Thursday, September 7, 2017

Anthem coverage, tapping technology on NFL TV

The NFL season kicks off Thursday with a Chiefs-Patriots matchup, and along with that opener featuring the defending champions it’s already been an eventful first week.

Before the next game kicks off, Hurricane Irma has forced the Bucaneers-Dolphins game off the schedule. It will be played later this season. Even without Mother Nature, it’ll be an interesting season. Here are just a few of the TV-related storylines:

Anthem awareness -- Player protests during the national anthem were blamed for some of the NFL’s ratings problems last season and gameday directors and producers, who decide which shots end up on viewers’ TVs, plan to acknowledge on-field demonstrations if they happen this year. Most believe it’s a matter of simply sharing what happens at an event -- perhaps to the chagrin of NFL officials and some fans.

Anthem, anniversary -- Week 1’s “Monday Night Football” matchup between the Saints and Vikings provides an interesting challenge. “It’ is the anniversary of 9/11. … 3,000 people died, 6,000 people were injured, hundreds of rescue workers were lost, and it was the greatest terrorist attack in our country,” said Jay Rothman, “Monday Night Football” producer during a recent conference call. “We feel good about showing (the anthem). Should there be protests, I think we do have a responsibility to show it.”

Less but lengthier commercials -- League and TV officials promise just four commercial breaks per quarter this season, and no more scoring play-commercial-kickoff-commercial pattern. Still, commercial breaks will be slightly longer.

Tons of technology -- Chips that conveyed speed and force data were embedded in players’ pads last season, with information sometimes integrated in broadcasts. Expect more of the same this season. Plus, the footballs will have chips in them, opening the door for even more data to be shared. Making that information relevant will be the biggest challenge.

Simms to studio -- CBS Sports has benched analyst Phil Simms (he’ll now work in studio) and replaced him with former Cowboys QB Tony Romo. As one of the AFC’s best teams, the Steelers should draw CBS’s Jim Nantz-Romo pairing somewhat consistently. While Nantz has his own problems, shaking things up and losing the unhelpful and wordy Simms should be good -- even if Romo has some rookie challenges.

Tuner tidbits
n  The Week 1 TV crew for the Browns-Steelers matchup at 1 p.m. Sunday is Greg Gumbel, Trent Green and reporter Jamie Erdahl.
n  An ESPN 30 for 30 series documentary about former heavyweight boxer Tommy Morrison will debut at 8 p.m. Sept. 27. It’ll be available Wednesday online (ESPN3) and with the ESPN and Watch ESPN apps.

n  Fox Sports took some heat for hiring Michael Vick as an analyst for its NFL programming. Still, they remain committed to using him in that role and will have a ratings excuse of the shows do not perform well. Honestly, it feels like he’s paid his debt to society, and it’s also hard to imagine how strong he’ll be on TV anyway.