Thursday, December 22, 2016

Rare case - Network #1 announcer team calling early game of NFL doubleheader

During the NFL regular season, Fox and CBS share the Sunday afternoon TV rights. Each week, one network gets doubleheader rights and can show both an early and late afternoon game in most markets. The other network gets rights to show just a single game to each market. Typically, the network with the doubleheader features its most attractive game in the late afternoon (4:25 pm ET) time slot and usually assigns its top announcer team to that game.

Because Christmas Day is on Sunday this year, the NFL moved the bulk of its schedule to Saturday for week 16. This weekend, Fox has the NFL doubleheader TV rights, but is sending its #1 team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to call Vikings-Packers at 1pm ET instead of a 4:25 game. How rare is such an assignment? This is only the fourth time since 2004 that a network sent its top announcer crew to an early afternoon game on a day when that network owned the doubleheader rights.

Here are the only such instances in the past 12 seasons where the top team on the doubleheader network called a game in the early window:

  • 2013 week 17 - CBS placed Jim Nantz and Phil Simms on Ravens-Bengals in the early window. Note: Since 2006, the NFL has allowed both CBS and Fox to televise a doubleheader on the final Sunday of the regular season. So the week 17 late doubleheader window is not exclusive to one network like it is for a typical NFL Sunday. 
  • 2011 week 17 - Fox assigned Buck and Aikman to Panthers-Saints at 1:00.
  • 2008 week 12 - Fox sent Buck and Aikman to call 49ers-Cowboys in the early slot despite having rights to the late doubleheader slot (then at 4:15). 

So the 2008 instance is the actually the only time since 2004 that a network holding exclusive doubleheader rights put its top team on an early game. For comparison, I found 23 cases of this between 1994 and 2004, so the relative rarity in recent years helps illustrate how important the late afternoon doubleheader window has become to the TV networks.

Another interesting aspect about the upcoming weekend is that CBS is sending its #1 team of Nantz/Simms to call a late afternoon game (Colts-Raiders) despite the fact that CBS has the singleheader. The 4:05 games tend to get limited regional distribution as they are aired against the featured 4:25 contest, so generally, the top crew gets assigned to an early game on a singleheader weekend.

But how unusual is this combination? Only twice since the 1998 season has the DH network assigned its top team to an early game while the singleheader network put its #1 crew on a late game that same day.

  • 2004 week 14 - Fox had the doubleheader but sent Buck and Aikman to call Seahawks-Vikings while CBS placed Nantz and Simms on a late singleheader game (Jets-Steelers)
  • 2002 week 11 - On this CBS doubleheader day, the #1 team of Greg Gumbel and Simms handled Bills-Chiefs early while Fox assigned its top team of Buck, Aikman, and Cris Collinsworth to call 49ers-Chargers in the late singleheader window.

For completeness, I found four other cases of this odd combination between 1994 and 1998.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The 1974 ABC experiment with active coaches as guest CFB analysts

In 1974, ABC made several key changes to its NCAA football coverage. The network elevated Keith Jackson to #1 play-by-play status and moved previous top announcer Chris Schenkel to the studio. This was also the season that ABC hired the college-aged Jim Lampley and Don Tollefson to serve as sideline reporters.

However, ABC did not regularly pair Jackson with lead analyst Bud Wilkinson. Instead, the network experimented by using a collection of active coaches whose teams were on an off-week to join Jackson in the booth and serve as guest commentators. And rather than adding a coach to the booth as a second analyst to supplement Wilkinson, ABC used the coaches as the only analyst on these games.

ABC did use Wilkinson with Jackson on some games that year. Bud worked other regional telecasts alongside Bill Flemming.

The list of guest analysts used by ABC in 1974 included the following then-active head coaches:
  • Darrell Royal (Texas)
  • Ara Parseghian (Notre Dame)
  • Steve Sloan (Vanderbilt)
  • Pepper Rodgers (Georgia Tech)
  • Joe Paterno (Penn St)
  • Paul "Bear" Bryant (Alabama)
  • Woody Hayes (Ohio St)
along with Nebraska athletic director Bob Devaney who had recently retired from coaching the Cornhuskers. ABC used Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer as the analyst for the Sugar Bowl that season (as his Sooners were on probation and banned from bowl games).

ABC ditched the idea after one season. But early in the 1975 season, ABC did use Devaney as a guest analyst on one game and did the same with Parseghian (who retired from coaching after 1974) on another.

A few of the coaches on this list became TV analysts after retiring. Parseghian was hired full-time by ABC in 1976 and moved to CBS in 1982. He served as the lead analyst for a time on each network. Royal and Rodgers both worked some regional games for ABC in the early 1980s.

Here is the game that Joe Paterno called. With his thick Brooklyn accent and subdued voice level, Paterno was difficult to understand at times.

And here is a clip from the game with Woody Hayes in the booth. Hayes actually had some on-air experience as he conducted a local TV show which ran weekly during the football season for 28 years on Columbus station WBNS. But he didn't seem to add much insight as an analyst on this telecast.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

1972 Howard Cosell interview with USA Olympic track coach Stan Wright

One of the most riveting TV moments from the 1972 Summer Olympics was an interview conducted by Howard Cosell with USA track coach Stan Wright which ABC televised on 8/31/72. Cosell grilled Wright over the time schedule foulup resulting in USA sprinters Rey Robinson and Eddie Hart being disqualified for missing their 100m qualifying heats.

In 2012, ESPN Classic aired a series of specials looking back on the Munich Games. Here is the video of the USA track controversy episode and a summary of that show that I wrote at the time.

A quick guide to the Cosell portions of the clip:
  • 3:05 - interview with Robinson
  • 5:22 - interview with Hart
  • 10:41 - interview with Wright
  • 15:35 - Cosell follow-up commentary
  • 39:03 - interview with 400m medalists Wayne Matthews and Vince Collett regarding their controversial national anthem ceremony
The 9/11/72 edition of Sports Illustrated blasted Cosell for the Wright interview and his subsequent commentary. Wright threatened to sue the ABC sportscaster, but instead spoke out against Cosell during a news conference the following year.

While Wright is best remembered for this incident, he was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1993. 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Shot chart from CBS Sunday PGA Championship telecast - 2016

I tracked the strokes televised by CBS during the final round of the PGA Championship. On Sunday, CBS showed 367 strokes from round 4. I included a few shots CBS aired from earlier 4th round coverage, but did not count highlight strokes from the 3rd round. CBS started at 2pm ET and the final putt dropped at 7:23 for an average of 1.14 strokes per minute - a increase over the rate of 1.05 from the 2015 PGA.

CBS showed all 67 strokes by winner Jimmy Walker and bypassed only six from runner-up Jason Day. Henrik Stenson was shown 56 times as CBS devoted over half of its televised strokes to those three. With no re-pairing of the field after the 3rd round, the contenders were spread out. This enabled CBS to bounce around the course as several players were in contention with the leaders on the front 9. CBS showed 25 golfers playing strokes with 10 players getting coverage of at least 12 shots. The highest finisher not shown by CBS was Patrick Reed (T13).

For comparison, here are the shot charts from the other 2016 majors:
Note: The Masters post contains links to the shot charts from the 2014 and 2015 majors.

Here is the complete shot chart:

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Jimmy Walker67 (of 67)11
Jason Day61 (of 67)22
Henrik Stenson56T73
Branden Grace39T415
Brooks Koepka30T44
Jordan Spieth18T137
Hideki Matsuyama17T45
William McGirt15T108
Robert Streb13T71
Daniel Summerhays1238
Adam Scott7T1810
Emiliano Grillo5T132
Padraig Harrington4T1333
Martin Kaymer3T73
Tyrrell Hatton3T1019
Kevin Kisner3T1829
Rich Beem3T7331
Paul Casey2T1016
Russell Henley2T2224
Francesco Molinari2T2231
Webb Simpson1T1312
Russell Knox1T2225
Yuta Ikeda1T337
Phil Mickelson1T3335
Andrew Johnston1T6017
Patrick Reed0T134

Note: The Pairing column reflects the tee time groupings in reverse order, so 1 =  final pairing, 2 = next-to-last, etc.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Shot chart from NBC Sunday Open Championship telecast - 2016

I tracked the strokes televised by NBC during the Sunday round of the Open Championship. I started tracking at 9am ET to provide a decent comparison to the other majors I have tracked. The final putt was at 1:30pm so the tracking covered 4.5 hours.

NBC aired all but one stroke from winner Henrik Stenson (skipping a tap-in on 12th) and all but two from runner-up Phil Mickelson (bypassing tap-ins on #2 and #5). With those two separating themselves from the field, NBC focused heavily on that pairing. In fact, NBC devoted a whopping 56% of all televised strokes during this period to the Stenson/Mickelson duo (who didn't even tee off until 35 minutes into the tracking).

NBC televised only 224 shots during this period which worked out to 0.83 strokes per minute. This was a sizable decrease from the ESPN shot rate of 1.23 that I measured from the 2015 Open Championship and the lowest rate for any major that I have tracked. The lack of competition from the rest of the field clearly contributed to the low rate. NBC chose to aggressively spotlight the drama and excellence of the lead group (and take numerous commercial breaks) rather than fill time with relatively meaningless golf action from the rest of the pack.

For comparison, refer to the shot tracking data I compiled for CBS from the 2016 Masters and Fox from the 2016 US Open, In that Masters post, you can find links to the shot charts I did for the 2014 and 2015 majors.

NBC showed a total of 24 golfers during the tracking period. The highest finisher not shown during this span was Soren Kjeldsen who tied for 9th.

Here is the complete shot chart:

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Phil Mickelson63 (of 65)21
Henrik Stenson62 (of 63)11
Rory McIlroy14T511
Andrew Johnston1382
JB Holmes1033
Bill Haas8T92
Sergio Garcia7T55
Dustin Johnson5T98
Steve Stricker443
Tyrrell Hatton4T57
Jason Day4T2215
Lee Westwood4T2222
Darren Clarke4T3020
Zach Johnson3T129
Emiliano Grillo3T1211
Haydn Porteous3T3013
Tony Finau2T184
Kevin Na2T228
Thomas Pieters2T3014
Jordan Spieth2T3026
Jim Furyk2T5926
Thongchai Jaidee1T2214
Rafa Cabrera Bella1T3916
Rickie Fowler1T4624
Soren Kjeldsen0T94

Note: The Pairing column reflects the tee time groupings in reverse order, so 1 =  final pairing, 2 = next-to-last, etc.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Shot chart from Fox Sunday US Open telecast - 2016

I tracked the shots televised by Fox during the 4th round of the US Open. With the final pairing getting underway at 3:30 pm ET, I began the monitoring at 3:00 to provide a fair comparison to the other tournaments where I have performed similar Sunday tracking.

Fox showed 354 unique strokes during the tracking period. The final putt dropped at 8:16 so this worked out to 1.12 strokes per minute. This shot rate significantly trailed the 1.33 of the 2016 Masters on CBS. This was also a decrease from the 1.18 shown by Fox during its 2015 coverage of the US Open. Fox spent quite a bit of time discussing the controversy over the potential one-stroke penalty which was eventually applied to Johnson's score after the round, so that might explain part of the dropoff. (Note: From the 2016 Masters post, you can find links to the shot charts I compiled from the 2014 and 2015 majors).

Fox showed all but four of the strokes played by winner Dustin Johnson and all but four from third-round leader Shane Lowry. Fox showed just 20 golfers playing strokes. Nine players were covered for at least 15 shots. The highest finisher not shown during the tracking period was David Lingmerth who finished 12th.

Also notable: Fox went commercial-free for 52 minutes starting at 7:25.

Here is the complete shot chart:

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Shane Lowry72 (of 76)T21
Dustin Johnson64 (of 68*)12
Scott Piercy40T24
Jason Day29T85
Sergio Garcia25T54
Andrew Landry24T151
Branden Grace23T53
Lee Westwood21T322
Jim Furyk15T213
Daniel Summerhays8T83
Bryson DeChambeau8T155
Brooks Koepka6T1319
Jason Dufner5T87
Jordan Spieth5T3715
Kevin Na377
Zach Johnson2T86
Kevin Streelman1T136
Yusaku Miyazato1T2312
Jon Rahm1T2323
Angel Cabrera1T3728
David Lingmerth01220

* Johnson took 68 "shots" plus one penalty stroke for a score of 69

Note: The Pairing column reflects the tee time groupings in reverse order, so 1 =  final pairing, 2 = next-to-last, etc.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Shot chart from CBS Sunday Masters telecast - 2016

I tracked the number of strokes CBS showed for each player during the Sunday round of the Masters. I counted a total of 411 strokes televised by CBS. The telecast began at 2pm ET with the final putt at 7:10 which worked out to an average of 1.33 strokes per minute - a sizable increase from both the 2015 Masters and 2014 Masters.

CBS covered 41 strokes from winner Danny Willett. CBS first showed Willett on hole 4 and started airing all of his strokes partway through hole 13. CBS televised every stroke from third round leader Jordan Spieth. Dustin Johnson was featured second most often for a total of 55 shots. Nine players got coverage of at least 24 strokes.

The highest finisher not shown by CBS was Daniel Berger who tied for 10th. CBS televised strokes from 28 different players.

This is the third year that I have compiled these televised shot charts. For comparison, the chart from the 2015 PGA Championship contains links to all the charts from the other 2014 and 2015 majors.

Here is the complete shot chart (including the highest finisher not shown on the telecast):

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Jordan Spieth71 (of 71*)T21
Dustin Johnson55T43
Danny Willett4114
Jason Day37T103
Smylie Kaufman37T291
Soren Kjeldson32T75
Lee Westwood26T24
Hideki Matsuyama25T72
Rory McIlroy24 (#)T106
Paul Casey11T410
Bernhard Langer11T242
Matthew Fitzpatrick6T713
Brandt Snedeker5T105
Davis Love III5T4217
Bryson DeChambeau4T2114
Henrik Stenson3T2423
Adam Scott3T4218
JB Holmes2T48
Louis Oosthuizen2T158
Bubba Watson2T3724
Romain Langasque2T3728
Justin Rose1T107
Kiradech Aphibarnrat1T1515
Billy Horschel1T179
Emiliano Grillo1T1710
Matt Kuchar1T249
Shane Lowry1T3919
Larry Mize1T5226
Daniel Berger0T106

* Spieth took 71 "shots" plus two penalty strokes for a score of 73
# includes a provisional stroke televised by CBS on hole 4

Note: The Pairing column reflects the tee time groupings in reverse order, so 1 =  final pairing, 2 = next-to-last, etc.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

ESPN misidentifies radio announcer during special on 1966 NCAA Championship

On Wednesday night, ESPN aired footage from the famous Texas Western victory over Kentucky in the 1966 NCAA championship game. The black & white video was shot from a wider view than a conventional telecast, but it still provided a fascinating glimpse into this historic game which grew in significance over the years.

The ESPN telecast supplemented the footage with audio from the Kentucky radio broadcast. Embarrassingly, ESPN misidentified the announcer as "Walt" Sullivan both in a promotional press release and in an on-screen graphic.

The voice was actually that of longtime Kentucky radio announcer Claude Sullivan. Many other sites propagated this ESPN error without performing any fact checking. (Note: Sometime after the airing, ESPN updated its press release to reflect the correct name of the announcer.)

Sullivan never mentioned race during his game commentary. On multiple occasions, Sullivan misidentified (or failed to identify) Texas Western players, especially early in the game. He seemed to focus more on what he viewed as the "poor" play of the Wildcats rather than praise the Miners. The game action was interesting as there were several travelling violations called (which Sullivan referred to as "walking"). It also provided a reminder that this era featured the one-shot non-shooting foul.

The footage appeared to be from a coaching film. It certainly wasn't from the original telecast as it contained no graphics. ESPN added some supplemental graphics to periodically display the score. Of course, ESPN had previously stated that it was re-airing the original telecast only to later back down from that claim.

ESPN2 will re-air this special on Sunday 4/3 at 11am ET. I assume the ESPN production crew will edit the above graphic by then.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The unique Al McGuire - from TV sidekick to star

The TV career of Al McGuire got its start on an event he wasn't even broadcasting. During the final seconds of the 1977 NCAA Tournament championship game with the outcome no longer in doubt, the NBC cameras zoomed in on the Marquette head coach. Earlier, McGuire had announced he would retire from coaching after the season at the relatively young age of 48. Curt Gowdy describes the scene as McGuire, on the verge of an unexpected championship, is overcome by emotion.

In rewatching this clip, I was struck by two things: 1) how McGuire (unintentionally) dominated the end of the telecast and 2) the prophetic quote from Gowdy at the 17:46 mark accompanied by a prophetic split screen image with a circle around McGuire (more on that later):
And McGuire who says: "I'm an entertainer. I entertain the fans."
and then this starting at 18:25 from Dick Enberg:
It's going to be sad for us to say goodbye to Al McGuire... Thank you Al McGuire... for the many great moments you've given us.
In fact, the college basketball TV entertainment factor was about to be ratcheted up several notches. The goodbye would be brief and even greater moments were on the horizon.

When McGuire retired from coaching, college basketball was a essentially a regional TV sport with just one national telecast per week. Just two seasons earlier, NBC had added the first regular season national network TV package with Enberg and Billy Packer as the announcers.

For the 1977-78 season, NBC hired McGuire who was a novice to television and added him to the mix. However, rather than place him courtside with Enberg and Packer, NBC initially stationed McGuire next to a monitor away from the court and only cut to him periodically during the telecasts (starting him off as the ultimate sidekick!). And NBC would place his image on a small corner of a split screen during his in-game commentary. After a few weeks of this awkward arrangement, Enberg and Packer convinced NBC to move McGuire alongside them to form a true 3-man broadcasting team.

Nothing about Al McGuire was scripted. Rather than attempt to fill the role of a traditional basketball analyst, McGuire simply "played" himself on the air. And, just as importantly, NBC allowed the true personality of McGuire to shine instead of trying to make him conform to a more conventional style.

He spoke sparingly at the beginning and his vocal delivery wasn't always smooth. But he had a feel for basketball and he eventually developed a feel for broadcasting. He described things in simple terms and offered opinions on in-game coaching decisions he would make. His unassuming style began to resonate with fans.

Al McGuire, Dick Enberg, Billy Packer
When he was a head coach, McGuire didn't watch film of opponents and left the strategic advance planning to his assistants. He made his imprint during games when he reacted to the situation at hand and made the appropriate adjustments. As a broadcaster, he took a similar approach. He didn't study rosters or statistics before telecasts. Instead he would ask a coach or scout to fill him in on a few key players for each team. When the TV lights came on, he would rely on his instincts for the game. He let the action on the court guide his commentary.

McGuire's distinctive voice, with his Brooklyn accent, just sounded so cool and drew me in. He brought a lot of colorful terminology to the airwaves: a tall player was an aircraft carrier, a down to the wire game was a white knuckler, a fancy move was French pastry, the lane area was the paint, and when a game was clinched, it was tap city. His style was enthusiastic and his commentary provided insight into his unusual coaching mindset.

As a coach, McGuire was unconventional to the core. In 1970, he turned down an NCAA Tournament bid and instead took Marquette to the NIT. (The NCAA no longer allows this.) He received two technical fouls in the 1974 NCAA championship game and blamed himself for costing his team a chance to win. He recruited many inner-city players from disadvantaged backgrounds. He implemented a "senior star" system in an attempt to get his veteran players noticed by professional scouts. He helped pioneer some stylish basketball uniform designs which were later banned by the NCAA.

Away from the arena, he loved to talk about motorcycles rather than basketball. Even though he earned decent money, he drew great pleasure from negotiating prices at flea markets. He was brilliant at reading people and relating to them. And he brought those traits into the broadcast booth.

A 3-man announcing team was very uncommon at the time, especially in the fast-paced game of basketball. But because co-analysts Packer and McGuire had such contrasting styles, it clicked. Enberg was emerging as one of the best play-by-play announcers ever. Packer followed the sport intensely (covering ACC games during the week) and focused on player matchups and strategy. McGuire added emotion and flair - the entertainment angle. The trio developed tremendous chemistry and meshed so well together. The resulting blend showcased the strengths of each.

Packer and McGuire frequently disagreed on the air which brought even more attention to the telecasts. The tandem would argue about everything from goaltending calls to coaching decisions to whether the undefeated Indiana State team deserved to be ranked #1 in 1979. Al would often playfully needle Packer about the ACC.

Because NBC generally covered just one national game a week, it was a huge event when the network came to town for a featured Sunday afternoon telecast. And McGuire, the former isolated sidekick, was quickly becoming the star of the show.

I recall tuning in and wondering what McGuire would say about Ralph Sampson or Bob Knight. Or what wacky predictions Al might make. When I played rec basketball in college, I remember McGuire's catch-phrases making their way into the action. When we watched the TV games, the banter between Packer and McGuire was a huge topic of conversation.

The Enberg/Packer/McGuire run lasted only four seasons. CBS acquired rights to the NCAA Tournament starting in 1982 and lured Packer away from NBC. McGuire continued to work regular season games with Enberg on NBC for several years before moving to CBS himself in 1992 and getting to call March Madness games again. After hiring Enberg in 2000, CBS did reunite the trio for one game that season. But McGuire only called two games after that and health issues forced him to miss the 2000 NCAA Tournament.

McGuire sadly passed away in 2001 from leukemia at age 72. But his legendary storytelling lives on, partly due to a one-man play written by Enberg titled McGuire and performed by actor Cotter Smith.

McGuire was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992 as his charismatic TV color commentary supplemented his relatively short coaching career.

The following clip of McGuire on himself (at the 12:00 mark) captures the essence of McGuire:

For college basketball, Enberg is arguably the best play-by-play announcer of all time and Packer is arguably the best analyst ever. And yet they peaked during those four special seasons alongside McGuire when they formed my favorite all-time broadcasting team. Here is the classic trio on the call of a game from 1980:

College basketball on TV exploded in popularity starting in the late 1970s and I believe that McGuire was a key factor in that growth. By the late 1980s, the sport had national telecasts on all three major networks plus ESPN. But Enberg, Packer, and McGuire paved the way.

Al McGuire was indeed an entertainer and unique as a TV analyst. I thank him for all the great moments he provided.

This post is part of a TV Sidekick Blogathon hosted by Classic Film and TV Cafe. Please check out the complete schedule of blog posts for this event.

Monday, February 15, 2016

History of TV scheduling for Super Bowl rematches

In the 2016 regular season, the Denver Broncos will host the Carolina Panthers in a rematch of Super Bowl 50. This marks only the 7th time that a regular season rematch of the prior Super Bowl has occurred. The NFL schedule will be revealed this spring and presumably this rematch will get prominent TV placement.

But this leads to a few questions... Where has the NFL placed the previous Super Bowl rematches on its TV schedule? How frequently have such rematches been aired in prime time?

Here is a summary of how the previous six Super Bowl rematches were scheduled for TV purposes (all times ET):


In the first year after merging with the AFL to form a 26-team league, the NFL kicked off its 1970 regular season with a rematch of Super Bowl 4 as the Chiefs and Vikings squared off in Minnesota. NBC assigned its top crew of Curt Gowdy and Kyle Rote to this matchup which was the featured 4 pm doubleheader game on opening Sunday.


The next such game was a Super Bowl 11 rematch between the Vikings and Raiders in Oakland during week 13 of 1977. This game was the primary 4 pm Sunday doubleheader game on CBS with Vin Scully and Alex Hawkins in the booth. This is the only time a Super Bowl rematch was not covered by the top broadcasting crew of the network airing the game. CBS sent its #1 team of Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier to call a Saturday game that weekend. At that time, CBS and NBC aired national Saturday afternoon games late in the season.


Two years later, the Cowboys faced the Steelers in Pittsburgh in a rematch of Super Bowl 13. The game was in week 9 on CBS which had the doubleheader that day. However, the NFL scheduled this game at 1 pm making it the only rematch played in the early Sunday afternoon window. CBS did assign Summerall and Brookshier to handle that telecast in a rare case where the #1 crew called an early game when its network had the doubleheader.


In week 2 of 1993, the Cowboys hosted the Bills in a rematch of Super Bowl 27. NBC featured it as the main 4 pm doubleheader game with its #1 team of Dick Enberg and Bob Trumpy on the call. So far, this is the only rematch on the same network that had televised the prior Super Bowl. Enberg and Trumpy were in the booth for that game as well.


The NFL scheduled the Super Bowl 31 rematch between the Packers and Patriots in Foxboro for Monday Night Football in week 9 of 1997. Al Michaels, Frank Gifford, and Dan Dierdorf had the announcing duties that night on ABC at 9 pm. In an odd twist, a stadium conflict with the Florida Marlins (who hosted World Series game 7 on Sunday) caused the NFL to move the Bears-Dolphins game from Sunday afternoon to Monday night. That game started also started at 9 pm and ABC televised it to Chicago and Miami. So while Packers-Patriots is the only Super Bowl rematch thus far to be played in prime time, it wasn't televised to the entire country.


The most recent game on this list took place in week 3 of 2014 when the Broncos traveled to Seattle to face the Seahawks in a rematch of Super Bowl 48 - some 17 years after the last rematch. CBS assigned its #1 crew of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms to this contest and spotlighted it as the main 4:25 pm doubleheader game.

Summary notes

  • Of the six Super Bowl rematches so far, four were scheduled as the primary late Sunday afternoon doubleheader game. Only one has been scheduled for prime time (Monday night) while the other game was the main early Sunday game on the doubleheader network.
  • Because of the circumstances surrounding the 1997 Monday night game, none of the rematches has been a full national telecast. 
  • From a calendar standpoint, three games took place in September, two were scheduled in late October, and one was played in December.
  • Only one rematch was not called by a network's #1 announcer crew.
  • No TV announcer has called more than one Super Bowl rematch - a streak that will continue if Fox gets the 2016 matchup). 
  • Super Bowl rematches have been rarer than expected. Using a basic probability model and assuming random chance, I calculated that the expected number of such rematches since the 1970 merger would be 12, but the 2016 game will only be the 7th. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

History of NBA prime time national telecasts on OTA networks

ABC is launching a Saturday night NBA series when it televises Bulls @ Cavaliers at 8:30 pm ET on 1/23. How rare of an occurrence is such a prime time OTA network telecast? I decided to research that question.

For the purposes of this post, I will define a prime time telecast as one with a listed start time between 7 and 9:30 pm ET (putting most of the game inside the standard prime time window of 8-11pm ET). This study focuses on games televised by national OTA TV networks.

Historically, the overwhelming majority of NBA games on national broadcast TV have been on weekend afternoons. While prime time telecasts have been common for the Finals, they have been anything but during the regular season. In researching NBA national TV listings on the forums at 506sports, I found only 20 NBA regular season OTA prime time telecasts and 9 of those were on Christmas night (including one doubleheader).

The first regular season NBA game televised nationally in prime time was a Lakers-Bucks matchup on ABC in 1970 featuring Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. That telecast took place one week after the conclusion of the inaugural season of Monday Night Football. The most recent regular season prime time NBA telecast was on Christmas night in 2003 on ABC. The last such non-Christmas telecast came in December 2000 on NBC.

<UPDATE 1/22/2016 - Added a few missing telecasts from 1999 and 2000.>

Here is the complete list of regular season prime time national telecasts (all times ET):

Mon 12/21/70 - Lakers @ Bucks, 9 pm, ABC
Sat 11/26/88 - Lakers @ Pistons, 8:30 pm, CBS
Wed 12/25/91 - Celtics @ Bulls, 9 pm, NBC
Fri 12/25/92 - Knicks @ Bulls, 9 pm, NBC
Sat 12/25/93 - Magic @ Bulls, 8:30 pm, NBC
Wed 12/25/96 - Pistons @ Bulls, 8:30 pm, NBC
Sat 4/19/97 - Knicks @ Bulls, 8:30 pm, NBC
Sat 4/18/98 - Knicks @ Bulls, 8:30 pm, NBC
Sat 4/17/99 - Lakers @ Jazz, 8:30 pm, NBC
Sat 4/24/99 - Lakers @ Spurs, 8:30 pm, NBC
Sat 12/25/99 - Knicks @ Pacers, 7 pm, NBC
Sat 12/25/99 - Spurs @ Lakers, 9:30 pm, NBC
Sat 1/22/00 - two regional games, 8:30pm, NBC
Sat 4/8/00 - Spurs @ Lakers, 8:30pm, NBC
Sat 4/15/00 - two regional games, 8:30 pm, NBC
Tue 12/25/01 - 76ers @ Lakers, 8:30 pm, NBC
Sat 12/30/00 - four regional games, 7:30 pm, NBC
Tue 12/25/01 - 76ers @ Lakers, 8:30 pm, NBC
Wed 12/25/02 - Kings @ Lakers, 8:30 pm, ABC
Thu 12/25/03 - Rockets @ Lakers, 8:30 pm, ABC

Some other facts about NBA prime time TV games on national OTA networks:

  • The first prime time network telecast was the 1968 NBA All-Star Game on ABC. 
  • The first network TV prime time NBA playoff game was a 1969 Knicks-Celtics matchup in the Eastern Conference finals.
  • Game 7 of the 1970 Finals marks the first championship series prime time telecast. Prior to that, ABC had aired a few Finals games at 10 pm.
  • From the 1971 playoffs on ABC through the 1976 playoffs on CBS, multiple games prior to the Finals aired in prime time each season.
  • From 1976-77 through 1985-86, the only prime time telecasts on CBS took place in the Finals. During these seasons, CBS used the late night 11:30 pm ET slot with some frequency. For the entire 1979-80 and 1980-81 seasons, CBS did not air a single game in prime time. This was the era of tape delayed and late night Finals games
  • In 1987, CBS aired a pre-Finals playoff game in prime time for the first time since 1976. At least one pre-Finals playoff game has been in prime time on an OTA network every season since then.
  • The All-Star Game received prime time OTA treatment in 1968, 1969, 1970, and 1973-1976. For the other two years in this range, the game started at 10 pm ET.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Some thoughts on the NFLN "re-broadcast" of Super Bowl 1

I found the NFL Network special on Super Bowl 1 to be an enormous letdown. A few quick observations:

NFLN hyped this show as a "re-broadcast" which was a grossly misleading characterization. The term "re-broadcast" means to repeat the broadcast of a program. But this was nothing of the sort. The presentation had only a few clips from the original telecast and was primarily footage from NFL Films. While the show did contain original radio clips, a large percentage of that audio was drowned out by the cast on the NFLN set.

<UPDATE 1/18/2016 - NFL Network now plans to re-air the Super Bowl 1 assembled footage, but this time with the original uninterrupted radio audio on Friday 1/22 at 8pm ET.>

The most positive aspect of the show was the inclusion of the original CBS footage of Ray Scott doing some pregame player introductions and Pat Summerall conducting a postgame interview. But the NFLN program didn't mention that these were original CBS TV clips, never identified Scott, and had the studio crew talking over parts of the Scott footage.

The seemingly constant banter from the studio panel ran concurrent with a dampened version of the radio audio in the background. This setup was extremely distracting and seemed disrespectful to radio play-by-play announcer Jim Simpson. With a 3-hour show, NFLN could have easily utilized its commentators between segments of game footage.

I cannot imagine that either Ed Sabol or Steve Sabol would have been pleased with this NFLN presentation.

During the show, host Chris Rose discussed the fact that neither CBS nor NBC saved a copy of its original telecast. But that segment completely ignored the fact that a tape containing most of the CBS telecast was discovered in 2005 and restored by the Paley Center. That tape even contains original commercials (which one of the panelists expressed an interest in seeing).

Not surprisingly, the reaction from viewers was overwhelmingly negative. I don't recall seeing a single positive tweet about this show either during or after it aired. I honestly don't know what NFLN was thinking with this production or how anyone in charge at the network could have expected praise for it.

Prior to the airing, an NFLN producer amazingly uttered the following quote in a New York Times preview story:
We’ll make sure we don’t ruin anything with the chatter,” Larone said. “If we have the right people together, it will be like a viewing party.”
The first half of that quote is a complete insult to everyone who viewed this disappointing special. NFL Network spoiled the party.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

NFLN to "re-broadcast" Super Bowl 1 on Jan 15

<UPDATED 1/10/2016 - A story in the NY Times confirms that this "re-broadcast" will consist of NFL Films footage and the original radio call rather than the discovered tape of the original CBS telecast.>

According to online listings, NFL Network plans to "re-broadcast" the original Super Bowl on Friday 1/15 at 8pm ET. While I have seen no press release providing any details, here is the entry on the NFLN online schedule for this 2-hour program:

"Super Bowl I Re-Broadcast Event" - NFL Films presents the first ever re-broadcast of Super Bowl I on the 50th Anniversary of the game. Featuring special guests and never before seen footage, see the game that started it all when the Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL squared off against the Green Bay Packers of the NFL.

while the DirecTV program guide describes it as follows:

Super Bowl I - The Lost Game

The re-broadcast of the game that started it all on the 50th Anniversary of the game featuring Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL against the Green Bay Packers of the NFL.

Both listings incorrectly call this the "50th anniversary". 2016 actually marks the 49th anniversary of the January 15, 1967 game.

The use of the terms "re-broadcast" and "Lost Game" along with the claim of "never before seen footage" suggest that this airing might include (at least in part) the discovered tape of the original CBS telecast which was restored by the Paley Center, but which has never been available to the public. If that is indeed the case, this should be an awesome presentation, but I have seen nothing to confirm this. On the other hand, the reference to NFL Films might mean that this production will be similar to what ESPN did for the 1958 NFL Championship game back in 2008 where they intermixed film footage with modern interviews and essentially created a simulated re-broadcast.

Either way, I am surprised to see this program show up on the various guides without any press release from NFL Network. Another oddity is that as of last night, these schedules were listing this program as lasting 3 hours instead of 2.