When Michael Thomas scored the primary landing of Sunday’s wild-card sport between the Chicago Bears and the New Orleans Saints, followers watching the sport on CBS noticed an in depth angle of him spiking the soccer. Followers watching on Nickelodeon, the kids’s channel, noticed one thing far more thrilling: digital slime cannons spewing Nickelodeon’s signature inexperienced goo everywhere in the finish zone.

“There we go along with the slime cannons. Ayyy, that’s epic!” stated Gabrielle Nevaeh Inexperienced, a 15-year-old Nickelodeon star and one of many sport’s commentators.

It takes extra work than you would possibly anticipate to get the slime cannons proper. “Getting the slime consistency within the cameras, to the Nick crew, was a giant factor,” stated Shawn Robbins, the coordinating producer for the sport. “I used to be on a variety of emails the place it was ‘tweak this just a little extra.’”

Nickelodeon has lengthy featured varied sports activities and athletes on its tv reveals — and has additionally had a sturdy presence on the Tremendous Bowl in recent times — however broadcasting a full N.F.L. playoff sport is a primary. It went all out on one thing it thought the kids and youngsters, who’re its core viewers, would take pleasure in.

The rating show and digital data superimposed on the sphere had been accomplished so in shiny orange, lime inexperienced and purple. An enormous picture of the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants appeared on the nets behind the field-goal posts. Gamers got googly eyes and hamburger hats. The Saints quarterbacks Drew Brees and Taysom Hill had been in comparison with an much more well-known duo: SpongeBob and his greatest good friend, Patrick Star.

The variations weren’t restricted to digital ephemera. Guidelines that grownup soccer followers are assumed to grasp had been as a substitute defined. An analyst, former N.F.L. vast receiver Nate Burleson, made frequent use of (generally tortured) analogies, at one level explaining that driving down the sphere was like learning, and that snaps within the pink zone had been the take a look at. Noah Eagle, the play-by-play announcer, stated excitedly at one level that New Orleans receiver Deonte Harris was “hotter than a Peruvian puff pepper.”

That may be a reference to an episode of the Nickelodeon present “Drake and Josh” from 2005, when Eagle, who’s 24, was simply 8.

Inexperienced, who was attending her first N.F.L. sport, wasn’t requested to grasp soccer like Burleson, who performed within the league for 11 years. However Robbins nonetheless wished to get her a one-page cheat sheet for every crew. As an alternative, a manufacturing assistant by chance included her on the identical distribution record for the sport notes that went to Tony Romo.

“Her mother despatched me an electronic mail that stated, ‘Um, hey Shawn, what do we have to know from this 800-page packet?’” Robbins stated.

Till lately, it was exhausting to think about Nickelodeon exhibiting a complete N.F.L. sport. “We aren’t encouraging anyone to play or not play. We’re there as followers, and we’re celebrating as followers,” Cyma Zarghami, then Nickelodeon’s president, instructed The New York Occasions practically three years in the past in response to questions on associating a channel for youngsters with a violent sport that may trigger head trauma.

“The precise sport doesn’t ever really get to Nickelodeon,” she stated.

However the sports activities media panorama has modified since then. Nickelodeon has a brand new president, Brian Robbins. It is usually a part of a brand new company construction, which brings with it completely different imperatives. In 2019, Viacom — which owned cable channels like Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central — remerged with CBS, which pays the N.F.L. a billion {dollars} yearly to indicate its video games.

“That is kind of a dream come true for youths to get their model, sports activities their approach, on the community they like to observe it on,” Brian Robbins stated in an interview. “What modified is Viacom and CBS merged and made it lots simpler to make it occur.”

He was unequivocal about how he seen the printed. “Nickelodeon’s broadcast of the wild card sport was one of many best moments within the historical past of Nickelodeon,” he stated.

The entire N.F.L.’s tv contracts expire in 2021 and 2022. CBS should still be regarded as the Tiffany Community at league headquarters, however in some methods it has a weaker hand to play than its rivals. ViacomCBS is way smaller than opponents just like the Walt Disney Firm (ABC and ESPN), Comcast (NBC) and AT&T (DirecTV and Warner Media), and it has greater than twice as a lot debt on its stability sheet because the equally sized Fox Corp.

Placing Sunday’s sport on Nickelodeon along with CBS was one method to probably impress the league forward of negotiations. Viewership for the N.F.L. would enhance, together with the chance to seize a brand new technology of soccer followers.

“This got here out of conversations with the CBS Sports activities crew and the N.F.L. when there was going to be one other wild card sport,” Brian Robbins stated. “They had been negotiating to get the rights and someone advised a broadcast simulcast on Nick. I believe the N.F.L. actually was enthused by that chance, which type of sealed the deal for us, for CBS to get the rights to broadcast an additional wild card sport.”

ESPN, albeit with out a kids’s channel, has pursued an analogous technique, bringing its “MegaCast” manufacturing — sometimes used for the school soccer nationwide championship sport — to its Sunday wild-card sport. The Baltimore Ravens’ victory over the Tennessee Titans was proven on six completely different ESPN channels: ABC and ESPN (conventional), Freeform (enjoyable), ESPN2 (coaches’ room), ESPN+ (analytics-focused) and a Spanish-language broadcast on ESPN Deportes.

Tv networks have lengthy used massive soccer video games to promote their different choices, and Nickelodeon’s wild-card sport was no completely different. There have been commercials for different Nickelodeon reveals and a piece in gamers’ bios that included their favourite Nickelodeon present. Members of the reboot of the teenager sketch present “All That” did impressions all through the sport; in a clumsy second, an impression of the rapper Cardi B segued right into a referee calling a private conduct foul and a microphone within the practically empty stadium choosing up a participant yelling an expletive.

Shawn Robbins, who usually works on sports activities studio reveals for CBS, was assigned the playoff sport again in August. A lot of the cameras and video feeds had been borrowed from the CBS broadcast, however a take a look at sport in December confirmed that the Nickelodeon broadcast wanted to regulate no less than a number of of its personal cameras. On a typical broadcast, the cameraman will zoom in on whoever scores the landing. However Nickelodeon wanted landing photographs to remain vast, as a way to totally showcase the slime cannons.

Oh, and the hamburger hats. “There are specific sorts of photographs we would have liked. We would have liked just a little additional headroom to place a hamburger on their head,” Shawn Robbins stated.

The published appeared like successful, no less than in line with the response of largely older millennial and middle-aged sportswriters. “To have the sport stripped of all its self-importance and hubris was an absolute delight,” wrote Sports activities Illustrated.

However the pleasure of sportswriters who’ve seen lots of of N.F.L. video games is just not the identical factor as success. They don’t seem to be the target market — kids are.

Most necessary for Nickelodeon is what number of of them watched, knowledge that shall be accessible Tuesday, although Brian Robbins stated the early numbers are good, and that the N.F.L. was “thrilled.” Most necessary for the N.F.L. is whether or not this various broadcast helps flip extra kids into the sorts of soccer followers who will ask their mother and father to take them to video games or to purchase jerseys, and who ultimately pay for their very own tickets to video games once they turn out to be adults.

That’ll take lots longer to determine.



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