Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013 | 2 a.m.
NFL pregame shows were once half-hour affairs leading into 1 p.m. kickoffs.
But starting Sunday, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. (all times Eastern), there will be 19 hours of pregame NFL programming.
Four of the new hours arrive courtesy of the CBS Sports Network, which is producing “That Other Pregame Show” next to the studio in Manhattan that is used by “The NFL Today,” the CBS broadcast network’s venerable pregame show.
This flagrant addition of four hours, in one stroke, is excess piling on extravagance.
CBS and Fox carry hourlong pregame shows. ESPN has the three-hour Sunday “NFL Countdown” that starts at 10 a.m.
The NFL Network begins its six-hour siege at 7 a.m. with “NFL Gameday First” and “NFL Gameday Morning” at 9 a.m.
ESPN2 has “Fantasy Football Now,” from 11 to 1 p.m., an hour longer than last year.
Too much? Yes. But studio programming is inexpensive to produce.
And CBS, ESPN, Fox and the NFL Network want to make the most of their contracts to televise games. So does NBC, which has its pregame show at 7 p.m. before “Sunday Night Football,” but nothing NFL-related Sunday mornings on NBCSN.
“Sunday mornings are virtually prime time for football fans,” said David Berson, the president of CBS Sports, who runs the CBS Sports Network. “There’s a tremendous audience that craves football, from looking back at the college action the night before and teeing up your day of NFL football. The time slot is screaming out for enhanced coverage.”
Other networks are doing what the CBS Sports Network is doing, only more modestly.
Fox Sports 1, now three weeks old, is starting “Fox NFL Kickoff,” from 11 a.m. to noon. But this Sunday, it will end at 11:30 a.m. because “Fox NFL Sunday” will have an expanded show, from Manhattan’s Times Square, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
And ESPN2 is adding “Colin’s New Football Show,” starring Colin Cowherd, from 9 to 10 a.m.
ESPN is largely responsible for building the rationale for more regular-season NFL pregame programming. And the broadcast networks continue to make the case for excess with their overlong, rarely good, supersize Super Bowl pregame heaves.
“Sunday NFL Countdown” (originally “NFL GameDay”) started at an hour. It expanded to 75 minutes for most of the 1995 season and then to 90 minutes in its final weeks. It settled at 90 minutes in 1996, stretched to two hours in 1998 and went to three hours in 2012.
In casting “That Other Pregame Show,” the CBS Sports Network did not follow the standard hiring route. The show will not be filled with a half-dozen former players, coaches or general managers. The only person on the show fitting that description is Bart Scott, who is an interesting selection. Scott, a former Jets and Baltimore Ravens linebacker who was known to the news media as a bright player, threatened to punch a reporter last year and boycotted reporters for a month. But then, anti-media transgressions are not always deterrents to securing a network job. Deion Sanders, now at the NFL Network, once poured ice water over Tim McCarver’s head.
Besides Scott, and the show’s host, Adam Schein, “That Other Pregame Show” will feature Brandon Tierney, a radio talk-show host; Allie LaForce, a co-host of a late-night show on the channel; Nathan Zegura, a fantasy sports analyst; and Amy Trask, a former Oakland Raiders executive.
Trask resigned earlier this year as the chief executive of the team, a role in which she talked to beat writers and columnists, but not about football issues, and avoided television crews.
“Having spent almost the last 27 years assiduously running away from cameras, it is not without irony that I am embarking on a venture where I am voluntarily going in front of the cameras,” said Trask, who is quite loquacious. Unlike former general managers who have been on pregame shows, Trask worked on the team’s business side.
“I can weigh in on football topics from a different perspective because I’ve viewed them from a different prism,” she said.
The show will try to benefit from visits by members of “The NFL Today” group. But it will avoid competing directly with its pregame sibling during their hourlong overlap, from noon to 1 p.m., by making fantasy football the focus of that hour.
Eric Weinberger, the executive producer of the NFL Network, said there was no trouble filling four hours, or even six.
“We started with two hours, then went to three, then four, and last year we went to six,” he said. “It’s hard to keep the stamina up, but as far as content, there is no problem.” He added, “The audience is definitely there.”