Wednesday, January 13, 2021

'NFL Wild Card Game on Nickelodeon' Scores Impressive Ratings

The ratings are in! CBS Sports and Nickelodeon got kids and families into the game with a special slime-filled presentation of the National Football League’s Wild Card game between the New Orleans Saints and the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Jan. 10, at 4:30 p.m. (ET).

This is the first time that Nickelodeon has aired a football game, and it appears to have paid off big, with 2.061 (0.82) viewers tuning in to catch the “Nickified” game, making the NFL Wild Card Game on Nickelodeon one the most-viewed show on Nickelodeon in nearly four years!

The ratings reportedly exceed what execs expected.

Nickelodeon’s coverage begun with “The SpongeBob SportsPants Countdown Special,” a sports-themed compilation special at 4 p.m. (ET) hosted by the Denver Broncos’ Von Miller, which highlighted SpongeBob’s best sports moments and featuring pre-kickoff appearances by CBS Sports’ Jim Nantz and Tony Romo, as well as Eagle, Burleson and Green. “The SpongeBob SportsPants Countdown Special" was watched by 1.054 (0.40) viewers.

As the game didn't start until 4:40 p.m., the 10 minute pre-show, NFL Wild Card Kick-Off was reported separately, and was watched by 1.656 (0.67) viewers.

With very impressive ratings like these, viewers should expect to see more “Nickified”  sports on Nickelodeon in the future.

The NFL Wild Card Game on Nickelodeon featured one-of-a-kind kid-focused content and Nick-themed elements throughout, including a special halftime presentation, guest reporters and original on-field graphics, virtual filters and more, such as a Slime Zone equipped with Slime Cannons and a SpongeBob goalpost graphic.

Play-by-play announcer Noah Eagle was be joined by CBS Sports’ analyst Nate Burleson and Nick star Gabrielle Nevaeh Green (All That, Nickelodeon’s Unfiltered) in the booth to call the NFL Wild Card Game on Nickelodeon. Additionally, Nick star Lex Lumpkin (All That, Nickelodeon’s Unfiltered) ­­­will served as a reporter during the game.

The NFL Wild Card Game on Nickelodeon featured a special sneak peek of Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years, which follows 10-year-old SpongeBob SquarePants and his pals as they spend their summer building underwater campfires, catching wild jellyfish, and swimming in Lake Yuckymuck at the craziest camp in the kelp forest, Kamp Koral. The series will debut in 2021 on ViacomCBS’s rebranded streaming service Paramount+ and then on Nickelodeon later in the year.

Official ViacomCBS press release:




Sunday’s Game Delivers More Viewership than Any CBS Sunday Wild Card Game in Seven Years

THE NFL ON CBS’ Super Wild Card Weekend coverage on Sunday, Jan. 10 (4:40-7:55 PM, ET) on CBS and Nickelodeon scored a win with viewers of all ages as an average of 30.653 million viewers watched the Chicago Bears-New Orleans Saints NFC Wild Card game across both networks.

● The 30.653 million viewers on CBS and Nickelodeon make it the most-watched game of Super Wild Card Weekend.

● The combined viewership of the game peaked with 33.625 million viewers from 7:00-7:15 PM, ET.

● The 30.653 million viewers for Sunday’s game delivered more viewership than any CBS Sunday Wild Card game in seven years (30.882 million; San Diego-Cincinnati on Jan. 5, 2014; 1:06-4:20 PM, ET).

● Sunday’s telecast on Nickelodeon was the network’s most-watched program among total viewers in nearly four years, delivering 2.061 million viewers (P2+), up triple digits (+245%) versus the comparable window a year ago. 

● CBS All Access, which features live streaming coverage of all NFL ON CBS games, delivered strong viewership for both NFL ON CBS Super Wild Card Playoff games, with each game driving triple-digit growth in minutes watched and double-digit growth in streams compared to the NFL ON CBS Wild Card Playoff game in 2020. CBS All Access viewership also is included in Nielsen television ratings.

● The first-ever NFL telecast produced for kids and family generated more than 2 billion potential impressions on social media on Sunday. Nickelodeon was the No. 1 trending topic in the United States on Twitter during the afternoon, and #NickWildCard and Spongebob also trended in the Top 10 in the U.S. on Twitter.

* * * * *

Grown-Ups Loved the N.F.L. on Nickelodeon. But What About Children?

The cable channel aired a slime-filled version of the Bears-Saints wild-card game on Sunday, to the delight of many adults. But the goal was to convert children into football fans.

When Michael Thomas scored the first touchdown of Sunday’s wild-card game between the Chicago Bears and the New Orleans Saints, fans watching the game on CBS saw a close angle of him spiking the football. Fans watching on Nickelodeon, the children’s channel, saw something much more exciting: digital slime cannons spewing Nickelodeon’s signature green goo all over the end zone.

“There we go with the slime cannons. Ayyy, that is epic!” said Gabrielle Nevaeh Green, a 15-year-old Nickelodeon star and one of the game’s commentators.

It takes more work than you might expect to get the slime cannons right. “Getting the slime consistency in the cameras, to the Nick team, was a big thing,” said Shawn Robbins, the coordinating producer for the game. “I was on a lot of emails where it was ‘tweak this a little more.’”

Nickelodeon has long featured various sports and athletes on its television shows — and has also had a robust presence at the Super Bowl in recent years — but broadcasting a full N.F.L. playoff game is a first. It went all out on something it thought the children and teenagers, who are its core audience, would enjoy.

The score display and digital information superimposed on the field were done so in bright orange, lime green and purple. A giant image of the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants appeared on the nets behind the field-goal posts. Players were given googly eyes and hamburger hats. The Saints quarterbacks Drew Brees and Taysom Hill were compared to an even more famous duo: SpongeBob and his best friend, Patrick Star.

The differences were not limited to digital ephemera. Rules that adult football fans are assumed to understand were instead explained. An analyst, former N.F.L. wide receiver Nate Burleson, made frequent use of (sometimes tortured) analogies, at one point explaining that driving down the field was like studying, and that snaps in the red zone were the test. Noah Eagle, the play-by-play announcer, said excitedly at one point that New Orleans receiver Deonte Harris was “hotter than a Peruvian puff pepper.”

That is a reference to an episode of the Nickelodeon show “Drake and Josh” from 2005, when Eagle, who is 24, was just 8.

Green, who was attending her first N.F.L. game, wasn’t asked to understand football like Burleson, who played in the league for 11 years. But Robbins still wanted to get her a one-page cheat sheet for each team. Instead, a production assistant accidentally included her on the same distribution list for the game notes that went to Tony Romo.

“Her mom sent me an email that said, ‘Um, hey Shawn, what do we need to know from this 800-page packet?’” Robbins said.

Until recently, it was hard to imagine Nickelodeon showing an entire N.F.L. game. “We are not encouraging anybody to play or not play. We are there as fans, and we are celebrating as fans,” Cyma Zarghami, then Nickelodeon’s president, told The New York Times nearly three years ago in response to questions about associating a channel for children with a violent sport that can cause head trauma.

“The actual sport doesn’t ever actually get to Nickelodeon,” she said.

But the sports media landscape has changed since then. Nickelodeon has a new president, Brian Robbins. It is also part of a new corporate structure, which brings with it different imperatives. In 2019, Viacom — which owned cable channels like Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central — remerged with CBS, which pays the N.F.L. a billion dollars annually to show its games.

“This is sort of a dream come true for kids to get their version, sports their way, on the network they like to watch it on,” Brian Robbins said in an interview. “What changed is Viacom and CBS merged and made it a lot easier to make it happen.”

He was unequivocal about how he viewed the broadcast. “Nickelodeon’s broadcast of the wild card game was one of the greatest moments in the history of Nickelodeon,” he said.

All of the N.F.L.’s television contracts expire in 2021 and 2022. CBS may still be thought of as the Tiffany Network at league headquarters, but in some ways it has a weaker hand to play than its rivals. ViacomCBS is much smaller than competitors like the Walt Disney Company (ABC and ESPN), Comcast (NBC) and AT&T (DirecTV and Warner Media), and it has more than twice as much debt on its balance sheet as the similarly sized Fox Corp.

Putting Sunday’s game on Nickelodeon in addition to CBS was one way to potentially impress the league ahead of negotiations. Viewership for the N.F.L. would increase, along with the opportunity to capture a new generation of football fans.

“This came out of conversations with the CBS Sports team and the N.F.L. when there was going to be another wild card game,” Brian Robbins said. “They were negotiating to get the rights and somebody suggested a broadcast simulcast on Nick. I think the N.F.L. really was enthused by that opportunity, which kind of sealed the deal for us, for CBS to get the rights to broadcast an extra wild card game.”

ESPN, albeit without a children’s channel, has pursued a similar strategy, bringing its “MegaCast” production — typically used for the college football national championship game — to its Sunday wild-card game. The Baltimore Ravens’ victory over the Tennessee Titans was shown on six different ESPN channels: ABC and ESPN (traditional), Freeform (fun), ESPN2 (coaches’ room), ESPN+ (analytics-focused) and a Spanish-language broadcast on ESPN Deportes.

Television networks have long used big football games to advertise their other offerings, and Nickelodeon’s wild-card game was no different. There were commercials for other Nickelodeon shows and a section in players’ bios that included their favorite Nickelodeon show. Members of the reboot of the teen sketch show “All That” did impressions throughout the game; in an awkward moment, an impression of the rapper Cardi B segued into a referee calling a personal conduct foul and a microphone in the nearly empty stadium picking up a player yelling an expletive.

Shawn Robbins, who normally works on sports studio shows for CBS, was assigned the playoff game back in August. Most of the cameras and video feeds were borrowed from the CBS broadcast, but a test game in December showed that the Nickelodeon broadcast needed to control at least a few of its own cameras. On a typical broadcast, the cameraman will zoom in on whoever scores the touchdown. But Nickelodeon needed touchdown shots to stay wide, in order to fully showcase the slime cannons.

Oh, and the hamburger hats. “There are certain kinds of shots we needed. We needed a little extra headroom to put a hamburger on their head,” Shawn Robbins said.

The broadcast seemed like a hit, at least according to the reaction of mostly older millennial and middle-aged sportswriters. “To have the game stripped of all its self-importance and hubris was an absolute delight,” wrote Sports Illustrated.

But the excitement of sportswriters who have seen hundreds of N.F.L. games is not the same thing as success. They are not the target audience — children are.

Most important for Nickelodeon is how many of them watched, data that will be available Tuesday, though Brian Robbins said the early numbers are good, and that the N.F.L. was “thrilled.” Most important for the N.F.L. is whether this alternative broadcast helps turn more children into the kinds of football fans who will ask their parents to take them to games or to buy jerseys, and who eventually pay for their own tickets to games when they become adults.

That’ll take a lot longer to figure out.


From TheWrap:

Nickelodeon’s Slime-Heavy NFL Playoff Telecast Scores Channel’s Biggest Audience in 4 Years

Nearly 14 times more viewers watched Chicago vs. New Orleans on CBS

Nickelodeon’s special broadcast of an NFL playoff game on Sunday was not only a hit on social media. The Chicago Bears-New Orleans Saints matchup drew more than 2 million viewers for the kids-focused network, marking its biggest audience in nearly four years.

On CBS, the game was watched by 28.6 million viewers, bringing the total between the two networks north of 30 million. That made it the most-watched game of the entire weekend, which featured six games for the first time. CBS also aired the Indianapolis Colts-Buffalo Bills game on Saturday afternoon.

The Nickelodeon broadcast featured its own announce team, filled with stars from “All That,” as well as Nick-themed graphics including “Spongebob SquarePants” and that trademark Green Slime.

Some of the differences also included an explanation of NFL rules by “Young Sheldon” star Iain Armitage, and comparisons of Saints quarterback Drew Brees and teammate Taysom Hill to SpongeBob and Patrick. While Nick has ventured into sports in the past with the Kids Choice Sports Awards, this is the first time the network has aired a live pro game.


This weekend was the first under the NFL’s newly expanded playoff field, which added an additional team to each conference. Saturday and Sunday each featured a triple-header. As the playoffs continue into next weekend, it’s back to two games apiece on Saturday and Sunday for the division round.

Saturday features the Green Bay Packers hosting the Los Angeles Rams on Fox, followed by NBC’s coverage of Baltimore Ravens-Buffalo Bills. On Sunday, CBS will carry Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Cleveland Browns, while Tom Brady leads the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Saints to close out the weekend on Fox.


Why Slime Time worked in NFL prime time on Nickelodeon

Nate Burleson didn’t waste a moment. Upon learning Nickelodeon had chosen him to be the color analyst for the network’s debut broadcast of an NFL game, the former receiver turned to his unofficial advisors: his two teenaged sons, and his 10-year-old daughter.

“I knew old shows on Nickelodeon, but I didn’t want to be Mr. Retro,” said Burleson, 39, an NFL receiver for 13 seasons. “I asked them, ‘What are the newest ones? What are they coming out with in 2021? What are the characters that really stand out to you guys?’”

Young Mia Pearl set him straight.

“My daughter’s like, ‘Alright, here’s the situation: In the Loud family, there’s 11 kids, and Lincoln Loud’s the only boy. And it’s all chaos,’” Burleson said. “Then my son jumps in and says, ‘Yeah, but all the girls are different, and that’s what makes the house so crazy because he’s always caught in the middle of everything.’

“And I’m thinking the quarterback can be Lincoln Loud, and there’s 11 kids, so that also means that the other 10 players on the field are all different, and that’s how they make it work. OK, cool.”

That’s a peek into some of the film study Burleson did for Sunday’s playoff game between Chicago and New Orleans, an innovative and delightfully goofy departure for the traditionally buttoned-down NFL, which only a few years ago didn’t as much as allow end-zone celebrations.

“The idea was to captivate and cultivate a new fan base, younger people who might not otherwise watch the game,” said play-by-play announcer Noah Eagle, 24, the Clippers radio broadcaster whose father, Ian, calls NFL games for CBS. “We wanted to explain enough so that those people, those kids watching their first football game, could have at least a general understanding of what was happening.”

At least judging by the reaction on social media, it was a smashing success. The game, which was broadcast by CBS, attracted roughly 30-million viewers, with about two million of those tuned into the kids’ network.

“I’ve done games before, and some people love you and some people hate you,” said Burleson, who co-hosts “Good Morning Football” on NFL Network. “But I’ve never seen such an overwhelming response to a broadcast like I did after this one. It was humbling. I felt so thankful and blessed to be a part of it.”

The virtual graphics for Sunday’s game included slime cannons showering the end zone with green goop after a touchdown, neon down-and-distance graphics, a giant Sponge Bob between the uprights on field-goal attempts, and a Bikini Bottom-themed first-down line. The replays were spiced up with smoke, fire and explosions, thanks to a team of animators at network headquarters in New York who augmented the footage then sent it back at lightning speed.

A graphic of Young Sheldon would pop up to explain a penalty, Saints running back Alvin Kamara was compared to Alvin of the Chipmunks, and Chicago quarterback Mitch Trubisky was likened to the aforementioned Lincoln Loud.

In the Superdome stands were cardboard cutouts of 24 Nickelodeon characters, including Sponge Bob, Dora the Explorer and the Ninja Turtles. The broadcast team included teenaged Nickelodeon stars Gabrielle Nevaeh Green and Lex Lumpkin.

“We could humanize the players more than in a normal broadcast, talking about their favorite ice cream flavor, or the fact that [Bears tight end] Jimmy Graham is afraid of heights,” said Eagle. “Things like that you don’t necessarily hear when it’s third-and-four midway through the third quarter of a one-score game.”

Burleson, always ready with the apt analogy or explanation, was the star of the show. He wasn’t condescending or patronizing, but described situations in ways everyone could understand.

“I was trying to put myself in a kid’s shoes when I was watching the game,” he said. “I was asking questions that a 10-year-old might ask, and I was just thinking to myself: ‘What if a kid is confused about why they’re marching down the field? And how hard is it to score once you get closer?’

“I said, ‘Imagine getting a first down is like little homework assignments, and then once you get close to the end zone, that’s your test. The homework assignments, they’re hard. But they’re not as hard as scoring. If you score a touchdown, that’s getting an A on a test.’”

He recounted the arc of Trubisky’s season and how he was benched.

Said Burleson: “I said, ‘By benched, I don’t mean the guy is sitting on the bench on the sideline. Put it like this, being benched by the NFL is like being grounded. When you’re grounded, you have to clean up your room, make sure you do all your homework, do the dishes and the chores around the house. It’s the same thing in the NFL. You’re benched, and then you have to prove to your coach — kind of your parent — that you’re ready to go outside.”

Eagle picked up on that thread, saying that because the Bears weren’t ready to let Trubisky stray from the conservative game plan, he wasn’t necessarily grounded anymore but couldn’t leave the yard, either.

“Nate was as perfect a choice for a main analyst that they could have had,” Eagle said. “He has a knack. He’s really smart, and explained everything in perfect terms. He had a comparison for every situation. The biggest thing was that us having fun just came through the screen.”

Both Eagle and Burleson said they spent hours after the game reading texts and tweets. One message in particular, from a Hall of Fame quarterback, was most meaningful to Burleson.

“Kurt Warner texted me right after the game,” he said. “I’m paraphrasing but he said, ‘My son, who had been in a traumatic accident, we had never watched a game together. But for the first time in his life, I was able to sit down and watch a game with him because he loves Nickelodeon.’ That was a special text for me.”

New Orleans won the game, and the Nickelodeon crew had pretty much packed up its gear when the cell phone of producer Ken Mack buzzed.

“We were heading to our cars when Ken got a call from Saints public relations,” coordinating producer Shawn Robbins said. “We thought we might have kept Cam Jordan too long for our interview. And Saints PR said, ‘Hey, where are you guys? Coach needs to get slimed. We’ve got to do this right now.’

“Our talent is gone. Our slime is packed up. We scramble and get our slime, and coach [Sean Payton] says, ‘You guys can’t get out of here. I’m going to get killed on the internet unless I get slimed right now.’”

So on camera, in front of the Saints’ locker room, Nickelodeon dumped a bucket of green goo all over the head of a crouching Payton. A perfect ending to a perfect day.


More Nick: Nickelodeon and Paramount+ Release Sneak Peek of 'Kamp Koral: SpongeBob's Under Years'!

Originally published: Tuesday, January 12, 2021 at 20:53 GMT.

Source: Anime Superhero Forum /@whoisretro; Additional sources: The Spun, CNBC, Awful Announcing.

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