Leave it to Betty White to keep conquering new fields of play.
The 97-year-old actress, who has over the decades held forth on everything from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” to a popular Snickers commercial, has found her next role.
She is one of the main attractions in NBC’s next push to bring broader audiences to its soon-to-launch season of “Sunday Night Football.” A promo featuring White has the actress talking about a looming September 5 match-up (a Thursday) between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, telling viewers: “There’s only one thing more badass than this year’s kickoff – and you’re looking at her.” The promo is slated to air tonight during a live telecast of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”
White may not resonate with football die-hards in a way that Aaron Rodgers or Pat Mahomes might, but that isn’t her mandate from NBC. “Sunday Night Football” is typically TV’s highest-rated regularly scheduled program and the network is banking that White can help add to its regular crowd – no mean feat. “We get more casual interest, more people who might not be that hard-core fan,” says Jenny Storms, chief marketing officer of NBC Sports Group, in an interview.
NBC has good reason to try to goose interest in its football games. “Sunday Night Football” has for eight seasons been the linchpin of its primetime lineup. It snared an average of 19.6 million people in the 2018-2019 TV season, up 7% from the prior cycle. The average cost of a 30-second spot in last season’s series of games came to $670,846, according to media buyers, and prices can range from the high $500,000s to more than $1 million.
White isn’t the only familiar face scheduled to talk up NBC football in coming days. Former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre and a few members of the “Saturday Night Live” troupe of Bears fans will also appear in various promos set to run on TV and in digital and social media in days ahead, says Storms. Sundry NBC personalities ranging from “Today’s’ Dylan Dreyer and “American Ninja Warrior’s” Matt Iseman will be seen talking about favorite football memories. And NBC Sports’ Chris Simms will offer “football analysis” of NBC shows like “Brooklyn 99,” “The Good Place,” and “Keeping up with the Kardashians.”
“When you are seeing things like ‘Da Bears’ and Betty White, that’s elevating the show into iconic pop-culture status,” says Storms, which can make it alluring for less zealous sports fans.