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Pierce: Are you kidding? Nobody cares about 'SNF' music

Published September 3, 2013 10:19 am

Pierce • It's not the opening singer but the football that counts to fans.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The folks at NBC Sports sometimes have a very strange idea of what their viewers care about.

Like … producer Fred Gaudelli's idea of what constitutes "big news" when it comes to "Sunday Night Football."

"Of course, the big news for us, in the springtime, was that Faith Hill decided that, in her words, she wanted to pass the torch after six phenomenal years singing and performing the 'Sunday Night Football' theme song, 'Waiting All Day for Sunday Night,'" Gaudelli told a room full of TV critics. "We were disappointed that Faith left, but totally understood. But as soon as she left, [NBC Sports chairman] Mark [Lazarus] and I really set our sights on one person, and that was Carrie Underwood."

Are you kidding me?

Not that I have anything against Hill, Underwood or theme songs, but I don't know anyone who tunes in to watch a football game because they like the music. Or avoids a football game because they don't like the music.

This is big news? Gaudelli certainly thinks so. He positively gushed over a clip of the Underwood version of the "SNF" opener.

"Carrie obviously had some very big shoes to follow in Faith's," he said. "But I'll say this. This will be the best opening we've done in the eight years that we've had 'Sunday Night Football.' "

Again, do you know anyone who watches three hours of any TV show just for the theme song?

It's entirely possible that Gaudelli, Lazarus and the "SNF" team were condescending to a room full of TV critics, most of whom don't write regularly about sports.

There was certainly at least a bit of condescension coming from analyst Cris Collinsworth.

"As I look around, I fully understand that not everybody in this room is waiting all day for Sunday night," he said. "But we'd like you to be you. I think that's where we've tried to approach football a little bit differently."

And by "differently," he means "the same as NBC's coverage of the Olympics." As in — let's tell stories about the athletes.

"We're trying to be a show that's inclusive of everybody," Collinsworth said. "And we're trying to create human beings behind the face masks.

"Obviously we've got a lot of football fans who are watching every Sunday night. But the difference is that we've got other people who maybe aren't hardcore football fans, who like to watch as well. It's very important to us that we try to be inclusive and fun and tell their stories. And that it's not always about the X's and O's."

And NBC likes to brag that it has turned "Sunday Night Football" into one of the most popular shows in prime-time TV. It was No. 2 this past season; No. 1 the season before that; and No. 2 the season before that.

But is that a product of reaching out for non-football fans? Or is it a product of the fact that there are so many NFL fans?

Fox and CBS certainly aren't trying to chase viewers away, but those networks are aiming for football fans. And doing quite nicely. Fox averaged 24.8 million viewers for its regional and national NFL telecasts during the 2012 regular season. CBS averaged 23 million viewers. (Both networks aggregate their national and regional games — numbers that are pumped up because interest is higher in the home markets that carry the games.)

NBC averaged 21.7 million with it single Sunday-night games — a huge number. But I don't know that the theme song accounts for many of those viewers.

So maybe Carrie Underwood singing the theme song is just sort of a side note to NBC's NFL success.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.