LOS ANGELES — NBC’s banking on TV viewers being ready for a little football as the NFL settles into its proper Sunday night slot Sept. 8 when the Dallas Cowboys host the New York Giants. Fans might feel like they’re watching “The Matrix” when they see the new 360-degree view of any play, made possible by 24 cameras placed around each end zone in Cowboys Stadium.
This circling look at the game is limited and will only show in games played in Dallas. Because it takes a month to install all of the cameras, there isn’t time to move them to other arenas throughout the season. But there are two telecasts scheduled to originate from Dallas, including an Oct. 13 clash with the Washington Redskins.
The 360-view is the latest innovation. It joins the likes of slow-motion replays, cameras above the field and the yellow first down line. Fred Gaudelli, producer of “Sunday Night Football,” has a simple formula for which technology he adds to the broadcast.
“Does it make the game more enjoyable or does it make it more informative to watch? If it could fit either one of those criteria, or hopefully both of them, then I think it’s a good innovation,” Gaudelli says.
The 360-degree replay qualifies. Gaudelli is certain it will be popular because so many viewers play video games where they can change the angle of how a play is viewed. NBC hasn’t announced which game it will broadcast on Dec. 29 and it could be the Dallas home game with Philadelphia, should the contest have playoff implications. Add in the Nov. 10 away game for the Cowboys at New Orleans, and Dallas could be on almost one-fourth of the NBC Sunday lineup.
“I think going all the way back to the 20 years I did Monday—and you look at the ratings—anytime the Cowboys were on, the ratings were proportionally higher. I don’t know what it is,” says Al Michaels, the announcer for “Sunday Night Football.” “The Cowboys are an iconic American figure. Everything just sings about Dallas, about Texas being big, about the fact that they have such a great history.
“When they’re bad, a lot of people love that they’re bad. When they’re good a lot of people love that they are good. I’ve never seen in all the years I’ve covered all of the sports, anything like this in terms of the love/hate relationship. It makes for great television.”
Every 2012 playoff team will make an appearance on “Sunday Night Football.”
But just because the teams made the playoffs doesn’t mean they will be good this year. Mark Lazarus, chairman of the NBC Sports Group, knows there could be games that look good now but by mid-season could be a dud.
“That’s the nature of live sports. But it sure looks good on paper. You got to play the games,” Lazarus says.
Color commentator Cris Collinsworth sees the no-huddle offense as the biggest challenge in coverage this season. No-huddle offenses allow little time between plays for instant replay or even analysis of a previous play.
“I thank goodness every day that I played in the no-huddle, and it was Sam Wyche in Cincinnati who’s really one of the innovators of the no-huddle,” Collinsworth says. “So we have some different concepts of how we’re going to try and get that one done.”