NBC Antes Up New Programming Against Super Bowl

Who wants to go up against the ratings monster that is the Super Bowl? NBC is alone among the networks in original counterprogramming Sunday night against ABC.

It’s the biggest ratings night of the TV year. Conventional wisdom holds a few truths about counterprogramming that Sunday night: Try to attract women bored by football and you’re better off not running originals.

“It’s been a throwaway for years on every network,” acknowledged Kris Magel, SVP/assistant network director at Optimedia International. But, he said, that is changing in some cases, most notably creative counterprogramming at MTV and NBC.

This year, NBC’s taking the Super Bowl head on, using a mix of tried-and-true programs plus a live half-hour of Saturday Night Live. The half-hour Saturday Night Live (billed as an expanded Weekend Update with Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon) is scheduled to begin at about 8 p.m., halftime of the Super Bowl. NBC said it’s the first time in its 25-year-plus history that the program will be broadcast live in all time zones around the country.



A special 90-minute Fear Factor will be wrapped around SNL, with the first hour starting at 7 p.m. and the last half hour at about 8:30 p.m. It isn’t the first time that Fear Factor has taken on the Super Bowl. An NBC spokesman said the network ran a Playmate-themed Fear Factor last February during the week-delayed Bowl.

A new Dateline NBC will follow at 9 and a Law & Order: Criminal Intent with an abortion-issue theme will be up at 10 p.m. against Alias, which ABC had hoped would give the critically acclaimed drama a chance to boost its ratings in a prized time slot.

Magel said that if an advertiser’s interested in making an impact on Super Bowl Sunday, it’s best to run spots on the Super Bowl network.

“If you’re looking to get significant impact or create a lot of noise, then the only game in town [that night] will be on the Super Bowl network,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean buying the other networks that night isn’t going to have use for the planner and buyer.

“You’ll probably get a good value on other networks,” he said, since the ratings will be down compared to regular Sunday night network time.

The other networks are running reruns. CBS counters with 60 Minutes, sitcoms Becker and King of Queens, and 1999’s movie The Deep End of the Ocean. Fox has the 1990s smash Independence Day, UPN offers the 1996 Adam Sandler flick Big Bully.

The WB has Everwood at 6 p.m. then three hourlong reruns of its new reality series, High School Reunion.

Spokesman Keith Marder said The WB scheduled the reruns to make sure the regular viewers of The WB’s Sunday night programs – including Charmed – don’t miss anything new.

“It’s a day when people aren’t in their regular viewing patterns,” Marder said.

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