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Inside the NBC Football Truck

Oct 9, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Fred Gaudelli is ready for some football. Only this season it’s Sunday night on NBC instead of Monday night on ABC.

Mr. Gaudelli, producer of “Sunday Night Football,” is one of about 100 former ABC Sports staffers now working for NBC. He was sitting in the new $10 million high-definition production truck in the bowels of Chicago’s Soldier Field on Oct. 1, getting ready for the Bears to play the Seahawks. “In this business it takes 100 people to make a good idea work,” he said.

On one of the virtual screens in front of him, Bears tight end Desmond Clark was working out to see if his injured foot would be ready by game time. From his vantage point, Mr. Gaudelli didn’t think Mr. Clark would play, but the player made a surprising recovery and caught three passes during the Bears’ 37-6 blowout.

Mr. Gaudelli and his team spend the Fridays before games talking to the home team players and coaches. On Saturday they meet with the visiting team to avoid being surprised during a game.

It’s not much different from what he did for five years with “Monday Night Football.” The end of “MNF” was not particularly pleasant for Mr. Gaudelli and other veterans of ABC Sports. From the time the Walt Disney Co. acquired ABC and ESPN in 1995, ESPN was the company’s favored child, he said.

“The goal was to kill ABC Sports,” he said.

The move to NBC has been all positive, he said: “NBC has embraced the NFL on almost every level.”

Mr. Gaudelli said the Sunday night broadcast has to be “more in tune and responsive to what happened earlier in the day and weave it into the telecast.”

“That’s the major difference for [announcers] Al [Michaels] and John [Madden] as well,” he said.

The Show of Record

Part of NBC Universal Sports & Olympics Chairman Dick Ebersol’s vision is to make “Sunday Night Football” “the show of record for the NFL,” Mr. Gaudelli said.

During the broadcast, Mr. Ebersol will sit behind Mr. Gaudelli in the production truck. Mr. Ebersol lets Mr. Gaudelli run the show while the ball’s in play. During breaks, he’ll make comments: “What about this, what do you think, let’s try that. It’s just a great situation,” Mr. Gaudelli said.

Mr. Gaudelli first met Mr. Ebersol just a month before he was hired, but Mr. Ebersol’s reputation preceded him. “Dick is a producer at heart,” he said. “He understands it better than you understand it.”

So far, Mr. Gaudelli said, Mr. Ebersol is happy with the direction the broadcast is going, but there’s room for improvement.

The $10 million truck is part of the caravan that rolls from town to town making “SNF” possible. NEP designed the truck with NBC, which rents it exclusively to use for football and golf. The truck is Super Bowl-ready, said Mike Meehan, VP and director of operations, and can handle feeds from 35 to 40 high-definition cameras.

There’s a second truck that handles playbacks.

“People are tuning in to the game,” he said. “We want to wrap it with creative elements to make it stand out.”