Get ready for SpongeBob SquarePants running out of the tunnel, players being covered with digital slime after touchdowns and commentary from the cast of “All That” when Nickelodeon airs an NFL playoff game.
CBS Sports and Nickelodeon revealed their plans on Tuesday for the kid-focused channel's broadcast of a wild-card game on Sunday, Jan. 10. The Nickelodeon feed will be tailored for younger audiences with the usual broadcast airing on CBS and online at CBS All Access.
CBS and NBC got the rights to the two new wild-card games after owners voted earlier this year to expand the field from six to seven teams in each conference. There will be six games on wild-card weekend. The Jan. 9 and 10 games are scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m., 4:40 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. EST, and the middle Sunday game will get the Nickelodeon simulcast.
CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said adding a broadcast for families with young children was part of the discussions with the NFL when negotiations began on which networks would receive the additional games.
“The minute we brought it up to the NFL, they thought it was really a good idea because they are trying to reach a younger and more diverse demographic,” McManus said. “This was a great way of adding to the presentation without in any way shape or form harming the CBS broadcast."
A trial run took place during the Dec. 6 Philadelphia Eagles-Green Bay Packers game to test graphics, animation and filters. Shawn Robbins, who will be the game's coordinating producer, said Nickelodeon animators were able add their touches to certain plays and get them ready to go in less than 5 minutes.
“We had a live feed coming out of the Green Bay rehearsal and I was really blown away. It was so entertaining, fun and innovative,” McManus said. “We’re going to be able to respect the integrity of the game, but all the animations and the fun stuff is really going to make it look and feel very, very different than a CBS broadcast, which it should. I think it’s really going to be fun.”
Noah Eagle, the radio voice of the Los Angeles Clippers and son of longtime CBS play-by-play announcer Ian Eagle, will call the game along with “NFL Today” analyst Nate Burleson and Nickelodeon's Gabrielle Nevaeh Green. Lex Lumpkin, who stars with Green on “All That,” will be a field reporter.
Nickelodeon will air “The SpongeBob SportsPants Countdown Special” before the game. The 30-minute show will be hosted by Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller and features SpongeBob's best sports moments.
“When Sean told us that this is really going to happen, we were thrilled and excited. But the next day after that was, well, how do we make this different? So we really put our creative teams together,” said Brian Robbins, the president of ViacomCBS Kids & Family Entertainment. “I think we’ve come up with a really fun and differentiated broadcast, that we know that our kids, you know, the Nickelodeon audience should really enjoy along with their parents.”
CBS, which will broadcast this season's Super Bowl, and Nickelodeon are under the same umbrella after last year’s ViacomCBS merger.
CBS isn’t the only network doing something extra on wild-card weekend. NBC's prime-time broadcast on Jan. 10 will air on Telemundo and stream on Peacock. ESPN’s broadcast will also air on ABC.
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