NBC Sports produced its fifth Super Bowl since acquiring the rights to Sunday Night Football in 2006. The game turned into a thriller, like each playoff game that preceded it this season. The Rams nipped the Bengals at the spanking and essentially new SoFi Stadium in LA, 23-20. For the Rams, it was their second Super Bowl title in franchise history. The last was as the St. Louis Rams in 2000 over Tennessee.
With the pomp and circumstance of the big game, NBC Sports rolled out a new graphics package. It deviated from the network’s tradition, turning the score bug to the bottom and center screen. It bore a resemblance to what Fox Sports currently does for its football coverage.
The bug was first leaked on Thursday on social media but looked better than I originally thought it would, watching it this past Sunday. Overall I thought NBC’s score-bug was somewhat ho-hum but it did remind me of Fox’ format. Frankly, I was concerned that it would be somewhat bold and disruptive. Despite my opinion of it being a slight downgrade, there were many aspects of it I liked. For one, Fox has too many abbreviations. NBC improved upon it.
One of my favorite features on Sunday was how NBC’s score-bug presented changes on the screen. When fresh points were scored, the bug activated with flamboyance like a flashy slot machine. I also liked what the graphics did to enhance Cris Collinsworth’s depictions when he pinpointed individuals roles on replays. The player’s backgrounds were in his team colors, but his logo was shaded or had a black gradient, which to me was aesthetically pleasing. It may have been harder to appreciate it for someone whose TV sceen may not have the best resolution.
Another decent aspect of it was how the down was written on the screen like “<<1st and 10<<” or “>>1st and 10>>” depending on (never seen it before) which way the team was going on the field. This was a bit confusing at first, but it gave viewers immediate information if he or she just tuned in. The score-bug had a center circle that listed the time and quarter in it as well as the NBC logo. It would light up on the left or right side depending on which team had the football. Again, this aspect was confusing at first.
With the bug’s similarities to Fox’ I thought NBC would opt to show quarterback stats throughout the game in empty spaces to the far left or right side of the screen. Fox does so. Bottom line, it wasn’t much of an annoyance that those numbers weren’t available.
Other than the score-bug, there were numerous parts of NBC’s production of the game that caught my eye. NBC did not overload the broadcast with interviews. What I did appreciate is that NBC Sports posted the full interviews on its YouTube channel so fans who wanted to digest these features could do so on YouTube. (Michaels, Michele Tafoya and Collinsworth)
However, some of the live interviews and features seemed a bit forced and did not add much to the viewing experience. There were some shows NBC was trying to promote but as a viewer who wants to watch football content, NBC could have included more of its interviews in the pregame coverage.
NBC’s lead up into the games has always been different from that of CBS or Fox Sports. Those two webs usually opt to put together montages of the teams with some sort of pump-up introduction. NBC had players introducing themselves walking onto the field. They also did this for Super Bowl 52 when the Eagles played the New England Patriots. I appreciated the fact that they were not trying to oversell the game.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson took care of the overselling. He hyped each team up right before the kickoff, and it felt like overkill. It was very palatable for that matter. At that point, fans were ready to watch the game. This decision may not have been NBC’s decision, but I would have liked to see Michael Buffer say “Let’s get ready to rumble,” as he has done before at Rams home games in the playoffs.
The lead-in to the halftime show did not seem cohesive at all. With NBC and Al Michaels being known and respected for not trying to oversell the game, newcomer Maria Taylor exclaimed before halftime, “This will likely be the greatest halftime show of all-time!” It was a departure from the graphic shown before halftime. All the Toyota Halftime Show graphic said was drab, “what each team did well in the first half” and “what each team needs to do in the second half.” At that point, NBC should have just said that the Toyota Halftime Show was coming up. Something seemed inconsistent.
Down the stretch, Al Michaels showed why he is arguably the best to ever call sporting events. He stayed even-keeled and did not try to oversell the viewer on what they were seeing. What was happening was simple. The Rams were driving down field and had to score a touchdown to take the lead in the Super Bowl. Viewer knew it. No more need be said.
Michaels invariably maintains his equanimity through his even-tempered and calm delivery. Like the great ones in any field, you wouldn’t even know Big Al is there. He does his gig quietly and leaves.
Next year unfortunately, Uncle Al will likely be elsewhere. A part of me still wants to believe that NBC will retain Michaels, but it looks like Tirico will get the big Sunday Night booth next season.
Overall, I felt like NBC did a good job producing this Super Bowl. Four years ago, they struggled a bit because the Olympics started that same week. Their production of the pregame show probably wasn’t what it was for Super Bowl 49 in 2015 when they did not have to worry about broadcasting the Olympics around the Super Bowl. With no commentators going to Beijing for NBC Sports, it felt like this time around that they were able to utilize more of their talent for the big game.
Well that’s television.