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Deitsch Reveals What NFL Games Networks Wanted Most

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Richard Deitsch has used his latest “Media Circus” column over at The Athletic to prepare football fans for the upcoming NFL season. The two part column was posted yesterday and today.

One of the most interesting pieces of information Deitsch revealed was how the NFL’s four broadcast partners prioritized individual teams and games. He asked the network programmers what they specifically told the NFL that they wanted. Some were more forthcoming than others.

CBS: CBS Sports president Sean McManus passed along the following games that his network really wanted: Patriots at Steelers (Dec. 16); Patriots at Jaguars (Sept. 16); Steelers at Broncos (Nov. 25); Cowboys at Redskins (Oct. 21); Jaguars at Cowboys (Oct. 14); and Steelers at Saints (Dec. 23). “We got most of our top games we requested knowing some of the marquee AFC games are going to go to the primetime package,” McManus said. “We understood that.”

FOX: The network’s president, Eric Shanks, was hesitant to give up his network’s strategy or a specific game ask (his network, of course, once aired The X-Files, which had the slogan “Trust No One”) but Fox specifically asked the league to take some of their quality Sunday afternoon games that aired in the 4:25 p.m. ET window and put them on its new Thursday Night Football package. The major goal for Fox was to improve the Thursday Night schedule (which they did) and to make sure they could protect the 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday window as the most-watched window on television.

ESPN: Burke Magnus, the network’s executive vice president of programming and scheduling and point person with the NFL on schedules, said he was overjoyed when he learned that his network had landed the season opener for the Oakland Raiders. ESPN made the specific request to have the Raiders home opener in the late game Week 1. Magnus said no specific opponent was specified. “The Raiders were a pretty good team two seasons ago. We believe they have the core of a very competitive team, and Jon Gruden obviously was a big part of our family for a long time,” Magnus said. “The game had several angles to it. There is a curiosity factor to Jon’s return to football after so many years, it’s a good team, it’s a really good opponent. There are many reasons to watch.”

NBC: Given the primetime game on Sunday night is the league’s marquee night game, NBC knows it is going to get the league’s best schedule, but network officials really wanted Green Bay at New England on Nov. 4. “This is a fantastic and rare matchup of Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady and the Packers and Patriots,” said NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus. “That was a game we requested and lobbied for. We make requests around a variety of games. (NFL vice president and scheduling czar) Howard Katz does a great job of taking care of us and letting us all down gently.”

What stands out the most here is how important ESPN thought it was that they air Jon Gruden’s first regular season game back on the Oakland sidelines. It ends up that the NFL gave Oakland a pretty good opponent for week 1, but given the respective trajectories of the Raiders and Rams, it is hard to believe ESPN is going to get a very good game for the second part of its Monday Night double header.

Also interesting is Fox’s insistence that the NFL beef up the Thursday Night Football slate. Since it’s debut as a full season package, the Thursday night games have been routinely mocked for terrible matchups bolstered by cheap gimmicks like the Color Rush series.

You can read Deitsch’s full NFL season primer here.

Sports TV News

FOX Doubles Ad Price For Premiere US World Cup Matches

FOX has capitalized by charging $600,000 per 30-second commercial during its coverage of USA/England.

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The 2022 World Cup is underway and the opener received a gigantic ratings increase for FOX Sports. Now, according to a report from Front Office Sports, the network has doubled its ad price for the USA match versus England.

USA/England will air in a lucrative window, at 2:00 PM ET on Black Friday, and FOX has capitalized by charging $600,000 per 30-second commercial during its coverage of the match. That price, according to Front Office Sports reporters Michael McCarthy and Doug Greenberg, is double what the network had asked for from advertisers for other matches.

While the event opener saw a sharp increase, the first match featuring the United States saw a decline from previous World Cup openers for the country. 11.71 million watched the match in the US between FOX Sports and Telemundo. In 2014, 11.1 million watched on ESPN and in 2010 13 million watched the first US match on ABC.

Analysists have predicted FOX Sports could garner nearly $125 million in ad revenue for the duration of the tournament.

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Telemundo’s Miguel Gurwitz Announcing World Cup, NFL Thanksgiving Games For 18 Straight Hours Thursday

With the game expected to end at 2:00 AM local time, that means Gurwitz will be announcing games for over 18 hours on Thursday.

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With the World Cup happening at an unprecedented time, there were bound to be scheduling conflicts. The conflicts for Telemundo’s Miguel Gurwitz, however, might be the real unprecedented nature of the event being played in November.

Gurwitz works on Telemundo’s coverage of the World Cup while calling matches as the secondary play-by-play announcer. Beginning at 11:00 AM in Doha, Gurwitz will work the network’s coverage of the event.

But as the soccer day turns to tonight, Gurwitz will call Telemundo’s broadcast of the New England Patriots and Minnesota Vikings game from Qatar. With the game expected to end at 2:00 AM local time, that means Gurwitz will be announcing games for over 18 hours on Thursday.

He will also do the feat again on Sunday, as he’ll broadcast World Cup matches for the network during the day and then announce the Packers and Eagles game for Sunday Night Football.

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Kevin Burkhardt: ‘Honor To Be In People’s Homes’ During Thanksgiving Broadcast

“There were a couple on the calendar that I thought that it might hit me and be very, very cool.”

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On Thanksgiving, Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen will call their first Thanksgiving Day game for FOX when the New York Giants take on the Dallas Cowboys (4:30 PM ET). It’s been a memorable year for Burkhardt and Olsen in their first year as the A broadcast team for FOX that will end in the duo calling the Super Bowl in February.

Burkhardt was a guest on The Season with Peter Schrager podcast this week and talked about the honor of getting the chance to be on the call for a Thanksgiving Day game.

“The whole job is big and we are doing big games every week. There were a couple on the calendar that I thought that it might hit me and be very, very cool. One of them was Dallas-Green Bay, which turned out to be epic a couple of weeks ago.

“The playoffs and the Super Bowl will be great, but Thanksgiving Day. Growing up in a football family, it was kind of eating around both games. Catch the early game, halftime, go throw the football in the street, eat the meal between games, then the Cowboys game comes on, you watch that. Maybe halftime you watch or maybe you throw the football again. Watch the rest of the game, you have dessert after the game. That was the day.

“It is an honor because you are in a lot of people’s homes every week. I feel like you really are in people’s homes…. You are kind of like hugging everybody. I think it’s beyond awesome, I really do.”

Burkhardt mentioned to Schrager that he and Olsen knew they had big shoes to fill after taking over for Joe Buck and Troy Aikman (both now at ESPN) and it felt like walking in to a new job, but the A crew at FOX helped them and he liked that he and Olsen got to do it together.

“It’s been awesome. It really has. When you go into a situation like this, Joe and Troy were there for 2 decades, that’s a long time. People have long-standing relationships. Even though I’ve been at FOX for 9 years and Greg was there last year, we are the new guys essentially.

“You walk in, you don’t know how they are going to react to you, what they are going to think of you, if they think you are any good and all that stuff. From Day 1, it was like welcome to the family, we love you. I know that sounds kind of cheesy, but it’s been awesome. It felt like we’ve just fit right in. I think there’s been some cool symmetry, the fact that Greg and I got to do it together because we have such a bond.

“The fact that we got to jump in together I think has kind of been fun and helped us both because he knows me really well and I know him really well. Then, it was just getting everyone else to know us and vice versa.”

The one thing that Burkhardt did have to adjust to was a different style of show and that each production team has different viewpoint and creativity.

“The crew I’ve been on my whole life with Pete Macheska and Artie Kempner, they do a different show than Z (Richie Zyontz) and Russo (Rich Russo) do it. It’s not good, bad, or indifferent. Everyone has different viewpoints and creativity. I think it was just getting used to each other in terms of that, but it’s felt like I’ve worked with them for 25 years. It’s felt seamless. It’s felt fun.”

Even though Burkhardt is now the lead NFL play-by-play voice for FOX, that doesn’t mean he is going to change how he does a game.

“I’m not going to change my style or who I am. I’m not saying I’m not open to critiques and wanting to get better and to get coached. The basis of what I do and how I do it, I’m not going to change that now because I’m on the A crew. They liked me enough to put me here, so I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. Maybe tweaks here and there, but if I radically changed now, I’d be a moron.” 

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