I have to admit, when I heard the NFL aired the game 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 targeted by the NFL with the broadcast, their curiosity was rewarded with some broadcast AR hijinks.
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During the live broadcast, CBS Sports projected augmented reality effects onto the playing field and into video packages deployed during the game.
“This is a first-of-its-kind presentation for the NFL with Nickelodeon, and we are very excited to create a unique broadcast that will maximize the appeal of watching together for children and families, while preserving the integrity of the game and its traditions, “” said Sean McManus, president of CBS Sports, in a statement. “Working with Nickelodeon to showcase the NFL Playoffs is a great opportunity to highlight the power, depth and reach of ViacomCBS as we continue unlocking the true potential of our merged company with the first of many opportunities between CBS Sports and our ViacomCBS family. “
For example, the first downline for each piece got some animations that were on-brand for Nickelodeon. Even more fantastic, when touchdowns were scored, the end zone turned into a slime zone, with virtual geysers of slime bursting from the field.
In addition, the broadcast team has added special AR effects to the video clips in the commercial bumpers.
Aside from the AR effects aired, the announcing team, namely play-by-play announcer Noah Eagle, analyst Nate Burleson, and actress Gabrielle Nevaeh Green, maintained a balance of traditional vignette play calls, including explanations featuring the titular character from Young Sheldon, which taught young viewers the basics of the game.
“Our game plan is to make sure the NFL Wild Card Game on Nickelodeon certainly lives up to its name by infusing the broadcast with Nick’s sense of surprise and fun at almost every turn,” said Brian Robbins, president of ViacomCBS Kids & Family Entertainment. “We are incredibly proud to partner with CBS Sports and the NFL to increase the excitement of this game for kids and families to enjoy together.”
Of course, this isn’t even close to the first broadcast AR made in an NFL broadcast. The competition famously pioneered the use of the technology with the debut of the yellow first-down marker in 1998.
If your intention is to pique the interest of a younger audience, the whimsy of AR effects on broadcast can help transform the game into something kids are more likely to enjoy. My teenage son regretted that CBS Sports and Nickelodeon hadn’t managed this before, as he might 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 enhance the entertainment value of traditional broadcasts in the future.