While Good Morning America and Today fight for morning supremacy, the NFL is trying to get its hands on some of those early viewers.
On Monday, as training camps begin around the league, its network will debut NFL AM, a new morning program that will air from 6-10 a.m. ET. “We’ve been thinking about it for a while,” Mark Quenzel, senior VP, programming and production, told B&C. “To be relevant in the morning, for us, was a very important thing.”
Quenzel said NFL AM will incorporate a mixture of news, debates, interviews, on-site reports, fantasy football and pop culture. “Four hours allows you to talk about some things or even mention things that aren’t done in a normal one-hour news show.”
The show’s pop culture and “conversational” elements will be what sets it apart from the rest of the net’s lineup. “So much of our programming is ‘X’s and O’s’ — it’s a lot of hardcore stuff,” said Quenzel. “I think this [show] deals more with the players, the coaches, [and] the people that make up the game and talks more about them directly.”
NFL AM boasts four newcomers to the network, who are all “new to the national stage,” which is something Quenzel said he was looking for when assembling the on-air talent. Brian Webber, Fox Sports’ digital media lead host, and Comcast SportsNet New England anchor Nicole Zaloumis will cohost the show. Longtime sportswriter Mark Kriegel and former NFL cornerback Eric Davis will serve as analysts.
Those four join Steve Wyche, who has been with the network for five years, appearing on a variety of programs. With so many new faces, Quenzel is pleased with how quickly everyone has come together. “The talent seems to have really gelled very well.”
NFL AM will be broadcast from NFL Network’s Culver City, Calif., studio, even though it means a 3 a.m. start time. “Most of the infrastructure to do a show of this magnitude is out here,” said Quenzel. “To try to re-create it somewhere else, I thought would be even more challenging than starting at 3 a.m.” While the show will air live in the West Coast, NFL Network will encore NFL AM at 7 a.m. (PT).
Quenzel is realistic in his expectations for the show, noting that they are entering a daypart where more well-rounded shows like GMA and Today flourish. He said that right now there is no specific viewership or ratings mark, arguing that they first have to get NFL Network on viewers’ minds in the morning.
“Changing viewing habits and getting people to wake up in the morning and think about turning to NFL Network versus ESPN, ESPN2 or CNN is going to take a while,” said Quenzel. He did admit that “ultimately, it will be about ratings. People need to watch.”