC’s record for an NFL game, not including Super Bowls, and increased 64 percent from last year.

The Buccaneers-Cowboys contest garnered a 13.4 rating (percent of all TV households watching) and a 32 share (percent of households watching TV at the time that tuned in), with those figures rising 20 percent from last year.

The Dallas market had the highest viewership Thursday with a 29.1 rating and 56 share. San Antonio (25.5/45) was next, followed by Tampa (24.6/50), Providence (23.1/44), Austin (22.9/46), Boston (21.4/43), Cleveland (20.3/40), Jacksonville (20.1/38), Norfolk (19.9/39) and Milwaukee (17.7/37).

–Field Level Media

Aug 26, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; Network television commentator Al Michaels before the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

NBC’s Michaels benched Sunday due to COVID-19 issues

Broadcaster Al Michaels will not participate in NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” telecast out of COVID-19 concerns.

The network said in a statement issued Friday that Michaels had “not been cleared to work this weekend’s game in accordance with NBCUniversal COVID-19 safety protocols.”

Mike Tirico will stand in for Michaels and call the game between the Cleveland Browns (9-4) and New York Giants (5-8) from MetLife Stadium with Cris Collinsworth in the booth and Michele Tafoya on the sidelines.

NBC didn’t say whether Michaels, 76, tested positive for the virus or if he had close contact with someone who did.

“I feel great, I have no symptoms, and my temperature this morning was 97.5,” Michaels said in a statement issued by NBC Sports. “I look forward to returning to the booth as soon as possible.”

Michaels is in his 15th season as the voice of “Sunday Night Football” and in his 35th year as an NFL play-by-play announcer in primetime.

Earlier this month, he was named the recipient of the 2021 Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. He is one of five broadcasters to be recognized with both the baseball honor and the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Award, joining Jack Buck, Dick Enberg, Curt Gowdy and Lindsey Nelson.

–Field Level Media

Nov 22, 2020; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Ravens   running back JK Dobbins (27) scores a second quarter two point conversion against the Tennessee Titans at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Ravens-Steelers move to cost NBC millions

The moving of the Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers game from the highly coveted Thanksgiving primetime slot to Sunday afternoon could cost NBC tens of millions of dollars in ad sales revenue, Sportico reported.

The decision to move the game from Thursday night — when it would have been the NFL’s lone game in that time slot — to Sunday afternoon was made after an outbreak of COVID-19 swept through the Ravens’ headquarters in Owings Mills, Md. The team has seven players on the reserve/COVID-19 list, which indicates a player has tested positive or is considered a “high-risk” close contact with an infected person.

The Ravens disciplined a strength and conditioning coach who didn’t inform them of COVID-19-related symptoms and had not consistently worn a mask or tracking device, as required by NFL protocols, the team and NFL.com reported.

Last year, NBC generated $70.9 million on its in-game advertising sales of the Thanksgiving night game, which was between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saint, based on an average unit cost of $1.05 million per 30-second spot. The game averaged 20.8 million live TV viewers, which included 7.85 million advertiser-coveted adults between 18 and 49 years old, Sportico reported.

In 2018, NBC’s Thanksgiving night game, also between the Saints and Falcons, averaged 21.7 million viewers and 8.46 million members between the 18 and 49-year-old demographic. It was NBC’s third-highest number since the network began showing the Thanksgiving night game in 2012, Sportico reported.

NBC now likely has to renegotiate its in-game advertising rates since the Ravens-Steelers game is among a dozen games kicking off around the same time during Sunday’s early time slot. While the Ravens-Steelers’ game can be shown nationally by NBC, advertising slots won’t be as valuable since it is competing against so many games. For example, CBS and Fox charge between $100,000 and $300,000 per 30-second advertisement spot, depending on how many markets receive the broadcast, according to Sportico.

The two AFC North games annually between the Ravens (6-4) and Steelers (10-0), who are off to their best start in the franchise’s storied history, are among the NFL’s most anticipated of the season. The teams have combined for eight of the past 10 division titles after the Ravens finished atop the division in each of the past two seasons.

Pittsburgh won the teams’ first meeting of the season, 28-24, in Baltimore on Nov. 1.

–Field Level Media

Sep 10, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs fans cheer during the second half against the Houston Texans at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

NBC viewership down 13 percent for season kickoff

The NFL was back on television sets Thursday night but not as many of the fans were watching.

According to Nielsen, the season kickoff game on NBC between the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs drew 13 percent fewer viewers than the 2019 opener between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.

An estimated 19.3 million fans tuned in to see the Texans-Chiefs broadcast, while the Packers-Bears contest attracted 22.2 million viewers last season.

The size of the drop is surprising due to the lack of sports to watch during the coronavirus pandemic. Many sports fans have been waiting for the football season to arrive after other leagues had seasons interrupted by the virus.

NBC said live streaming boosted the total number of viewers to 20.3 million.

Other sports in action on Thursday night included the NBA and NHL playoffs as well as a slate of Major League Baseball games. Also, Victoria Azarenka posted an upset of Serena Williams in the semifinals of the U.S. Open.

–Field Level Media