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Deadspin: How Fred Gaudelli Turned NBC's SNF Into the Number 1 Show on TV

The NFL is king. Feel free to pay your respects.

Lanky Livingston

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Pretty interesting stuff here! I had no idea a football show was never the number one program, for instance.
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With 7:30 left in the second quarter of an otherwise forgettable October game between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, Cris Collinsworth said the name that had been on Fred Gaudelli's mind for at least five days.
The Steelers were trailing 14-3 at that point, and the game was threatening to go slack. At least that's how it felt to Gaudelli, the producer of NBC's Sunday Night Football and one of the most highly regarded talents in sports television. The Bengals had just scored a touchdown after forcing and recovering a Ben Roethlisberger fumble. In response, Pittsburgh, one of the worst running teams in the league, had decided to keep it on the ground. Jonathan Dwyer for 11 yards. Jonathan Dwyer for five yards.

And that's when Collinsworth noticed something happening along the Steelers' offensive line that casual viewers probably missed.

"Willie Colon inside," the color analyst said, "doing a nice job." Gaudelli, working the dials in a truck parked outside Paul Brown Stadium, had been waiting for this.

Last year, Sunday Night Football became the No. 1 show in America, the first time a sports program had reached the top ratings spot. Even in its heyday, Monday Night Football didn't touch the year-end No. 1 slot. This year, Sunday Night Football is still No. 1, with an average of 21 million people watching per week.

How'd NBC do it? I met with Gaudelli a few weeks ago at the network's home in Rockefeller Center to ask him that very question. Gaudelli is 52 and looks and sounds like a guy who has spent the better part of 30 years inside the "truck"—the production space outside a stadium where all these live games get packaged and prettied up. He has the solid build of a suburban dad, and he is a quick, lively talker with more than a little of his native Westchester in his accent.

There are a few obvious explanations for NBC's success. Sunday Night Football benefits from a deliriously good schedule (far stronger than ESPN's Monday night slate, which delivers 13 million viewers a week, eight million fewer than the NBC games). The NBC package—which features 17 Sunday-night games, the season opener, a Thanksgiving game, a wild-card playoff, and a Super Bowl once every three years—is loaded with ratings catnip: The Giants, the Patriots, the Steelers, the Packers, the 49ers and the Cowboys each appear three times this season. "The marquee has to have stars," said Gaudelli. "The schedule is a huge part of our success. You'd be foolish to think otherwise."

There's also the booth team of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, the best in the business, according to Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch, and while your mileage may vary on Bob Costas, Tony Dungy, and the rest of the on-air talent, there is no denying the overall crispness of the production, the way everything looks and sounds sharper, the way it seems to see more than the other broadcasts. NBC has taken a time slot and turned it into something else—a big, noisy event, draped in bunting and heralded by trumpets, that takes great pains to illuminate all the small, complicated things that happen on the football field. How the network did that has a lot to do with what happened with 7:30 remaining in the first half on that night in October.

Click link for the rest.
 

tshile

Guest
that was interesting.

I found one part very telling, and I suppose it's something I should have noticed before... I don't know about everyone else, but I don't watch the ball. Once I've figured out what the play is (run/pass/etc) I watch the WR's, the secondary, and the line... It's harder to do when you're watching the game on TV because you can only see what they show you, but you don't have that restriction at the games.

I have a buddy that takes our 3rd seat every year and goes to all the games with my wife and I. He comes over on away games and watches all the games with us too. Him and my wife watch the ball - and in the middle of a play, as young is running up the field to throw a block, i'll go 'GET HIM YOUNG, GET HIM YOUNG, <young pancakes some random linebacker>, YEAH YOUNG YEAH!!!' and after the play i'll ask them if they saw it... and they'll say no, because they were too busy watching morris who had the ball...

My buddy even says, on a regular basis, 'I need to stop watching the ball...' you definitely miss a lot of what is going on. When we watch it on tv I'll yell about some block that was on the screen for 1/2 a second in the corner, it opened to hole for the big gain but no one else in the room saw it. I have to rewind and go back for everyone else.

"The problem with football is people watch the ball," Gaudelli told me. "But there are so many things happening off the ball that determines where the ball goes-or doesn't go-and that's the biggest part of football. We really try to show off the ball so you can understand why certain things are happening."
The ball is the most boring part to watch at the start of the play. The QB is going to hand off, or drop back... once you know which it is, watching the secondary and WR's in a pass play, or the line and linebackers/fullbacks in a run play, is much much more fun. You can tell what is going to happen before the ball is thrown, or before the RB decides which lane to take.

Admittedly it's much harder this year with Griffin... he's so good at play fakes that if you don't watch him you wind up watching the secondary and open WR's while everyone else is watching him haul ass down the sideline.
 

Elephant

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Chris Collinsworth? The best in the business? He makes me want to puke every time I have to listen to him!
 

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I don't get the issues fans seem to have with Collinsworth. I think he is doing a great job. Much better than the top color guys for CBS, FOX or ESPN (Simms, Aikman and Gruden, respectively).
 

Lanky Livingston

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I used to HATE Collinsworth; but he's gotten better. Either that, or he's grown on me, either one. His nasally voice is still very annoying, but his commentary is definitely some of the best. Gumble was the WORST, and I think some of his awfulness rubbed off on Chris.
 

tshile

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I'm with el... we sit around and make fun of him for saying stupid crap on sunday nights. it's become a regular event for us...

but it seems most people think he's among the best. i also think aikman is pretty good. it seems i'm in the minority :\
 

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Nope, not at all tshile. I happen to like Troy as a color guy. I think he does a good job and does it without a Cowboys bias. He is one of my favorites really.

I just don't think he is doing as good a job as Collinsworth.
 

Lanky Livingston

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Aikman is the worst! Unbiased? Maybe, except when he's calling skins games.
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