New NBC football analyst John Madden says that the distinction between working for other networks and NBC is, essentially, Dick Ebersol, Chairman NBC Universal Sports & Olympics.
Madden and Al Michaels, who will team with Madden in the broadcast booth for NBC's new Sunday Night Football package, were on a conference call with reporters Monday talking about the season kick-off Aug. 6 with the Hall of Fame game (Madden is being inducted and his Raiders are playing)
Madden likened Ebersol, who was also on the call, to Al Davis, the hands-on owner of Madden's former team, the Oakland Raiders. "There isn't this committee and that committee," said Madden of NBC. there is one level and one guy. And that's Dick Ebersol. If you need something, you've got one call to make."
Asked whether being the third game on Sunday night means you risk viewer fatigue, Ebersol, said no. He said the schedule was the first factor, with the NBC games "almost every week appearing to be the game of the day." Plus, there is flexible scheduling, which means that as the season wears on, NBC will be able to substitute more marquee match-ups with playoff bound teams.
He pointed out that there were four games last season toward the end of the season when Madden and Michaels, then teamed on ABC's Monday Night Football, that didn't match up teams with winning records. That shouldn't happen with the flexible option.
But though he talked about schedule and flexibility, Ebersol, returning Madden's shout-out, said his biggest advantage in branding NBC's return to football was Madden and Michaels, who he has billed as the dream team since snatching them from ABC. "We don't start with any rookies," he said, or rookie errors." Without naming names, Ebersol said he had had some high-profile failures in talent picks in the past, but he put that on himself and said that "sure as hell won't be the case here."
Asked how big a deal it was to have a couple of Super Bowls to look forward to, Ebersol said that when you look at the big days, Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Christmas--he caveat-ed that there was nothing as special as Christmas as a family day--the Super Bowl, is the "biggest event," unlike any other. NBC gets the big game in 2009 and 2012.
Ebersol also talked of the promotional platform for other shows the game provides, and the half-time extravaganza. Asked who would control that half-time, which famously got CBS in a little hot water--Ebersol said that the NFL has made it "quite clear" that booking the talent will be done through them. Pointing out NBC has not done a Super Bowl since 1998, Ebersol said the NFL is "really sitting on top of that production, as they should."