What’s new for NFL 2012: NBC kicks off with Mariah Carey, Hines Ward, Tafoya on Twitter, and old stand-by Al Michaels

First in a series previewing new features for the networks’ coverage of the NFL:

NBC is first out of the gate today in what has become an opening night tradition. The Dallas-Giants game was moved up a night so it wouldn’t compete with President Obama’s speech at the Democratic Convention. Mr. Obama and the Dems say thanks, because nobody would be watching if he went head-to-head with the NFL.

Since opening night has become an entertainment extravaganza, new hire Michelle Beadle will host a pregame concert featuring Mariah Carey. If that works for you, great. I’m fine with just the game, previewed in this video with Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth.

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As for what’s new during the actual football portion of NBC’s production, former Steeler WR Hines Ward has been added to the Football Night in America studio show.

Sideline reporter Michelle Tafoya will have an expanded presence on Twitter. NBC Sports chairman Mark Lazarus explains:

“Michele (Tafoya) tweets from the sideline during the game, which I think is a tremendous use of her time. But as opposed to just tweeting it this year, we’ve figured out a way to wire her microphone to an iphone. So she’s going to have somebody with her that records her reports and puts them on twitter, and on our Sunday Night Football Extra platform. We think that’s going to make an impact with people who like that second screen experience.”

Basically, though, NBC is standing with a pat hand with producer Fred Gaudelli at the controls. And why not? Last year, Sunday Night Football was the top-ranked show in prime time, a first for the NFL. Michaels wants to repeat this year with a schedule that includes New England-New York Jets on Thanksgiving night.

“Our goal the last couple of years – as we were close – was to see if Sunday Night Football could be the No. 1 show on television, which it did and we’re thrilled about that, proud of it,” Michaels said. “And it’s a new goal this year to retain that top spot, and we think we can do it because the NFL is king.”

Michaels begins his 27th year calling NFL games on either Monday or Sunday nights. It’s quite a run, and at age 67, he has no intention of slowing down.

“It never gets old. It never gets boring,” Michaels said. “This is not scripted television. You don’t know what the ending’s going to be. Every time I show up, I’m excited because of the drama; you just don’t know what you’re going to see. You’re going to go out there and maybe it’s an overtime game and it’s phenomenal. It might be a one-sided game and we’ll find some stories to connect the viewer with the game as the game evolves. It’s just wonderful. It’s reality television.”





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