NBC Transforms Sunday Night Into Football Night

By immersing ourselves in the interactive and social viewing habits of these fans, we identified key factors in sports broadcasting and service design that can transform casual observers into engaged fans.

Changing the nature of sports broadcasting.

For decades, Monday Night Football on ABC was one of America’s most beloved sports programs. However, in 2006, amid several years of declining ratings, NBC Sports took over the iconic show and decided to move it to Sunday night. By making such a significant shift, network executives sensed that they had an opportunity to radically improve how people watched and experienced pro football in a rapidly evolving media landscape. Yet, exactly how NBC Sports would pull off this transformation remained unclear. To address this challenge, NBC Sports worked with Jump Associates to change the game in sports broadcasting.

Moving TV sports beyond the weekly broadcast

In 2006, NBC Sports secured the rights to broadcast NFL Sunday Night Football games with hosts John Madden and Al Michaels. The network’s leaders then turned to Jump to help them make the most of their new investment—fast. In four weeks, we needed to figure out how to make NBC’s return to football broadcasting a success, and to create services, products, and promotions that would make people want to watch every single week, no matter who was playing in the game.

Celebrating the Competing Needs of Football Fans
We interviewed, played games with and watched sports with dedicated fans in their homes to understand how watching football has changed. One of the most interesting things we discovered about sports fans during our cultural immersion in their lives is that even dedicated fans have many interests competing for their attention these days. What this meant for NBC was that it could make Sunday Night Football a must-see if it shaped the program to  bridge their many interests. As a result, we recommended framing Sunday Night Football as a social experience, bringing friends and families together for a shared cultural event. This inspired the program’s immensely popular tagline, “Sunday Night is Football Night,” which has helped NBC drive ratings growth.

Reclaiming the football ratings crown

Jump provided NBC with a promotion, and broadcast strategy to increase viewer engagement. We then crafted concepts to help audience members become more active participants in the game and connect with family and friends socially. The show has consistently outpaced its predecessor, Monday Night Football, since its launch, and in 2011 it became the highest-rated program on TV, a title it held onto again in the 2012 season. At the 2013 Sports Emmys, Sunday Night won “Most Outstanding Live Sports Series” for an unprecedented fifth year in a row.

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