by Julian Spivey
In an effort to try to build the fan base of the future the NFL partnered with Nickelodeon to broadcast a NFL Playoff Wild Card Round game between the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears on Sunday, Jan. 10 to rave reviews by both fans and media watching the game.
The game was also being broadcast in its regular capacity on CBS with regular broadcasters Jim Nantz and Tony Romo (and I’m sure Nielsen ratings for that broadcast will prove it was watched much more than the one on Nickelodeon), but the CBS Sports executives were blown away by the overwhelmingly positive response to the Nickelodeon broadcast on social media, according to Richard Deitsch of The Athletic.
The Nickelodeon broadcast was announced by play-by-play man Noah Eagle (the radio voice of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers and son of veteran broadcaster Ian Eagle), former NFL wide receiver and current CBS studio analyst Nate Burleson and 15-year old Nickelodeon star of “All That” Gabrielle Nevaeh Green serving as analysts. Green’s “All That” co-star Lex Lumpkin served as sideline reporter for the event.
I thought that Eagle and Burleson both did a terrific job explaining the game of football to any children tuning into the broadcast (though potentially the Nick NFL telecast drew more adult eyes than anything, which I’ll get to in a bit) and that Green’s appearance served as a familiar face to Nick’s core audience helping move things along and, despite being just 15-years old she asked terrific questions of the former NFL star Burleson, like, “what does it feel like to be tackled?” Burleson was particularly great at explaining the game in a playground manner.
One aspect of the broadcast that I would’ve particularly enjoyed as a child was getting to learn certain things about today’s NFL stars, for instance what their favorite Nickelodeon shows were growing up.
The broadcast was certainly Nick’ed up with numerous references to Nickelodeon shows and special videos from the Bikini Bottom gang on “SpongeBob SquarePants” and the particularly nice touch of the end zone being referred to as the “slime zone” and seeing slime graphics cover the end zone upon touchdowns. The use of “Young Sheldon” (the show is a CBS original that’s airing re-runs on Nick at Nite) star Iain Armitage in character explaining rules and penalty flags to the audience was truly a nice touch, as well. I got a kick out of seeing the young “All That” cast do impressions of former President Barack Obama and Cardi B, as well.
The only true negative about the broadcast was the fact that of the six Wild Card Round playoff games over the weekend the game turned out to be the biggest dud of them all, which there isn’t much the network and league could’ve done about that and hopefully won’t deter any young fans tuning in from future NFL games.
It seems highly likely you’ll see future NFL games broadcast on Nickelodeon and many media figures within other sports were exclaiming on social media on Sunday that they’d love to see similar broadcasts done for the sports they cover.
My only question is, I wonder how many young viewers actually tuned in for the game? There are so many things and so many media these days for young kids to focus on that I can’t help but wonder if they were focused on their iPads or gaming systems or just other sources of television (be it streaming or cable) and didn’t even know the game was happening, or perhaps were perturbed a sporting event was on their network instead of their favorite shows. Also, so many parents of younger children these days have cut the cord and the option of watching this broadcast wouldn’t have even existed (sports have to find a way to get to these young parents too!).
My hope is though that parents, who typically would’ve been watching the regular telecast of the game on CBS realized what was being broadcast on Nickelodeon and switched over in hopes of sparking enjoyment of the game in their children.
It was a valiant effort on the part of the league to get new eyes in front of their game and I would like to see attempts like this made again in the future.