NBCU Taps ‘Today,’ ‘Tonight’ and More to Launch Football Season

Sunday Night Football” has been the most-watched show in primetime for many years. To keep it that way, the broadcaster behind the program, NBCUniversal, has enlisted many of its best-known properties to give a nod to the company’s pigskin programs.

NBCUniversal programs including “Today,” “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” “Access Hollywood,” “American’s Got Talent,” “America’s Ninja Warrior” and more are taking part in promotional efforts to drive awareness of “Sunday Night Football” and “Thursday Night Football” to viewers.

“It’s important for us to start strong,” said Jenny Storms, chief marketing officer for NBC Sports Group, in an interview. “This is a Super Bowl year for us. A lot of what we are doing is prepping and seeding that sort of ‘Road to the Super Bowl’ message.” NBC is slated to broadcast Super Bowl LII on February 4, 2018, from U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In recent weeks, the company has been haggling with advertisers for packages of commercial inventory in which the price of a 30 second ad in the game is valued at more than $5 million.

NBC also launches its promotional salvo after NFL TV broadcasts lost a chunk of their viewership last season – approximately 8% overall, according to Nielsen. Executives from various networks place the blame on a confluence of surprising factors – everything from the loss of some of the game’s biggest stars in the early weeks of the season to competition provided by last year’s heated presidential election. But Storms said last season’s “extraordinary circumstances” didn’t factor into its marketing efforts. Instead, she added, the NBC Sports unit simply wanted to get its gridiron message out to a broader audience.

One observer sees conditions improving. In a Wednesday research note, independent media-industry analyst Michael Nathanson said he expected ratings to improve for several of the NFL’s primetime outlets.  “While it is early, NBC’s ‘Sunday Night Football’, ESPN’s ‘Monday Night Football’ and NBC’s ‘Thursday Night Football’ have better power-ranked match-ups vs. last season,” he said.

As part of the plan, “Today,” “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers” are all dropping hints about the season’s open, whether they come in the form of an Al Roker football weather forecast or late-night promos. Mike Tircio, recently hired by NBC Sports as an announcer, appeared with hosts on Monday night’s “American Ninja Warrior.” NBC Sports created a 45-second “crying PSA” with “This Is Us” star Milo Ventimiglia encouraging fans to grab tissues, and get ready to ‘ball’ their eyes out starting this Thursday with NBC’s “NFL Kickoff.”  Meanwhile, “Access Hollywood gave viewers a look at the new 2017 “Sunday Night Football” show open and featured an interview with Carrie Underwood.

Bravo, E!, CNBC, MSNBC, NBCSN, and the company’s Universal Parks & Resorts unit were among the other properties taking part in the marketing effort.

NBC Sports kicks off its coverage of the 2017-18 NFL season Thursday, Sept. 7, when the New England Patriots take on the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium. Coverage begins with a special edition of “Football Night In America” at 7:30 p.m. ET. NBC Sports opens its 12th season of “Sunday Night Football” when the Dallas Cowboys host the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Coverage starts with “Football Night In America” at 7 p.m. ET on NBC.

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