The broadcast of Sunday’s Red Sox game should be considered inherently contemporary simply because of where and how it airs.
Their 11:30 a.m. game against the White Sox marks the debut of the NBC Peacock streaming service’s “MLB Sunday Leadoff” package, which will include an exclusive late morning/early afternoon game over each of the next 18 Sundays.
While the broadcast of this particular game will be simulcast on NBC, the Peacock MLB schedule is another example of how live sports rights are extremely desirable programming for streaming services – even the distribution of those rights (games NHL on ESPN+, MLB on AppleTV+, the NFL Thursday Night Package on Amazon, etc.) complicates things and viewer budgets.
“In terms of the fragmentation of platforms where content can be found – sports, and I read social media like everyone else, so I understand,” said Rick Cordella, executive vice president and chief commercial officer of Peacock, explaining why fans who pay for cable may be frustrated that they need streaming services to watch some of their favorite team’s games.
“But it happens everywhere. It happens with entertainment. It happens with movies. It used to be that the pay TV package had it all, and now some of the best shows… [and a] a litany of other content is spread across four or five of the biggest streamers, and the sport is really no different. We hope that at some point Peacock will be as ubiquitous as the pay TV ecosystem and that’s a moment in time.
In other words, get used to it. There’s no doubt that it’s a complicated modern world for those who just want to turn on their TV and watch the game. But it’s somewhat reassuring to know that Peacock shows will contain some old-school elements that should be appealing. Retro is almost always welcome on a baseball show.
Cordella and NBC Sports executive producer and president of production Sam Flood were vague on some details for the sake of Sunday’s reveal, but the shows will almost certainly feature graphic and musical callbacks to the climax of baseball coverage. from NBC in the 1970s and ’80s. Vin Scully, who teamed with Joe Garagiola on NBC’s No. 1 broadcast team for his “Game of the Week” coverage in the ’80s, will narrate a special opened at 11:30 a.m., just after the half-hour pre-game show.
Most intriguingly, “MLB Sunday Leadoff” will feature an analyst each week from each of the two teams playing, with the excellent Jason Benetti on a play-by-play basis. The analysts on Sunday will be NESN’s Kevin Youkilis and NBC Sports Chicago’s Steve Stone, the Benetti’s regular broadcast partner on White Sox games.
The use of participating team broadcasters is reminiscent of how NBC included team-specific voices as part of its World Series coverage for years. In the 1975 World Series, for example, Ned Martin of the Red Sox was in the NBC stand for two games and Dick Stockton for two more, including Game 6 when he called Carlton Fisk’s legendary game-winning home run at the 12th inning.
Benetti, who also calls baseball and college basketball among other assignments for ESPN, has a well-established relationship with Stone — their White Sox shows consistently rank among the most popular in MLB. Benetti has known Youkilis since his half season with the White Sox in 2012, so the analysts he will work with on Sunday are much more familiar than they will be most of the time. He said he looked forward to working with the various analysts.
“I think in my understanding of people, like I’ve done a lot of games with one person once, and the way I look at it is when you sit down to make a game, the audience doesn’t don’t care if you’re best friends with someone or just met them for the first time,” Benetti said. “And so it’s up to us, it’s up to me, it’s up to all everyone in the stand, to understand each other and maybe have a meal before the game or talk on the phone or whatever.
“But I would say this: I watched a ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ episode from last season or the season before where they were having a dinner party, and there’s this whole discussion about who’s the best mid-dinner, who’s the best person is to sit in the middle of the table to carry on the conversation.We all aspire to be that at dinner parties if we are at all outgoing, even a little.
“I plan – I watch a lot of major league baseball in the first place, so I think I have an idea of what everyone is good at – but I plan to talk to everyone before the game and get an idea of what they are going for. But it’s my favorite part of the job. It’s sitting down with someone I’ve never met and doing a show that people enjoy. So when I heard about that, I was like, “Yeah, absolutely.” It’s fantastic. It will be an incredible challenge.
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