|NBC Sunday Night Football|
NBC Sunday Night Football logo
|Also known as||Sunday Night Football on NBC|
|Genre||American football telecasts|
|Directed by||Drew Esocoff|
|Theme music composer||John Williams (2006–2008) & Joel Beckerman (Super Bowl XLIII–present) (main theme)|
Chris DeStefano, Brett James and Carrie Underwood (opening theme)
|Opening theme||"Waiting All Day for Sunday Night" performed by Carrie Underwood and Joan Jett|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||15|
|No. of episodes||285 (as of January 11, 2020)|
|Production location(s)||Various NFL stadiums (game telecasts and Super Bowl pre-game shows)|
NBC Sports Headquarters, Stamford, Connecticut
|Running time||210 minutes or until game ends (inc. adverts)|
|Production company(s)||National Football League|
Universo via Telemundo Deportes (2014–present)
(Spanish simulcasts of select games)
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)|
|Original release||August 6, 2006 –|
|Preceded by||ESPN Sunday Night Football|
|Related shows||NFL on NBC|
Football Night in America
NBC Sunday Night Football (abbreviated as SNF) is a weekly television broadcast of National Football League (NFL) games on NBC in the United States. It began airing on August 6, 2006 with the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, which opened that year's preseason. NBC took over the rights to the Sunday prime time game telecasts from ESPN, which carried the broadcasts from 1987 to 2005 (concurrently with NBC assuming the rights to Sunday evening regular-season games, ESPN took over the broadcast rights to Monday Night Football from sister network ABC beginning with the 2006 season). Previously, NBC had aired American Football League (AFL), and later American Football Conference (AFC), games from 1965 until 1998, when CBS took over those rights.
During the 2011–12 season, Sunday Night Football became the first sports program to hold the position as Nielsen's most-watched program on U.S. network television during the year, beating American Idol, which held that honor for eight consecutive seasons beginning in 2004; Sunday Night Football repeated this feat three years running, beginning with the 2013–14 season.
As of 2020[update], Al Michaels serves as the play-by-play announcer for the broadcasts, with Cris Collinsworth as the color commentator and Michele Tafoya as the sideline reporter. Upon NBC's assumption of the Sunday prime time game rights, Fred Gaudelli and Drew Esocoff, who serve as the respective lead producer and director, joined SNF in the same positions they held during the latter portion of the ABC era of Monday Night Football. John Madden, the color commentator for the first three years of the program, retired prior to the 2009 season; he was succeeded in that role by Collinsworth.
Since 2014, sister cable channel Universo has carried Spanish-language simulcasts of select games, after years of aborted attempts to simulcast the games on Telemundo; as with the NFL's other television partners, NBC provides Spanish-language audio feed of the game broadcasts via second audio program (SAP), formerly noted as being "provided by Telemundo” before the rebranding of that entity's sports division to Telemundo Deportes. With the former mun2's relaunch on February 1, 2015, Universo simulcast Super Bowl XLIX with NBC, with the channel expected to carry Spanish-language simulcasts of NFL games and NBC Sports properties.
NBC's broadcast begins at 7 p.m. Eastern Time with its pre-game show, which runs until kickoff (which usually occurs around 8:20 p.m. Eastern). The show serves the same purpose as NFL Primetime did for ESPN, offering recaps of the early action as well as a preview of the game to come. The show emanates from the NBC Sports studios in Connecticut as well as at the game site. Mike Tirico, Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison, Peter King and Mike Florio broadcast from the studio while Liam McHugh reports from the game (though he will act in this role, but Tirico was promoted to the studio show unless he does another assignment elsewhere). Michaels, Collinsworth and Tafoya will also appear.
NBC's current NFL contract includes the rights to the season-opening Thursday night NFL Kickoff Game, the game played on Thanksgiving Night, and three playoff games, two in the Wild Card round and one in the Divisional Playoffs. Under the initial 6-year deal, the network was also awarded the rights to two Super Bowl games, following the 2008 (Super Bowl XLIII) and 2011 (Super Bowl XLVI) seasons, and the Pro Bowl games in the years which NBC was slated to air the Super Bowl and two more Pro Bowls in 2013 and 2014. Beginning in 2012, through an extension to the contract that runs through 2022, NBC also gained the rights to air a primetime Thanksgiving game (which had previously been part of NFL Network's Thursday Night Football package), one divisional playoff game in lieu of a Wild Card game in the postseason, and the rights to Super Bowls held or to be held in 2015 for (Super Bowl XLIX), 2018 for (Super Bowl LII) and 2022. However, the Pro Bowl is excluded in the new contract as ESPN was set to gain exclusive rights to the game in 2015, with NBC's broadcast of the 2014 Pro Bowl being the final time the game would air on broadcast television prior to ABC's simulcast with ESPN on the 2018 edition. NBC also gained access to air an additional Wild Card game for the 2020-21 postseason, which will also be aired on Telemundo, NBC’s Spanish network, and it will also be streamed on NBCUniversal’s new streaming service Peacock.
NBC is the current home of the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, which begins the NFL's preseason each August. Usually the game is aired on the Sunday after the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony the night before. In 2017, NBC moved the game to the Thursday before the Induction Ceremony, which made the game the official start of Hall of Fame Weekend. The 2007 game aired on the NFL Network as the league had planned to stage the China Bowl just a few days later (before it was postponed indefinitely), to be televised by NBC as a tie-in to its coverage of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Normally, there are two other preseason telecasts on NBC; however, because of the Beijing Olympics, only two were shown in 2008. Two preseason games (the Hall of Fame game and one other match-up, depending on other NBC Sports commitments), and the Thursday night season opener were retained as part of the new contract beginning in 2014.
From 2006 until 2013, NBC's contract included the rights to both Saturday wild card playoff games that had been previously aired by ABC as part of its Monday Night Football contract. Tom Hammond provided play-by-play for the early game until 2012, with Dan Hicks taking the position in 2013. Cris Collinsworth was the initial color commentator for these broadcasts, doing so until 2008 when he replaced John Madden as lead analyst in 2009. Mike Mayock, NBC's Notre Dame color commentator until 2012, took over as color commentator in 2013.
The first regular season game to be shown by NBC under this contract, between the Miami Dolphins and the Pittsburgh Steelers, aired on September 7, 2006, followed by the first Sunday-night game – between the Indianapolis Colts and New York Giants – on September 10, 2006. The actual first game of the run – the 2006 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game between the Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles – was televised on August 6, 2006.
NBC Sunday Night Football is the beneficiary of the league's new flexible-scheduling system. Since the NFL now considers SNF to be its featured game of the week, for the final seven weeks of the season (seven of the final eight weeks during the 2006, 2011, 2016 and 2017 seasons because of Christmas weekend), the NFL has the flexibility in selecting games that are more intriguing and typically have playoff implications to air on Sunday night.
World Series conflicts
In its first four seasons of Sunday night coverage, NBC took one week off in late October or early November, so as not to conflict with Fox's coverage of baseball's World Series. In 2006 NBC did not air a game on October 22, which was the scheduled date for Game 2 of the World Series, but a potential conflict still existed on October 29 had the series gone seven games (the conflict never arose, however, as the 2006 World Series ended in five games). With the change in World Series scheduling beginning in 2007, NBC did not air an NFL game in order to avoid a conflict with World Series Game 4, which is the first chance a team would have to clinch the series. In 2007, there was no game on October 28; in 2008, there was no game on October 26; and, in 2009, there was no game on November 1. Although no games aired on these nights, Football Night in America still aired as scheduled at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
NBC televised a game on October 31, 2010 and again on October 23, 2011, opposite Game 4 of the World Series on Fox in both cases. Both games featured the New Orleans Saints at home, first in 2010 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, then in 2011 against the Indianapolis Colts. New Orleans and Indianapolis do not have a Major League Baseball team, and the Pittsburgh Pirates had poor seasonal performances in those recent years, at the time having not recorded a winning record since 1992.
Ratings have been mixed for these results, with the NFL winning the night in 2010 while MLB won in 2011. While the Saints won both games, the former matchup featuring a major ratings draw in the Steelers, combined with the latter matchup against the Colts being a 62–7 blowout while Game 4 of the 2011 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers was a more closely contested game, caused the ratings to slip in 2011.
In 2012, the NFL once again scheduled the Saints to play on SNF in late October, this time against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field on October 28 (Denver does have an MLB team, the Colorado Rockies, that has had limited success in recent seasons, though they did not contend for the National League West in 2012). The game wound up being scheduled opposite the fourth (and final) game of the 2012 World Series.
For 2013, SNF aired the Packers–Vikings rivalry game at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on October 27, opposite Game 4 of the 2013 World Series. Both the Packers and Vikings have a baseball team in their respective home states (Wisconsin's Milwaukee Brewers and Minnesota's Twins), but the two Major League Baseball teams have struggled in recent years.
The 2014 game, between the Packers and Saints in New Orleans, was scheduled against Game 5 of the 2014 World Series, which under the seven-game format would be played only if necessary (a split in the first two games between the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals assured the series would need at least five games to determine a champion). Major League Baseball moved the start of the series to a Tuesday instead of Wednesday so it could avoid competing with the NFL on Thursday and Monday nights in addition to Sunday night.
In 2015, the NFL once again scheduled the Packers to play on SNF, this time against the Broncos at Sports Authority Field on November 1. Both the Packers and the Broncos entered the game undefeated at 6-0. However, the game wound up being scheduled opposite the fifth (and final) game of the 2015 World Series between the Royals and the New York Mets that night. Both the Packers and the Broncos have a baseball team in their respective home states (Wisconsin's Milwaukee Brewers and Colorado's Rockies), but both of those MLB teams performed poorly that season.
For 2016, SNF aired the Philadelphia Eagles-Dallas Cowboys rivalry game at AT&T Stadium on October 30, opposite to Game 5 of the 2016 World Series between the Indians and the Cubs. Both the Eagles and the Cowboys have a baseball team in their respective home cities (Philadelphia's Phillies and Dallas's Texas Rangers, the latter plays their home games at nearby Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas). The Phillies did not contend for the National League East in 2016, while the Rangers won the American League West title that season, but they lost in three games to the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALDS; on the other hand, the Cleveland Browns and the Chicago Bears, the NFL franchises of the participating World Series cities, have been performing at the bottom of its respective divisions in recent years, with the Browns issues dating back to the team's return to the league in 1999. As for the two games that aired simultaneously on October 30, the Cubs beat the Indians, 3-2, to force a Game 6 of the World Series on November 1, while the Cowboys beat the Eagles, 29-23, in overtime.
In 2017, the NFL once again scheduled the Steelers to play on SNF, this time against the Detroit Lions on October 29. This game aired opposite Game 5 of the 2017 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros. Both the Steelers and the Lions have a baseball team in their respective home cities (Pittsburgh's Pirates and Detroit's Tigers, the latter plays their home games at nearby Comerica Park in Detroit), but neither of their baseball counterparts did well that season; as for the NFL franchises of the participating World Series cities, the Rams (who moved back to Los Angeles from St. Louis in 2016) were in contention for the NFC West through Week 8 of the 2017 season (meanwhile, Los Angeles' other team, the Chargers, who moved from San Diego in 2017, were struggling at that same point of the season) while the Houston Texans, who had reached the playoffs the previous two seasons, also struggled. As for the two games that aired simultaneously on October 29, the Steelers beat the Lions, 20-15, while in Game 5 of the World Series, the Astros beat the Dodgers, 13-12, in 10 innings.
In 2018, for the 5th time, the NFL scheduled the Saints to play on the Sunday Night Football-World Series competition game, this time, against the Vikings, in a rematch of the Minneapolis Miracle game. However this game wound up being scheduled opposite the fifth (and final) game of the 2018 World Series, between the Los Angeles Dodgers season and the Red Sox that night. The city of Minneapolis does have an MLB team, however, the Twins, failed to qualify for the postseason. As for the city of New Orleans, they do not have an MLB team. As for the teams that are playing, the Red Sox, put up the best record in the MLB, while the city’s football team, the Patriots, were riding a 5-2 record through 7 games. The Dodgers meanwhile clinched the NL Pennant for the second consecutive year, as for the city’s 2 teams, the Rams were at the time, the last undefeated team in the NFL at 7-0, while the Chargers started 5-2 and were half a game back with the arch-rival Chiefs in the AFC West race (the Chiefs won the AFC West title that season before losing to the eventual Super Bowl LIII champion Patriots in the AFC Championship game). The Rams would go on to controversially win the NFC in overtime, but then lose to the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII.
In 2019, for the fourth time, the NFL scheduled the Packers to play on the Sunday Night Football–World Series competition game, this time against the Chiefs, in a rematch of the Super Bowl I. This game aired opposite Game 5 of the 2019 World Series between the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals. Both the Packers and the Chiefs have a baseball team in their respective home states (Wisconsin's Milwaukee Brewers made the postseason, but lost to the eventual World Series Champion Nationals in the NL Wild Card Game, and Missouri's Kansas City Royals, failed to make the playoffs for the 4th consecutive season). As for the two games that aired simultaneously on October 27, the Packers beat the Chiefs, 31–24, while in Game 5 of the World Series (of which the series itself was tied at 2-2), the Astros beat the Nationals, 7–1 heading into Game 6 of the World Series on October 29.
In the 2006 season, in addition to the World Series off-week, there was no game scheduled for Christmas Eve night; NBC broadcast that week's game (Eagles at Cowboys) on Christmas afternoon instead. A half-hour version of Football Night in America aired before the Christmas game and the two "Wild Card Saturday" games. During the 2006 season, no game was initially scheduled for NBC in the affected weeks – instead, the schedule slot for the NBC game was left vacant, with one Sunday afternoon game being moved to the primetime slot (the schedule for the affected weeks simply read "one of these games will move to 8:15 Eastern"). CBS and Fox could each protect four of its games during Weeks 10 through 15 and also each protect one of its games for Week 17; however, these two networks had to decide which games to protect in early October 2006, after Week 4 of the NFL season.
For the first time since NBC gained the rights to SNF, a tentative full-season schedule was unveiled, including games in the last seven weeks of the season. Those games could be replaced under flexible scheduling if the need arose. The same rules under which CBS and Fox protect games for their own packages still apply.
Three of the games in the last seven weeks of the season were eventually replaced with more compelling matches. This resulted in the situation – twice – of having a team playing on consecutive Sunday nights. New England had consecutive Sunday nighters: the November 18 New England at Buffalo game was moved to prime time and was followed on November 25 by the already-scheduled Philadelphia at New England game. Likewise, the Washington Redskins played a scheduled game at the New York Giants on December 16, and their December 23 game in Minnesota was moved to prime time. For the last week of the season, the Tennessee Titans–Indianapolis Colts game was moved, switching places with the Kansas City Chiefs–New York Jets game that was originally scheduled in the Sunday night slot; the Titans needed a win to secure the final AFC playoff spot.
In addition, the annual preseason Hall of Fame Game telecast was shifted to NFL Network, in anticipation of NBC airing the China Bowl contest from Beijing; however, the China Bowl was canceled.
The 2008 schedule, released on April 15, continued the 2007 practice of a scheduled game possibly being moved in favor of a more compelling one during Weeks 11 through 16 (November 16 through December 21), but left the slot open on the final Sunday, December 28. The NFL Kickoff Game between the Washington Redskins and defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants that was played on September 4 started at 7 p.m. Eastern Time instead of the normal 8:30 p.m. time in order to avoid conflict with the nomination speech that John McCain gave at the Republican National Convention that night; the game ended at 10:01 p.m. Eastern Time, averting any conflict.
As had happened in 2007, a team played on consecutive Sunday nights due to a game being moved into the Sunday night time slot. The originally scheduled New York Giants-Dallas Cowboys game on December 14 was followed by a flexed December 21 home game for the Giants against the Carolina Panthers; the Giants-Panthers game was flexed because it carried serious playoff implications, as the winner clinches the NFC's top seed and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. This was the second of three flexed games, with a December 7 inter-conference match-up between the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins displacing a New England at Seattle game.. The league filled the open spot on December 28 with a game between the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers with major playoff implications, as the winner of that game wins the AFC West while the loser is eliminated.
The 2009 schedule, released on April 14, continued the 2007 and 2008 practice of scheduling a game every Sunday night during the season (except during the World Series) but declaring the games in Weeks 11 through 16 (November 22 through December 27) subject to change, should a more compelling matchup arise. The pattern of the 2007 and 2008 schedules was continued, as the slot for the final Sunday night of the season – January 3, 2010 – was left vacant. Two games were "flexed" in the 2009 season, as the Minnesota Vikings–Arizona Cardinals game replaced the original December 6 matchup between the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins.
To fill the vacant game slot for the last week of the season, NBC was given the matchup between the Cincinnati Bengals and New York Jets that was originally scheduled for 4:15 p.m. Eastern on CBS, with this game having playoff implications for both teams. For the Jets, a win would have put them in the playoffs, while the Bengals had the potential to improve their seeding for the playoffs with a victory. The Jets-Bengals game ended up being the last game played at Giants Stadium (the Jets could have hosted the AFC Championship game, but the Baltimore Ravens did not hold up their end of the deal).
The 2010 schedule, released on April 20, placed a Sunday night game (Pittsburgh Steelers at New Orleans Saints) against a World Series game for the first time since the NBC Sunday night contract began. It also continued the previous practice of scheduling a Sunday night game during every week of the season, and declaring the games in Weeks 11 through 16 (November 21 through December 26) as "flex games", meaning they reverted to Sunday afternoon if a more attractive matchup arose.
The Week 16 game, between the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles, originally scheduled for December 26, was moved to December 28 due to a major blizzard that affected most of the Eastern United States. The NFL postponed the game after Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter declared a snow emergency for the city. It was the 23rd NFL game to be played on a Tuesday, but the first since 1946. This was the only game, outside of the final Sunday night, to be "flexed" in the 2010 season; the original schedule called for the San Diego Chargers to play the Bengals in Cincinnati (the game was moved to CBS, and was indeed blacked out in Cincinnati). Because of this, a full 90-minute edition of Football Night aired on December 26, with a short five-minute pre-game leading into the game on the 28th, while Faith Hill's introduction was not played due to time constraints before kickoff.
For the Week 17 matchup, NBC featured the 7–8 St. Louis Rams playing the 6–9 Seattle Seahawks in a win-and-in game, where the winner of the game would qualify for the playoffs as the NFC West Division Champion while the loser will be eliminated. The Seattle Seahawks defeated the St. Louis Rams by a score of 16-6, thus advancing to the playoffs whilst the Rams were eliminated from playoff contention 
The 2011 schedule, released on April 19, once again placed a Sunday night game (Indianapolis Colts at New Orleans Saints on October 23, the fourth straight time these teams played each other on national television) opposite a World Series game. Sunday night games between November 13 and December 18 (inclusive) were "flex games", which could have reverted to Sunday afternoon if a more competitive matchup arose (one was; see below). The final Sunday night of the season – January 1, 2012 – was likewise a "flex game"; the slot, vacant when the schedule was released, was filled by the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants (see below). The Hall of Fame Game scheduled for August 7, and to be shown on NBC, was canceled due to the lockout that offseason; it was the only game to be affected.
The NFL announced on November 8 that the Week 13 rivalry game between the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots was moved to 1 p.m. Eastern on CBS, while a replacement game would be announced by November 22. This was due to the Colts struggling without their star quarterback Peyton Manning (without him, the Colts lost 62–7 to the New Orleans Saints in a Sunday night game on October 23). This also marked the first time the NFL announced that a Sunday night game was being moved to the afternoon without simultaneously announcing a replacement. On November 21, the matchup between the Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints was flexed into the Sunday night slot. As compensation to Fox because they only had two other games in the early time slot, the league gave them the Denver Broncos–Minnesota Vikings game that was originally to air on CBS. This was the first time that the league moved an inter-conference telecast to the home team's Sunday afternoon regional broadcaster.
On November 14, the NFL decided to keep the Week 12 matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs on November 27 in place after the league considered flexing it out for other matchups, particularly the AFC East showdown between the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets and the interconference matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Tennessee Titans, due to the AFC West (of which the Chiefs are a member) being a weak division for 2011.
On December 7, the NFL ended up keeping the Week 15 match-up between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Diego Chargers on December 18, a decision that came a day late due to the NFL Committees meetings that took place on the day before. NBC wanted the game between the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos as it featured a matchup between Tom Brady and Tim Tebow, two players with high popularity. While CBS did not protect that game, the network was fighting to keep the game since they had lost the aforementioned Week 13 Broncos-Vikings game to Fox, denying the network the earlier chance to capitalize on Tebow's marketability.
For the second consecutive season, and third overall, the last Sunday night game that was flexed in featured a contest in which the winner became the NFC East champions and earn a home game in the playoffs while the loser is eliminated. This particular matchup was for the NFC East between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium, a rematch of Week 14's Sunday night broadcast. This was the first time NBC had shown both meetings of division rivals during a regular season.
The 2011 season ended with an average of 20.7 million viewers and was the highest-rated program of the 2011–12 television season, dethroning American Idol, which was the highest-rated program for eight consecutive seasons. As a further result, Sunday Night Football became the first-ever television sports series of any kind to finish a television season as the most-watched show.
The 2012 schedule, released on April 17, once again placed a Sunday night game (New Orleans Saints at Denver Broncos) against a World Series game. This was the third straight year a World Series game competed against a Sunday night game. During the halftime of that game, NBC News aired a brief special report regarding Superstorm Sandy, anchored by Brian Williams. Sunday night games between November 18 and December 23 (inclusive) were "flex games"; they would revert to Sunday afternoon if a more competitive matchup arose.
The only flexed game of the season that displaced a scheduled game took place on December 23; the San Diego Chargers at New York Jets game reverted to the afternoon, and the San Francisco 49ers played in Seattle that night. This resulted in the 49ers playing on consecutive Sunday nights, both on the road (the team played in New England the previous Sunday night, December 16). A portion of the San Francisco-New England game aired on the NBC Sports Network and CNBC due to NBC News' live coverage of Barack Obama's speech following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
The final Sunday night of the season – December 30, 2012 – likewise was a "flex game"; the slot was left vacant when the schedule was released, as has been the practice of the past four seasons. It was filled by the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins. Usually announced on the Tuesday before game day (but sometimes before), the game typically highlights a situation in which the winner advances to the playoffs while the loser does not; the winner of this flex game wins its division, although the Redskins would still advance to the playoffs as a wild card team – even if the team lost – if certain other teams lost. After the first 15 games were played that day, which included the Minnesota Vikings clinching the #6 seed in the NFC with a win, the game turned out to be a winner-take-all, in which the winner clinches the No. 4 seed in the NFC and the loser is eliminated regardless. The Redskins eventually defeated the Cowboys 28–18 and clinch their first NFC East crown since 1999.
The 2013 schedule, released on April 18, once again placed a Sunday night game (Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings) against a World Series game. This was the fourth straight year that a World series game competed against a Sunday night game. Sunday night games between November 17 and December 22 (inclusive) were "flex games", they would revert to Sunday afternoon if a more competitive matchup arose. The final Sunday night of the season – December 29, 2013 – likewise was a "flex game"; the slot was left vacant when the schedule was released, as has been the practice of the past five seasons. The game site (and, by extension, its teams) was determined after the completion of most Week 16 games. It was filled by the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys.
The league announced on November 1, 2013, that the Week 11 Kansas City Chiefs–Denver Broncos game, originally scheduled as CBS's only late 4:05 p.m. Eastern Time single-header game, was flexed into the Sunday Night Football, replacing the originally scheduled Green Bay Packers–New York Giants game. CBS originally selected the Chiefs–Broncos match-up as one of their "protected games" from flex-scheduling, but later allowed the league to flex it so it could be seen by a national audience. This would be one of two cases of a team playing on consecutive Sunday nights due to one of the games being moved into the Sunday night slot (as the Broncos would play the New England Patriots the following Sunday night); the Philadelphia Eagles, the other team to play on consecutive Sunday nights, played at home against the Chicago Bears on December 22 and played in Dallas on December 29.
On December 2, 2013, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported (via Twitter) that the Week 15 rivalry game between the Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals for December 15 would remain in the Sunday night slot, a report later confirmed by the NFL. The league had considered flexing the game out due to the Steelers starting the season 0-4, which included a 20-10 loss to the Bengals on Monday Night Football earlier in the season that was more of a blowout than the final score indicated. Ultimately, it was decided to keep the rematch in the Sunday night slot due the Steelers making a late playoff push, the team's fanbase that provides high ratings regardless of how well the Steelers are doing, as well as a lack of compelling match-ups for the week, with only two other pairings that did not have a team with a losing record by the flex deadline (Patriots at Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens at Detroit Lions, the latter being a Monday night game which could not be flexed out of its slot).
On December 10, 2013, the NFL decided to flex the Week 16 Chicago Bears-Philadelphia Eagles matchup into the Sunday night slot, replacing the New England Patriots-Baltimore Ravens match-up, which moved to the late afternoon slot on CBS. The move surprised many in the television industry, as all four teams were strong playoff contenders. Some have speculated that since the Patriots had an opportunity to lock up the AFC East before their game in Baltimore (the Patriots were ultimately upset by the Dolphins 24-20), while the other three teams would not be able to clinch playoff spots (nor would they be eliminated) prior to Week 16, that the Bears-Eagles match-up might be more compelling. There was also speculation that moving the Patriots-Ravens game to the late afternoon slot on CBS gives that network a more compelling match-up in their week to have a doubleheader, as the other two match-ups scheduled to air on CBS in the late afternoon slot featured teams that were having down years (Steelers-Packers) or weren't expected to contend for the playoffs and only appealed to their home markets (Raiders-Chargers); the Patriots-Ravens match-up ultimately received CBS's lead broadcasting crew (Jim Nantz and Phil Simms) and national coverage outside the local markets and blacked out markets of the other late games. John Ourand of SportsBusiness Journal reported that the league wanted to keep the total number of games taken from CBS and Fox, dating back to the start of the current television contracts, roughly equal. Otherwise, an obscure rule in the broadcast contracts would have prevented the league from possibly flexing a Week 17 AFC game, originally scheduled to be televised on CBS, to the final Sunday night slot.
No Sunday night Game was originally scheduled for Week 17 of the NFL season, thus allowing the ability to move the most intriguing and playoff-relevant matchup of the week to the Sunday night time slot. The final game of the 2013 NFL regular season was played on December 29, 2013 between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys to determine the NFC East division champion while the loser is eliminated. The Eagles won 24-22, thus advancing to the playoffs, eliminating the Cowboys.
|2013 Sunday Night Football "flex schedule" games|
|Week||Planned game||Selected game||Ref.|
|11||Packers at Giants||Chiefs at Broncos|||
|12||Broncos at Patriots|||
|13||Giants at Redskins|||
|14||Falcons at Packers||Panthers at Saints|||
|15||Bengals at Steelers|||
|16||Patriots at Ravens||Bears at Eagles|||
|17||no game scheduled||Eagles at Cowboys|||
When the 2014 NFL schedule was released on April 23, it placed a Sunday night game (Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints) against a World Series game for the fifth straight year. Starting with this season, NBC was permitted to begin flexing games as soon as Week 5, with the restriction that no more than two games may be flexed between Weeks 5 and 10. The final Sunday night of the season – December 28, 2014 – likewise was a flex game; the slot was left vacant when the schedule was released, as had been the practice of the past six seasons. The game's teams (and, by extension, its location) was announced after most week 16 games it was filled by the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers. Country/pop superstar Carrie Underwood continued her role as the performer of the Sunday Night Football opener.
On November 11, 2014, the NFL announced that the November 23 game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants game would air as scheduled, even though the Detroit Lions–New England Patriots game was considered to be a better match-up, citing that the Cowboys are one of the most popular NFL teams playing in the country's largest media market.
For the first time since flexed scheduling went into effect, no Sunday night games were flexed during the season other than Week 17 (where the match-up is usually determined as late as six days prior to the Sunday of Week 17).
On December 21, 2014, the NFL announced that the rivalry game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals would be flexed into the Week 17 Sunday Night Football slot, with the winner clinching the AFC North. The league considered flexing the Atlanta Falcons–Carolina Panthers game into the Sunday night slot as it decided the NFC South while the loser is eliminated, but the division being historically weak (it was assured to have a division winner with a losing record by the end of Week 16), combined with the Steelers being a major draw, led to the league's decision. With the Steelers and Bengals clinching a playoff spot in Week 16, it also marked the first time since the NFL scheduled all-intradivisional match-ups in Week 17 in 2010 that a game flexed to the Week 17 slot featured at least one team (in this case both) that was already in the playoffs. It was later reported by Sports Illustrated columnist Peter King that the league chose to flex the Steelers-Bengals game because CBS has not had a game flexed in the Week 17 slot since 2009; the aforementioned Falcons-Panthers match-up was later flexed to CBS as part of the new television contract that allows intraconference match-ups to be flexed between CBS and Fox.
The 2015 schedule was released on April 21, 2015. The defending Super Bowl champions the New England Patriots faced the Pittsburgh Steelers during the NFL Kickoff Game on Thursday, September 10, 2015. Other notable games included the Seattle Seahawks versus the Green Bay Packers (Week 2) and the New England Patriots versus the Indianapolis Colts (Week 6) in a rematch of their respective conference championship games. It also placed a Sunday night game (Green Bay Packers at Denver Broncos) against a World Series game for the sixth straight year. The final Sunday night game of the season – January 3, 2016 – likewise was a flex game; the slot was left vacant when the schedule came out as has been the practice over the past seven seasons. The game's teams (and by extension, its location) was announced after most Week 16 games. It was filled by the Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers. The Arizona Cardinals wound up playing on consecutive Sunday nights — at the Seattle Seahawks in Week 10 and then, at home against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 11 (Cardinals won both of those games), with the latter being flexed into the Sunday night slot. The December 20 game (Cincinnati Bengals at San Francisco 49ers) reverted to the afternoon, replaced by the Arizona Cardinals-Philadelphia Eagles game. The Minnesota Vikings wounded up playing on consecutive Sunday nights beginning in Week 16 at home against the New York Giants and on the road in Week 17 against the Green Bay Packers.
The 2016 schedule was released on April 14, 2016. NBC's first telecast of the season featured a rematch of Super Bowl 50 when the Denver Broncos played host to the Carolina Panthers, the first time the Super Bowl participants faced each other in Week 1 of the subsequent year since 1970. It also placed a Sunday night game (Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys) against a World Series game for the seventh straight year. The Thanksgiving night match-up featured the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Indianapolis Colts, and for the first time since 2011, NBC carried a Christmas Day game as the Broncos traveled to play the Kansas City Chiefs, a rematch of the Week 12 game in Denver that was flexed into that week's Sunday night slot. In addition, NBC carried five late season Thursday Night Football games in conjunction with NFL Network in a similar arrangement to the one NFLN has with CBS. As before, flexible scheduling rules went into effect in Week 5, with Week 16 excluded because the majority of the schedule was played on Christmas Eve. The final Sunday night game of the season – Sunday, January 1, 2017 – likewise was a flex game; the slot was left vacant when the schedule came out as has been the practice over the past eight seasons. The game's teams (and by extension, its location) was announced after most Week 16 games. It was filled by the Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions.
Also this season, NBC was home to two Super Bowl rematches. As previously mentioned, the Carolina vs. Denver game was a rematch of Super Bowl 50. Then, 9 weeks later on a Sunday night, the Patriots hosted the Seattle Seahawks in a rematch of Super Bowl XLIX, a game that was also seen on NBC, on February 1, 2015.
The Week 5 game between the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers was placed against the second presidential debate. The debate did not air on NBC due to contractual obligations; however, it was carried by several other channels including sister networks CNBC and MSNBC.
The Week 7 game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals ended in a 6-6 tie following a missed field goal from each team in the last minutes of overtime. This became not only the first tie to be featured on Sunday Night Football, but also the first tie not to see a touchdown since 1972, as well as the lowest scoring tie, and the second lowest score in the prime time slot.
After the addition of Thursday Night Football to NBC's rights holdings, the network elected to give Al Michaels time off. Mike Tirico, who left ESPN to become the heir apparent to Michaels at NBC, called select telecasts in his place.
On November 14, 2016, the NFL announced that it had flexed the Chiefs-Broncos game into the Sunday night slot for Week 12, replacing the originally-scheduled New England Patriots-New York Jets game, which was moved to the 4:25 p.m. ET slot as the second game of the doubleheader on CBS. With the aforementioned Week 16 matchup between the Broncos and the Chiefs already being scheduled for Christmas night (December 25), that was the second time that NBC has shown both meetings of division rivals during a regular season.
On December 4, 2016, the NFL announced that it had flexed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Dallas Cowboys game into the Sunday night slot for Week 15, replacing the originally-scheduled Pittsburgh Steelers-Cincinnati Bengals game, which was moved to the 1 p.m. ET slot as the early game on CBS. As a result, the Cowboys wound up playing on consecutive Sunday nights — on the road against the New York Giants in Week 14 (which they lost, 10-7) & then at home against the Buccaneers in Week 15 (which they won, 26-20), and as a result, the Cowboys wound up playing back-to-back-to-back games on NBC, beginning with their post-Thanksgiving Thursday Night Game against Minnesota, their scheduled Week 14 game against the Giants, as mentioned, and their Week 15 Game against Tampa Bay, which was also previously mentioned.
On January 15, 2017, NBC was scheduled to carry an AFC divisional playoff game with the Chiefs at home against the Steelers in the afternoon; on January 13, the NFL announced that game would move to primetime on NBC the same day due to an ice storm affecting the Kansas City area which would cause perilous travel for fans if the game went on as regularly scheduled, and thus becoming an unexpected bonus Sunday Night Football broadcast in its regular timeslot. NBC filled the vacated afternoon timeslot with a NHL game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals.
In Week 7, a Sunday night game was scheduled between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots in a highly-anticipated rematch of Super Bowl LI thus making 2017 the second consecutive season in which a rematch of the previous year’s Super Bowl was played during the regular season. This was completely coincidental, as inter-conference opponents only meet once every four years during the regular season. The Patriots won the rematch by a score of 23-7. The television broadcast was noted for its extensive use of the Skycam for game coverage after fog made it impossible to use other cameras.
It also placed a Sunday night game (Pittsburgh Steelers at Detroit Lions) against a World Series game for the eighth straight year. Both the Lions and Steelers have MLB teams in their respective hometowns, but both struggled to get into the playoffs, especially the Pirates, who missed the playoffs for the second year in a row, and the Tigers, who haven’t been to the playoffs since winning the AL Central in 2014.
For the second time since flex scheduling went into effect, no Sunday night games were flexed during the season—including (for the first time since NBC got the Sunday night package) Week 17.
This was NBC's second year of producing Thursday Night Football with CBS and NFL Network. In addition to airing 5 Thursday night games, NBC along with NFL Network also aired the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Houston Texans on Christmas Day. NBC/NFL Network simulcasts started in Week 10 with the Seattle Seahawks taking on the Arizona Cardinals. The NBC Sports-produced Thursday night games on NFL Network began in Week 2, with the Texans battling the Cincinnati Bengals.
Week 17 on December 31 had a full Sunday schedule of games, with the Sunday night game slot originally left blank as has been done the previous nine seasons. After all of the Week 16 Sunday games were played, the NFL determined that many of the teams with playoff implications would have been affected by the results of other football games, and moving a single game to the Sunday night slot impacted competitive balance (along with the possibility of that game having little to no effect on playoff positioning at all, in addition to negative impacts on rating as a result of the game ending close to the stroke of midnight for the New Year for the Eastern time zone). As a result, the NFL decided to instead set up a schedule for that year's Week 17 where all games would be played in the 1 p.m. ET and 4:25 p.m. ET time-slots between CBS and Fox (equivalent to soccer's English Premier League scheduling their last week's matches in the same manner), and no Sunday Night Football game would be played.
This season also marked the year that NBC broadcast Super Bowl LII.
In addition, this season featured four Super Bowl rematches on Sunday Night Football, as well as a fifth in the Super Bowl broadcast itself. First, in Week 3, the Raiders traveled to the Nation’s Capital to face the Redskins, in a rematch of Super Bowl XVIII. Three weeks later, the Giants faced the Broncos, in a rematch of Super Bowl XXI. Then, as previously mentioned, a week later, the Falcons went to New England and faced the defending champions Patriots, in a rematch of Super Bowl LI. Then in Week 12, the Green Bay Packers faced the Pittsburgh Steelers in a rematch of Super Bowl XLV, in what was supposed to be a QB battle between Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger, that turned into a QB battle between Roethlisberger and Brett Hundley due to Rodgers suffering a broken collarbone in Week 6 that ruled him out for all but one game the rest of the season. And on NBC's broadcast of Super Bowl LII, the Philadelphia Eagles faced the New England Patriots in a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIX.
For the ninth season in a row, the NFL placed a game against a World Series game, with the (New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings), going up against the fifth (and final) game of the Fall Classic, between the Los Angeles Dodgers against the Boston Red Sox.
This was also the first season since 2015, that TNF was not on NBC, as it moved to fellow NFL broadcaster Fox for the next five years. Despite the loss of TNF, NBC still broadcasts the Kickoff Game and the Thanksgiving prime time games (both on a Thursday night) as they fall under the current NBC contract.
This marked the seventh year in the Sunday night package that a prime time Thanksgiving game was shown on NBC which featured the Atlanta Falcons against the New Orleans Saints. However, the studio team of Mike Tirico, Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison called the game in place of Michaels and Collinsworth.
Flexible scheduling rules went into effect Week 5. If a more compelling matchup arose as the season progressed, the previously scheduled Sunday Night matchup could be swapped with the more competitive game's time slot. This occurred several times during the season:
- On October 9, NBC and the league announced that the previously scheduled Rams-49ers match-up was moved to a 4:25 p.m. ET start time on CBS, and flexed out for the Bengals-Chiefs match-up, originally scheduled for a 1:00 p.m. ET start, also on CBS. This meant that the Chiefs wound up playing on back-to-back Sunday Nights. Also, this set a new mark for becoming the earliest game to be flexed into SNF, in NBC’s whole tenure of covering Sunday Night Football.
- On November 5, the league announced that the previously scheduled Steelers-Jaguars match-up was moved to a 1:00 p.m. ET start time on CBS, and flexed out for the Vikings-Bears match-up, originally scheduled for a 1:00 p.m. ET start on Fox. And on November 8, the league announced that the Packers-Vikings match-up remained in place, meaning that the Minnesota Vikings also wound up playing on back-to-back Sunday Nights.
- On November 14, two more games were flexed into the SNF prime time slot. In Week 13, the 49ers again were flexed out of their original SNF slot, this time, against the division rival Seahawks. It was the second time that the 49ers were flexed out of SNF this season, as their Week 7 game between the NFC West-leading Rams was flexed out for the Bengals-Chiefs game. This game was replaced with the Steelers hosting the 8-3 Los Angeles Chargers, who made their first SNF appearance since 2014.
- In Week 14, the Los Angeles Rams, 7 weeks after having their first SNF game flexed out of primetime, travelled to Chicago to take on the NFC North-leading Bears, who hosted their 2nd SNF game in 4 weeks. This game replaced the game featuring the Steelers against the 2-10 Oakland Raiders. Those moves also meant that the city of Los Angeles also had back-to-back Sunday Night Football appearances. With that game, and their home game against the defending Super Bowl Champion Eagles in the Week 15 slot, the Rams wound up playing on back-to-back SNF appearances and the city of Los Angeles had 3-straight weeks with a team on SNF.
- On December 23, the NFL finalized the Week 17 schedule, which included a win-and-in game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Tennessee Titans being flexed into that week's SNF slot, with the winner clinching the AFC's final playoff spot and the loser being eliminated. This game marked the Titans' first appearance on SNF since 2009 (coincidentally, also against the Colts).
In addition, SNF scheduled several rematches from last season’s playoffs, including the Saints-Vikings game, the Steelers-Jaguars AFC Divisional game (which was eventually flexed out), and the Falcons-Eagles NFC Divisional game.
SNF had a rules analyst for the first time in program history, as the network added former referee Terry McAulay, who retired after the 2017 season. McAulay has worked three Super Bowls in his tenure as an NFL referee. Also that same year, McAulay worked the Notre Dame Football games for NBC, with FNIA studio host, Mike Tirico.
The 2019 schedule was released on April 17. However, on March 25, the NFL announced that, in a break from tradition, the Kickoff Game would not be hosted by the reigning Super Bowl champions and would instead featured the Chicago Bears who hosted the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field on September 5, with the game aired on NBC as part of a number of matchups throughout the league's 100th season celebrating critical games and rivalries through the league's history. The New England Patriots instead hosted the first SNF game of the season against Pittsburgh Steelers during Week 1 on NBC. It also placed a World Series game against a Sunday night game for the tenth year in a row with the Green Bay Packers against the Kansas City Chiefs. Thanksgiving featured a rematch of the previous season’s primetime Thanksgiving game between the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons. It was the eighth time that the Thanksgiving game was part of the SNF package shown on NBC.
Flexible scheduling rules went into effect in Week 5; the scheduled game reverted to the afternoon if a more compelling match-up arose. The scheduled SNF matchup could be swapped with the more competitive game's time slot. The final Sunday night game of the season: Sunday, December 29, 2019, likewise was a flex game; the slot was left blank when the schedule came out. The game's teams was announced after most Week 16 games. It was filled by the San Francisco 49ers at the Seattle Seahawks.
On November 12, The Green Bay Packers versus San Francisco 49ers game was moved from 4:25pm ET on Fox to 8:20pm ET on NBC, replacing the originally scheduled Seattle Seahawks versus Philadelphia Eagles game.
On December 2, The Buffalo Bills versus Pittsburgh Steelers game was moved from 1:00pm ET on CBS to 8:20pm ET on NBC, replacing the originally scheduled Minnesota Vikings versus Los Angeles Chargers game.
On December 9, NFL extended the deadline for flexing the Week 16 game from the usual 12 days to 6 days before the game, allowing NBC to wait to see what the playoff implications were from the 15 games before deciding to flex the game between the New Orleans Saints and the Tennessee Titans into SNF or to keep the originally scheduled game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Chicago Bears. The network ultimately chose to keep the originally scheduled game between the Chiefs and Bears.
For the second consecutive season, the FNIA team of Tirico, Dungy and Harrison were assigned to work the Thanksgiving primetime game.
The 2020 schedule was released on May 7. The Kickoff game on September 10 will feature the Super Bowl LIV Champion Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans. It will also place a SNF game against a World Series game for the eleventh consecuitive Year. The Thanksgiving Night game will feature the Baltimore Ravens vs the Pittsburgh Steelers. It will be the ninth time that the Thanksgiving game will be part of the SNF package shown on NBC.
Flexible Scheduling rules go into effect in Week 5; The scheduled game will revert to the afternoon if a more compelling game arises. The scheduled SNF game could be swapped with the more competitive game's time slot. The final game of the season Sunday January 3, 2021 is likewise is a flex game; The slot was left blank when the schedule came out it. Games and times will be announced at a later date.
Similarities to ABC's NFL coverage
Much of NBC's Sunday Night Football production crew comes from ABC/ESPN, including Fred Gaudelli and Drew Esocoff (who respectively serve as producer and director of the broadcasts), as ESPN moved most of its previous Sunday night crew over to Monday Night Football. Michaels, Madden and Andrea Kremer also came to NBC directly from ABC/ESPN, and Football Night in America's Sterling Sharpe was a member of ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown in recent years (calling several Sunday night games for the network in 2005). With regard to using ABC/ESPN talent, NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol said, "I was not interested in the quote, unquote vanity of starting anew ... There's not a lot of room for experimentation."
In addition, NBC has the starters for each team introduce themselves on each side of the ball (though the strict "player name/position/playing college" introductions of the past have been relaxed, and now players can list their birthplace or high school in the last part rather than their playing college, or even their college's common nickname, such as Miami (FL)'s "The U"), much as ABC did in the last few years of its run, and the short post-game show (done to allow affiliates to start their late newscasts) follows a similar format to ABC's. As of Week 9 of the 2016 NFL season, this practice was also used on the NBC-produced Thursday Night Football broadcasts on NBC and/or NFL Network.
Michaels and Madden ended each telecast in the 2007 and 2008 NFL seasons by selecting an MVP for that night's game to receive the Horse Trailer award (with a photo of each recipient being affixed to the side of a production truck, also known as a "horse trailer"). This concept originated from Madden's days with CBS, where he invented the similar "Turkey Leg Award" for the Thanksgiving Day game in 1989 (he later took the concept to Fox, then expanded it to every game of the year with the Horse Trailer Award when he joined ABC in 2002). In the 2006 season, the MVP concept was modified slightly, where the game's MVP was called the "Rock Star of the Game" and had his photo placed on a display at the "Top of the Rock" observation deck atop 30 Rockefeller Plaza, NBC's New York headquarters, in New York. When Madden retired following Super Bowl XLIII, the Horse Trailer Player of the Game award was discontinued.
Academy Award winner John Williams composed the instrumental theme music, titled "Wide Receiver," for Sunday Night Football. For Super Bowl XLIII, NBC commissioned Joel Beckerman of Man Made Music to create new instrumental cues adding techno and rock elements around the main brass melody. These cues replaced the original Williams arrangements full-time at the start of the 2009 season. Singer Pink sang the theme song for the broadcast in 2006, a reworking of the Joan Jett song "I Hate Myself for Loving You" retitled "Waiting All Day for Sunday Night". Several alternative versions were used throughout the season, substituting different lyrics when appropriate (such as "Waiting All Year For Opening Night").
In 2007, country singer Faith Hill replaced Pink as the singer of the opening theme, and a new arrangement of the Joan Jett song coincided with her debut. The Faith Hill intro, in particular, was not without criticism and parody. The intro was lampooned in the October 9, 2010 episode of Saturday Night Live, with host Jane Lynch as Hill (with Jason Sudeikis as Al Michaels and Bill Hader as Cris Collinsworth). In the 30 Rock episode "Season 4", the character of Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) sings what appears to be an allusion to the Faith Hill intro for NBC's fictional Tennis Night in America program. In the South Park episode entitled "Faith Hilling", Eric Cartman sings an obvious spoof of Hill's actual Sunday Night Football song. On April 15, 2013, Hill announced that she would no longer sing the intro song for Sunday Night Football.
The use of the reworked Joan Jett song is another similarity to ABC's Monday Night Football coverage. From 1989 to 2011 and again beginning in 2017, Hank Williams, Jr. opens MNF with a reworking of his song "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight" entitled "All My Rowdy Friends Are Back for Monday Night (Are You Ready for Some Football?)".
A new Carrie Underwood-sung theme known as "Oh, Sunday Night", which takes elements from her 2014 duet hit with Miranda Lambert, "Somethin' Bad", premiered with the opening game of the 2016 season on September 11.
For NBC's coverage of Thursday Night Football in 2016 and 2017, a capella group Pentatonix sung the opening theme song called "Weekend Go." The song is a reworked version of their original song "Sing." NBC also used the TNF main theme music called "Can't Hold Us Down," performed by members of the Broadway orchestra for Hamilton.
In 2018, Underwood, along with songwriters Chris DeStefano & Brett James, wrote and recorded a brand new song for SNF, called “Game On”, replacing “Oh, Sunday Night,” which had been the opening theme since 2016. In addition, Joel Beckerman, who had orchestrated the main theme since Super Bowl XLIII, reorchestrated the main theme, for the first time since Super Bowl XLVI. Underwood faced criticism over the song, which led to her, NBC, and the NFL being sued by singer Heidi Merrill for plagiarism.
The plagiarism lawsuit of “Game On” led to NBC bringing back ”Waiting All Day for Sunday Night”, which was the original opening song, until it was replaced in 2016. Underwood returned, and last year, the open featured Joan Jett, and her band The Blackhearts. The open was shot inside of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which was the first time that the SNF open was shot inside of an NFL stadium, instead of a soundstage.
The song is at the centerpiece of the opening montage, which has changed several times over the years. Carrie Underwood’s music has always played in the background over the official welcome after the opening is completed and the teams take the field.
For the first season, Pink appeared to sing from the top of a skyscraper as a helicopter zoomed down on a city skyline with enlarged players Shaun Alexander, LaDainian Tomlinson and Tom Brady and the field, the results of computer-generated imagery. A television monitor, which resembles the monitor at Times Square leased at the time by NBC, showed game preview footage and opening credits.
Faith Hill, who replaced Pink as the theme song's performer, sang on a stage while some of the key players in the game and announcers Al Michaels and John Madden arrived in limousines and walk on a red carpet as they head to a simulated theater. The marquee outside the theater showed the logo of then-official NFL communications partner Sprint, which paid a product placement fee, and one of the "bystanders" recorded the red carpet scene on a Sprint camera phone. Access Hollywood co-hosts Shaun Robinson and Tony Potts also appeared in the opening. In addition, some of the lyrics were changed slightly and the musical arrangement tilts toward country more than rock, to reflect the change in singers.
The 2008 opening, which debuted on September 7, takes place in a stadium. Faith Hill performs and dances surrounded by video screens with simulated game action, and the song ends with a computer-generated fireworks display. Once again, a Sprint camera phone is used, this time by a fan. Among the spectators are NFL stars Ray Lewis and Antonio Gates. Again, there were some lyrics changes, among them was the substitution of the lyrics "last one standing better turn out the lights."
Super Bowl XLIII
A special intro sequence was used for Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009. Faith Hill performs with CGI blue neon lights and video screens in the settings of the background and at the end of the video, the Vince Lombardi Trophy enters through pouring water, showing the trophy in front of the city of Tampa (the host city of Super Bowl XLIII).
For 2009, Faith Hill appears in the intro sequence performed in a closed-studio setting, surrounded by video monitors, neon lights and a message board that displayed the names of the production staff. Sprint returned for more product placement, as a branded cell phone appeared to give an alert that the game was about to start.
Faith Hill was seen in front of a Ford Mustang convertible as the song began, overlooking a bluff; the scene was taped in the Hollywood Hills in California. A number of NFL stars appeared in front of various landmarks throughout the United States, including Peyton Manning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Eli Manning at Times Square, DeSean Jackson at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Larry Fitzgerald in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona and Drew Brees on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Hill herself drove down a road with some simulated billboards with the opening credits and a product placement ad for Verizon (which replaced Sprint as the league's telecommunications sponsor) and was also seen at the Washington Monument. Some of the lyrics changed yet again; for example, the opening line once again asked, "Alright, Sunday night, where are you?" Hill gathered with the NFL stars on a football field inside a stadium at the end of the video.
In Week 16, the introduction did not air due to the game moving to Tuesday night and time constraints.
There were a few significant changes from the previous year, including Faith Hill (who herself returned for her fifth year as part of the telecast's opening) arriving in a motorcycle. In addition, Verizon returned for more product placement. Most of the scenes, including the NFL stars' appearances in front of various landmarks throughout the U.S. and Hill at the Washington Monument (with the minor difference being her wardrobe), were repeated from 2010, however several new NFL stars appeared, including Adrian Peterson and Brian Urlacher; in the last few seconds of the sequence, all of them gather on a computer-generated football field. In another notable change, the opening credits were dropped for the season. J. Ivy, a spoken word poet from Chicago who has worked with Kanye West and Jay-Z, also appears during the opening.
Super Bowl XLVI
Faith Hill performed another special Super Bowl version of the song at the start of the network's broadcast of Super Bowl XLVI on February 5, 2012. With computer-generated technology, this was filmed in a closed-studio setting, with her walking surrounded by video screens showing clips from past Super Bowl games. A Verizon smartphone (product placement) was seen at the beginning of the video sequence.
Some changes were made to the show's opening for the 2012 season, which included Faith Hill walking through the tunnel towards the stage. She then performs with a rock band in front of a live audience, with video screens in the background. Shortly after the start of the song, guests appeared on the computer-generated video screens each week (such as three of the judges from The Voice for Week 1 the Chicago Fire Department for Week 3) and (the girls Goldie Rocky and Shania from The New Normal for Week 5)singing the line "We want it too!" The live audience uses their smartphones to form the Verizon logo. NFL stars are also seen going through the tunnel with moving CG images of city landmarks, players and team logos. Initially, the stars presented were Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers), Clay Matthews (Packers), Ray Lewis (Baltimore Ravens), Patrick Willis (San Francisco 49ers), Jimmy Graham (New Orleans Saints), DeMarcus Ware (Dallas Cowboys), Calvin Johnson (Detroit Lions), Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona Cardinals), Jared Allen (Minnesota Vikings), Rob Gronkowski (New England Patriots), Darrelle Revis (New York Jets) and Eli Manning (New York Giants). The opening itself was remixed with Nick Mangold (Jets) and LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia Eagles) filling in for Ray Lewis and Darrelle Revis.
Beginning with this season, the opening title sequence was not used at the start of the NBC Sunday Night Football Thanksgiving Special broadcast. This opening was also not used on December 16, 2012, two days after the Sandy Hook shooting.
Carrie Underwood became the performer for the theme song for the 2013 season, replacing Faith Hill. Her intro debuted on September 8, with the theme arrangement itself tilted even more towards country to reflect the change in singers. In this animation sequence, Carrie Underwood performs on stage inside a computer-generated stadium. Verizon also returned for more product placement. Some of the NFL stars appearing in this opening include Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts), Eli Manning (Giants), Peyton Manning (Denver Broncos), Clay Matthews (Packers) and J. J. Watt (Houston Texans). The animation ends with the NBC Sunday Night Football logo written in laser lighting.
Beginning with this season, the opening was not used for any and all playoff games aired on NBC.
Carrie Underwood continued her role as Sunday Night Football's show opener, which debuted on September 7. Once again, Verizon returned to provide product placement. Some of the NFL stars that are represented in the opening are Philip Rivers (San Diego Chargers), Luke Kuechly (Carolina Panthers), DeMarcus Ware (Broncos), Clay Matthews (Packers), Brandon Marshall (Chicago Bears), Jimmy Graham (Saints), LeSean McCoy (Eagles) and Colin Kaepernick (49ers). This time, Carrie Underwood is seen performing on a computer-generated stage. In another major tweak, the lyrics toward the end of the song changed, with the commentators' first names (Al & Cris) being replaced with "come on along with the best on TV."
Super Bowl XLIX
Carrie Underwood performed a special Super Bowl version of the song at the start of the network's broadcast of Super Bowl XLIX on February 1, 2015. In this version, Carrie Underwood is performing with a rock band in concert with video screens showing scenes from past Super Bowl games inside a CGI rendering of University of Phoenix Stadium, the site of Super Bowl XLIX. The Patriots' Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Darrelle Revis, as well as the Seattle Seahawks' Russell Wilson and Kam Chancellor, appeared in the opening. Verizon provided product placement.
Carrie Underwood returned for her third year as part of the show's opening on September 13. Once again, she is seen performing on a computer-generated stage. Product placement was once again provided by Verizon, which introduced its newest company logo that September.
Carrie Underwood returned for her fourth season on September 11, with "Oh, Sunday Night" replacing "Waiting All Day For Sunday Night" as the new intro for SNF. In this open, Underwood is seen at the stadium entrance in front of a bus. Upon entering the stadium, she goes into the SNF broadcast booth with Al Michaels (play-by-play) and Cris Collinsworth (color). She is then seen going down the steps before entering the locker room with the players and then walking past a row of cheerleaders. Michele Tafoya (sideline reporter) also appears in the open, as does product placement by Verizon. As Underwood leaves the computer-generated stadium at the end of the open, the SNF logo is lit up between the two computer-generated pyrotechnics displays and finally, the sliding doors seen above the logo slide open while going into a live shot.
Carrie Underwood returned for her fifth season on September 10. The opening sequence begins with a skyline and a Verizon logo (product placement) on the lower left of the screen. Underwood is seen wearing a red dress while walking down the street before performing on stage. Various NFL stars also appeared in the opening.
Super Bowl LII
Rather than singing a special version of “Oh Sunday Night”, done in previous years with “Waiting All Day for Sunday Night”, Carrie Underwood recorded, and performed "The Champion" featuring rapper Ludacris as the opening sequence to Super Bowl LII, with product placement by Verizon.
Carrie Underwood returned for her 6th season on September 9. "Game On" replaced "Oh Sunday Night" as the opening theme. In the open, she is singing into a microphone with video screens in the background. Underwood is joined by several NFL stars before the cheerleaders join her. The open ends with Underwood on the rooftop of a skyscraper. In another significant change, the logo of Pepsi (the official soft drink of the NFL, which paid a product placement fee) is shown. It replaced Verizon as the product placement sponsor in the SNF open. As in past years, this theme wasn't heard before the September 6th Kickoff Game between the Falcons and Eagles, nor on Sunday Night Football on Thanksgiving Night between the Falcons and the Saints (the latter of which featured Emeril Lagasse in the open). However, although the Kickoff Game had no intro, NBC used a snippet of Underwood’s song The Champion, to commemorate the Eagles’ Super Bowl Championship, which then lead into the championship banner unveiling, the singing of "Fly, Eagles Fly", and the introduction of the Super Bowl Champion Eagles, all led by Hall of Famer Brian Dawkins.
Carrie Underwood returned for her 7th season on September 8, when her new intro for SNF debuted during Week 1. As previously mentioned, she teamed with rock music legend Joan Jett for the return of the original SNF opening theme song, "Waiting All Day For Sunday Night." Product placement was once again provided by Pepsi and the opening sequence was filmed inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, making this the first time the open was filmed inside an actual NFL stadium.
The graphics, logos and scoreboard for NBC's Sunday Night Football telecasts were designed by Troika Design Group, along with the city skyline graphics used in the introductions to both Football Night in America and the games proper. It was effectively the first time the network used permanent time/score boxes throughout any of their sports broadcasts outside of Olympic Games broadcasts, where permanent scoring displays were compulsory; prior to 2006, the network continued the previous mode of presenting the scores on-screen for a short time every few minutes or so, a method common in American sports broadcasting until Fox introduced constant scoring displays in 1994.
NBC's game telecasts use the same type of horizontal bottom-screen scoreboard that Monday Night Football used in the 2005 NFL season (and was subsequently used by ABC Sports until its rebranding in August 2006). After its debut, the graphics also began to be phased in across other NBC Sports properties, including its coverage of Notre Dame football and the annual Bayou Classic game (which uses exactly the same graphics used on SNF broadcasts), National Hockey League coverage (which uses the SNF graphics but with a scoreboard on the top), and tennis and golf (which use a modified version influenced by the look, but with bolder text for readability purposes). NBC's Olympics coverage continues to use a different package mixed between NBC's graphics and those of the IOC's world feed. The NBC football graphics are also used, in some form or another, on certain locally produced preseason telecasts carried by NBC owned-and-operated stations and affiliates that serve as flagship outlets for NFL teams (such as New York Giants preseason games on WNBC, and the Minnesota Vikings on KARE-TV).
NBC's bottom-line scoring banner underwent a significant revamp for the 2009 season, although it debuted during the network's Super Bowl XLIII coverage on February 1, 2009. The changes included presenting downs and yardage in a feather derived from NBC's iconic peacock logo in the colors of the team currently on offense. In addition, when a team scores a touchdown, the banner will open, the team's logo and initials will slide to the left of the banner and "TOUCHDOWN" is displayed in the remainder of the banner. After a few moments, the banner will show the drive information. Then the banner returns to normal and show the change in the team's score. Additionally (beginning with Week 9), timeout indicators were added below each team's respective scores. For the 2010 season, the timeout indicators were changed to three white trapezoids below the team abbreviations, and the play clock was moved from above the team in possession of the football to above the game clock (for the final two minutes of regulation and if necessary, overtime). The down markers also changed in 2010, which is now featuring the team logo next to the down marker.
On January 2, 2012, during the NHL Winter Classic (with a sneak two days before during a Notre Dame hockey game on Versus), the graphics of all of NBC Sports' productions were updated to a new package intended to unify the graphical image between both the network and the rebranded NBC Sports Network, which relaunched that same day. Subsequently, on Wild Card Saturday (January 7), the network's NFL presentation was changed to the new graphical styling to match the style and layout of the then-recently christened NBC Sports Network. Most of the banner's styling remains the same, but with a cleaner and larger font for readability and a more neutral NBC logo to the left rather than the "aggressive peacock" used since 2006. Elements such as team and individual player stats take on team colors (main color as the background, secondary color as the accent), and the down/yardage/possession graphic also takes on team coloring, with neutral team comparison stats and other elements having a gold/blue/black coloring. Additionally, the play clock appeared directly above the game clock throughout the entire game.
Beginning with the 2014 Hall of Fame Game on August 3, 2014, the play clock was moved to the right side, next to the down/yardage graphic, of the bottom-screen score banner, which itself remained in the 4:3 safe area. In addition, beginning with the NFL Kickoff Special on September 4, 2014, an electronic green-colored line-of-scrimmage marker was added to the virtual on-field graphic. NBC's Sunday Night Football was also the last of the five NFL broadcast partners to switch to a full 16:9 letterbox presentation on its 4:3 standard-definition feed, a downscaled version of the HD feed's native 16:9 format (utilizing the Active Format Description #10 flag), following Fox (2010), ESPN's Monday Night Football (2011), NFL Network's Thursday Night Football (2012) and CBS (2013). Some of the graphics were also re-positioned.
On January 3, 2015, during the Wild Card playoffs, NBC Sports debuted a revamped graphics package for its NFL coverage on Wild Card Saturday Night, which is formatted for the 16:9 letterbox presentation. The package was part of a new graphics set introduced across NBC Sports' properties on January 1, 2015, during its coverage of the Premier League and the 2015 NHL Winter Classic.
On November 3, 2016, during the Atlanta Falcons-Tampa Bay Buccaneers game on NFL Network, NBC Sports debuted a separate graphics package for their production of Thursday Night Football, which is completely different from the CBS Sports version. The score bar, which is similar in design to the SNF version, is also seen at the bottom of the screen, with the NBC/NFL Network co-branding on the left side of the bar. However, the timeout indicators on NBC's TNF score bar are stacked to the right of the team's abbreviations, as opposed to underneath them on the network's own SNF score bar. For the 2017 season, TNF games produced by NBC but aired exclusively on NFL Network outside of team markets have the NBC logos removed but use the same graphics and theme music.
NBC debuted a new graphics package specifically for Sunday Night Football during Super Bowl LII. Producer Fred Gaudelli stated that the network wanted SNF to have a more distinctive presentation to set them apart from other NBC Sports telecasts. For the 2018 season, NBC also debuted a new on-air feature known as the "green zone"; on third downs, the distance from the line of scrimmage to the first down line is digitally shaded on the field to be a darker shade of green. The feature received mixed reviews from critics and viewers, who considered it distracting and redundant to the existing yellow first down line that had historically been a standard feature of U.S. football telecasts. The Ringer's Rodger Sherman considered it "the ultimate conclusion of graphics creep". Gaudelli stated that the green zone was developed for when Skycam is used as a primary camera angle, but it was decided to use the effect on all games.
In Canada, Sunday Night Football is aired by TSN, as well as CTV 2 for simsub purposes since the 2017 season under the NFL's current media rights. It is also aired in the UK by Sky Sports and in Australia by 7mate.
In Brazil, SNF is broadcast on ESPN Brasil, with the original English audio available as a separate feed via second audio program. Brazilian Portuguese audio is hosted by Everaldo Marques on play-by-play and Paulo Antunes as color commentator; Rômulo Mendonça fills in occasionally as play-by-play and Paulo Mancha or Antony Curti as color commentator.
In the Philippines, TV5 (which partnered with ESPN) on October 12 announced that it would broadcast SNF starting with Week 6 of the 2017 NFL regular season between the New York Giants and the Denver Broncos.
Through the first four weeks of the 2010 NFL season, Sunday Night Football had an average total viewership of 22.9 million viewers, the most for the first four weeks of a prime time NFL package in 14 years (since ABC earned a 24.0 million average viewership in 1996 on four broadcasts of Monday Night Football).
The Washington Redskins–Dallas Cowboys game on December 30, 2012 was the highest-rated Sunday Night Football broadcast ever, earning 30.426 million viewers (22.074 million during the period from 8:31 to 11:25 p.m. Eastern Time) and a household rating of 12.7. This also made it the most watched regular-season primetime game in 16 years, since a November 18, 1996 Monday Night Football game on ABC between the Green Bay Packers and the Cowboys (which was watched by 31.5 million viewers).
For the 2013 season, Sunday Night Football averaged 21.9 million viewers (for 15 broadcasts, as well as the Turkey Bowl) in 2013, up 5% versus its viewership in 2012, and an increase of 3% with a 12.9 household rating. In terms of sheer reach, this marked the highest average viewership for an NFL prime time package since 1996. Its highest rated game telecast was the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts on October 20, 2013, which was watched by 26.9 million viewers.
- NFL on NBC
- Monday Night Football
- ESPN Sunday Night Football
- TNT Sunday Night Football
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- Fox NFL
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