NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” wouldn’t seem to have much to do with Disney Plus’ “The Mandalorian,” but this year, the two very different programs have common ground.
NBC Sports shot a new opening for its football broadcast — the nation’s most-watched regular TV series — that puts singer Carrie Underwood at a virtual football tailgate while performing “Waiting All Day For Sunday Night.” The shoot was conducted at an Industrial Light & Magic sound stage using virtual technology recently utilized in “The Mandalorian.” The singer has opened the program with various segments since 2013. NBC will augment her performance with user-generated videos from fans at their own tailgates, as well as from NFL stars — all of which will be updated each week to reflect current events.
“I just love the fact that we get to reinvent it every year,’ says Underwood in a statement. “The team behind these shoots is incredible and it’s always a really fun day, especially this year getting to work with such amazing state-of-the-art technology.” The new segment will be seen on Sunday, September 12, when NBC Sports launches the series with a game that features the Chicago Bears at the Los Angeles Rams (NBC Sports will also cover a September 9 game that helps to kick off the NFL season).
The opening segment serves as a sort of alert to viewers, notes Tripp Dixon, the NBC Sports creative director who led the process. “It allows the viewer to leave their day behind a little bit and to get primed. The opening segment sets the tone for the broadcast,” he says. “This year, we are hoping to reflect some of the optimism and excitement of people getting back together. It’s a little bit aspirational.”
Producers hope the shoot’s location will add a new layer of authenticity to the segment, says Dixon. In the past, Underwood wouldn’t be able to see any sort of virtual elements, which would have to be added later in the production process. By shooting at the Industrial Light & Magic sound stage, he said, “Carrie could really see the world she was working in, rather than trying to imagine what we could do after shooting her on a green screen.”
There is typically some pressure to devise a winning opening segment, Dixon notes. “Sunday Night Football” last year was the nation’s most-watched primetime show both in terms of overall audience as well as among viewers between 18 and 49, the demographic most coveted by advertisers in entertainment programming.