Tony Romo (left) and Jim Nantz will call Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta for CBS.
Photo: Jason Getz/For the AJC
Photo: Jason Getz/For the AJC

How CBS will fill seven hours of Super Bowl pregame shows

By the time the Super Bowl kicks off on CBS, the network will have spent seven hours Sunday talking about it, dissecting it, hyping it. 

The pregame shows will begin at 11:30 a.m. and run until the 6:30 p.m. kickoff. Along the way, there will be an on-set interview with Super Bowl III MVP Joe Namath about the win he famously guaranteed 50 years ago; segments on Atlanta’s roles in the civil rights movement and the music industry; a feature on the Wilson Sporting Goods factory that has made the footballs for all the Super Bowls; and hour after hour of analysis of Rams vs. Patriots. 

Seven hours. Is there really that much to say about even the biggest event in U.S. sports? 

“My answer to that question would be (to point out) how many casual fans and non-fans come to the TV set for that big event,” said veteran sportscaster James Brown, who will host “The Super Bowl Today,” the four-hour centerpiece of the pregame marathon. “It is incumbent upon us to set the table with every feature, discussion and insight to ... bring them up to speed.”

Drew Kaliski, producer of “Super Bowl Today,” was asked if it’s a challenge to fill four hours on that show. 

“It is not,” he said. “I wish I had another hour.” 

The CBS lineup on Super Bowl Sunday will include “That Other Pregame Show,” originating live from outside Mercedes-Benz Stadium, at 11:30 a.m.; “Road to the Super Bowl,” NFL Films’ annual look back at the season, at noon; “Tony Goes to the Super Bowl,” acclaimed analyst Tony Romo’s season-long journey to Atlanta, at 1 p.m.; “Super Bowl Today,” originating from one set outside the stadium and two inside, at 2 p.m.; and the “Kickoff Show,” including the team introductions and the singing of “America the Beautiful” and the national anthem, at 6 p.m. 

Then a football game will be played. 

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“At the end of the day, the game is still the thing,” said Brown, who will host his ninth Super Bowl pregame show.  “But we want to bring everybody up to speed so they’re watching the game with a reasonable understanding of how these two teams have gotten here and the big-picture issues that have taken place during the season leading up to that point.”

The game will be the 20th Super Bowl televised on CBS, most on any network. Suffice to say that seven hours of pregame coverage would have been unthinkable at the first one in 1967.

“The event has just gotten bigger and bigger each and every year,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said. “It truly is one of the biggest and most important national holidays, I think, that the country enjoys together.”

Sunday’s game is expected to  be watched by a U.S. television audience of more than 100 million people. The pregame coverage will have a fraction of that audience, although still a sizable one, especially as kickoff draws nearer. 

“It grows,” Kaliski said. “At 2 o’clock, your audience won’t be as big as in the 5 o’clock hour.”

A portion of a pre-recorded interview with President Donald Trump is scheduled to air at approximately 3:30 p.m., McManus said.

It’s important throughout the pregame coverage, Kaliski said, to strike a balance between satisfying the hard-core season-long NFL fans and those who tune in just for the Super Bowl spectacle. 

“We can’t please everyone all the time, but I’m not ignoring anyone for the entire show,” he said. “There are a lot of people who watch on Super Bowl Sunday who are not avid fans of the NFL.”

» Read: AJC’s complete coverage of the Super Bowl in Atlanta 

The four-hour “Super Bowl Today” show will feature the usual cast of CBS’ season-long one-hour “NFL Today” pregame show — analysts Nate Burleson, Bill Cowher, Boomer Esiason and Phil Simms alongside Brown — plus Ian Eagle. 

Simms was asked if it’ll be hard to come up with new things to say about the Patriots, given that they are in the Super Bowl for the third consecutive year and fifth time in eight years.

“I don’t think we could run out of things to say,” Simms said. “I make, like, lists of topics I want to talk about. I put down ‘Patriots offense,’ and I fill up two pages. … You could do the same thing about the defense and the coaches. They’re an endless subject.”

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