I must admit, upon learning that the NFL was broadcasting the contest between the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears on CBS, Amazon Prime Video, and Nickelodeon, the latter was the only option I wanted, purely for the novelty of the experience.
Fans with a similar mindset, or the younger viewers that the NFL targeted with the broadcast, had their curiosity rewarded with some broadcast AR hijinks.
Throughout the live broadcast, CBS Sports projected augmented reality effects onto the field of play and in video packages deployed throughout the contest.
“This is a first of its kind presentation for the NFL together with Nickelodeon, and we are very excited to create a unique telecast that will maximize the co-viewing appeal for kids and families, while maintaining the integrity of the game and its traditions,” said Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports, in a statement. “Partnering with Nickelodeon to showcase the NFL Playoffs is a great opportunity to highlight the power, depth and reach of ViacomCBS, as we continue to unlock the true potential of our merged company with the first of many opportunities between CBS Sports and our ViacomCBS family.”
For example, the first down line for each play gained some animations that were on-brand for Nickelodeon. More fantastically, when touchdowns were scored, the end zone transformed into a slime zone, with virtual geysers of slime bursting from the field.
In addition, the broadcast team added broadcast AR special effects onto the video clips in the commercial bumpers.
Aside from the broadcast AR effects, the announcing team, namely play-by-play announcer Noah Eagle, analyst Nate Burleson, and actress Gabrielle Nevaeh Green, maintained a balance between traditional play calls with vignettes, including explainers featuring the titular character from Young Sheldon, which helped young viewers learn the basics of the game.
“Our game plan is to make sure the NFL Wild Card Game on Nickelodeon definitely lives up to its name by infusing the telecast with Nick’s sensibility of surprise and fun at almost every turn,” said Brian Robbins, president of ViacomCBS Kids & Family Entertainment. “We’re incredibly proud to team up with CBS Sports and the NFL to elevate the thrill of this game for kids and families to enjoy together.”
Of course, this isn’t even close to the first time broadcast AR has made its way into an NFL broadcast. The league has famously pioneered the use of the technology with the debut of the yellow first-down marker in 1998.
When your intent is to garner the interest of a younger audience, the whimsy of broadcast AR effects can help transform the game into something kids are more likely to enjoy. My teenage son lamented that CBS Sports and Nickelodeon hadn’t pulled this off sooner, because he may have gotten into the sport earlier.
This unique event also serves as a test case for how the NFL and its media partners could further amplify the entertainment value of traditional broadcasts in the future.