Since 2006, Sunday Night Football has headlined the NBC broadcast of the late football game. From 1987 to 2005, ESPN owned Sunday prime time telecasts of the National Football League. That was until NBC purchased the streaming rights, which began with the televised broadcast of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game in August 2006.
During 2011-2012, Sunday Night Football became the first sports program to take No. 1 ranking in the Nielsen’s most-watched program in the United States. As of 2020, Mike Tirico and Al Michaels have served as the primary play-by-play announcers with either Chris Collinsworth or Tony Dungy serving as the color commentator.
History of Sunday Night Football
Before Sunday Night Football Tonight was a part of ESPN, it made stops with ESPN and ABC. Sunday primetime football games have been televised since 1978. As football popularity rose, the brand of Sunday Night Football did as well.
Beginning with ESPN
ABC began airing the occasional prime time game in 1978, but it was nearly a decade later that ESPN decided to conduct an NFL Sunday night game. In 1987, ESPN took over as the primary streaming service. At the time, the broadcast booth consisted of Mike Patrick, Roy Firestone, and a “weekly guest color commentator.” After one season, Joe Theismann took over as lead analyst.
In 1998, ESPN rebranded NFL Sunday Night as ESPN Sunday Night Football. At the time, ESPN had exclusive rights to any night game, besides the season opener, and regular Monday Night Football games, which was broadcasted on ABC. Fans watched NFL Sunday with Patrick, Theismann, and Paul Maguire as the hosts. Three years later, ESPN’s Sunday Night Football team began to cover the new Thursday night opening kickoff game.
In 2004, Pat Summerall replaced Patrick, who had open-heart surgery, but his presence for NFL Sunday nights was cut short. After the 2005 season, ESPN ended their package and elected to run with Monday Night Football exclusively. NBC Sports picked up the rights to NFL Sunday Night and has been broadcasting nightly football games ever since.
NBC Sunday Night Football
After the 2005 season, ESPN ended their deal with Sunday Night Football games in favor of picking up broadcast rights to Monday Night Football, which had ended their relationship with ABC. NBC elected to pick up rights where it has been ever since. To replace the vacant spot, ESPN picked up broadcasts on Sunday Night Baseball, as well as occasional NBA telecasts.
From 2006 to 2013, NBC’s contract included the rights for playoff games on Saturdays. Now, the weekend wild card series splits up among CBS, ABC, FOX, and NBC. Cris Collinsworth served as a color commentator since 2009, a position that he took over for John Maddon. Tom Hammond served as the play by play announcer until 2012. Dan Hicks took over in 2013 and left after one year.
Mike Tirico has been with NBC since 2016, while Al Michaels is the longest-running broadcaster out of the entire crew. After serving a long career with ABC (1977-2006), Michaels has been with NBC since the crossover.
NBC Sports live debuted in 1946. Since then, it has broadcasted various sports such as the National Football Lague, National Hockey League, Notre Dame Fighting Irish college football, the Olympics, the French Open, NASCAR and the IndyCar Series, professional golf, and the Premier League.
Ever since NBC became a station, it has not focused on the National Basketball Association or Major League Baseball. Instead, NBC has shown other sports such as cycling instead. NBC is also on the rotation to stream the Super Bowl along with CBS and is known for their primetime football telecasts.
NBC Sports Gold
NBC Sports Gold is a subscription service that consists of passes that allow you to access content across NBC Sports live. Since NBCUniversal’s streaming service Peacock unveiled, NBC began to move content to their premium tier at no additional cost. In terms of sports coverage, that includes the Premier League, Figure Skating, Rugby, Snow Pass, Supercross and Pro Motorcross, Speed Skating, and IndyCar.
Comparing Sunday Night Football to Monday Night Football
As of recently, the Sunday Night Football tonight broadcasting crew has had more stability than ESPN. Over the last three seasons, ESPN has had three different broadcasting crews. Essentially, since Jon Gruden left to become the Oakland (now Las Vegas) Raiders, ESPN has struggled to find a consistent crew. However, the current crew of Steve Levy, Louis Riddick, and Brian Griese impressed viewers this season and could get their ratings back up.
Longevity vs. Analysis
Riddick and Griese are two of the best analysts in the sport. If you have ever taken the time to listen to either Sportscenter or radio shows, they do a great job of breaking down football in the simplest ways. Both did an outstanding job in their first year, while Levy is great at just calling the game and leaving the football talk to the former players.
As for the Sunday Night Football crew, their experience shows. The games are called so well. Michaels and Collinsworth are a fantastic team when they are together. The games are called smooth, the plays are analyzed well, and it just feels natural. As Levy, Griese, and Riddick work together more, that chemistry is going to develop.
Frequently Asked Questions
The channel for Sunday Night Football will be on NBC.
You can watch Sunday Night Football through a cable package, Internet streaming service (Hulu Live, YouTube TV, Sling, Fubo), or NBC Gold.
NBC Sports Gold is a style of “a la carte passes” that gain you access to various shows or sports.