Every Super Bowl-airing network goes all out when it comes to new technology, and CBS is no different for Super Bowl LVIII. But this year, the city of Las Vegas will have a major role in the production.
For instance, CBS has four robotic cameras set up around Las Vegas — one on top of The STRAT Hotel, Casino & Tower that gives them views north to south; one on top of Planet Hollywood that will show the Strip and the fountain show at The Bellagio; one on top of the Mandalay Bay Beach hotel with views of Allegiant Stadium and the The Strip; and one on top of the Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel with views of the Sphere as well as areas of Las Vegas Boulevard. There’s even a 1,000-foot fly cam that will run across the water at The Bellagio.
What happens in Vegas will not stay in Vegas — it will air on CBS. It’s as unique an atmosphere as we have seen for a Super Bowl, and below, we offer you a television guide to Sunday’s game.
Who are the announcers?
Jim Nantz (who also will handle the trophy ceremony) will call his seventh Super Bowl and third with Tony Romo as his partner. Tracy Wolfson will be on the sidelines — her fourth Super Bowl assignment — along with reporter Evan Washburn and kicking analyst Jay Feely. Rules analyst Gene Steratore will be in the booth alongside Romo and Nantz. The game will be produced by Jim Rikhoff and directed by Mike Arnold. The lead replay producer is Ryan Galvin. It is the 22nd Super Bowl airing on CBS — the most by any network.
“The NFL Today” will provide pregame, halftime and postgame coverage, anchored by James Brown, who is hosting the Super Bowl pregame show for a record 11th time. The pregame analysts are Nate Burleson, Bill Cowher, Phil Simms, Boomer Esiason and J.J. Watt. Jonathan Jones is the lead insider. Kyle Brandt, Charles Davis, Ian Eagle, Jason McCourty and Matt Ryan will also appear during the pregame.
‘NFL Today’ has an uncertain tomorrow: James Brown returns, but who else for CBS’ show?
How long is the pregame?
It depends on how much you want to slog through. CBS has pregame coverage beginning at 11:30 a.m. ET on CBS and Paramount+ with Nickelodeon’s “NFL Slimetime.” That will be followed by an NFL Films presentation (“Road To The Super Bowl”) at noon.
Next up is a one-hour original documentary at 1 p.m. ET on the history of “The NFL Today” studio show. Then comes the traditional pregame show beginning at 2 p.m. ET from outside The Bellagio, as well as a presence at Allegiant Stadium.
Everyone will be at the stadium by 4:15 p.m. There will be a formal “Super Bowl on CBS Kickoff Show” that begins at 6 p.m. ET and features the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful,” as well as the coin toss and team introductions.
Then comes the game. The 6 p.m. ET slot is separated from the earlier pregame because of advertising — as you get closer to the game, the rates go up. (A 30-second spot during the game will cost an estimated $7 million, up slightly from last year’s game on Fox.)
What will be featured in the pregame?
There are sit-down interviews with Patrick Mahomes, Brock Purdy, Dre Greenlaw, Travis Kelce, Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle, Andy Reid, Kyle Shanahan, Fred Warner and Trent Williams. Features include the Las Vegas Raiders’ impact on the NFL; a piece on Norma Hunt, the wife of late Kansas City Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt; and Burleson taking a tour of Las Vegas with Usher to highlight the history of Black entertainers in the city. Penn & Teller, Carrot Top and Wayne Newton will also do drop-ins. Pregame show producer Drew Kaliski said given the uniqueness of the city, Las Vegas will be a central character in the pregame show.
When is kickoff?
Ah, one of the great Super Bowl questions. Kickoff is 6:30-ish, and Noah Pransky and Mike Gavin explain why in this fun piece.
What about the production side?
CBS will have a record 165 total cameras at the Super Bowl, including those used for the CBS broadcast, the Nickelodeon telecast and the pregame shows. The network said it will be the first time they present the Super Bowl in 1080p High Dynamic Range (HDR) and 4K HDR. There will be 48 cameras with super slow-motion capability, including 24 4K zoom extraction cameras that feature shots from the ceiling, along the goal lines and inside the end-zone pylons. And don’t forget “Doink Cam.”
Here’s a graphic that gives you a sense of the cameras they have at their disposal for the game:
Why do I keep hearing about an alternate Super Bowl broadcast?
It might be because you have children. In what will be the first alternate Super Bowl telecast, Super Bowl LVIII will also air on Nickelodeon for a broadcast catering to young people and fans of the children’s network. “Super Bowl LVIII Live from Bikini Bottom” will feature enhanced graphics and advanced augmented reality from the underwater home turf of SpongeBob SquarePants.
Play-by-play broadcaster Noah Eagle and analyst Burleson will appear in the booth alongside an animated SpongeBob SquarePants and Patrick Star. Dora the Explorer and her friend Boots help explain penalty calls during the game. Young Dylan and Dylan Schefter of “NFL Slimetime” will also report live from Allegiant Stadium. There will be end-zone cannons firing digital slime.
How does a broadcaster prepare to call a Super Bowl for kids?
“It’s finding the right balance of preparing as if I was calling the Super Bowl and then preparing for all the other stuff that comes with a Nickelodeon or really any alternate broadcast,” said Eagle. “Any time you do any sort of alternate broadcast … it’s finding what the target audience is looking for.
“I think it’s hard to keep reminding myself what the target audience is looking for in something like this because I’m so accustomed to saying, what makes this team so good on third down, what makes this defense so stingy in the red zone, why is the kicker struggling from this distance and actually finding the answers to those. But that’s not really as relevant for something like this. What’s more relevant is Patrick Mahomes’ favorite ice cream flavor, and can I incorporate that he loves mint chocolate chip in the middle of a really important drive of the Super Bowl?”
How often will Taylor Swift be shown if she attends?
The Athletic has certainly done its share of Swift pieces, and I spoke to sports TV producers who have produced Super Bowls about how to navigate Swift being at the game. To not show her would be editorial dereliction. Rikhoff and other CBS Sports production executives have consistently said the goal is to work her into the broadcast in a seamless way.
She will absolutely be shown on replays if Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce does something big. The pregame show will definitely show her as well if they get the shot. CBS has requested an interview with her, but I would bet against that.
Said Romo: “How many times would you want us to show it? Because to me we should just be like, what do people want? Do they want this? If yes, this is what we should give them.”
Is it a big game for Romo?
It absolutely is. There’s been criticism of his work by some measured observers, and while social media often produces a piñata effect when someone is in the crosshairs, the standard of the job has been raised by the excellent work of Fox’s Greg Olsen and ESPN’s Troy Aikman this year. Romo needs a good broadcast.
Millions of people will listen to the game instead of watching, right?
Definitely. The audio audience is estimated at more than 25 million listeners every year. Westwood One has long been the official network audio broadcast partner of the NFL, and Super Bowl LVIII will be the 51st time Westwood One will broadcast the game.
Kevin Harlan will handle radio play-by-play duties for the Super Bowl for the 14th straight year. Kurt Warner is the lead analyst for the sixth straight year. Dean Blandino is the rules analyst. Laura Okmin and Mike Golic are the sideline reporters. Scott Graham and Devin McCourty will host Westwood One’s pregame, halftime and postgame coverage. Jason McCourty and Ross Tucker also contribute to the pregame coverage.
Any information on the Spanish-language broadcast?
TelevisaUnivision will air its first Super Bowl for a U.S. audience, and Victoria Hernandez of USA Today has a preview here of how that came to be. Sports Business Journal NFL reporter Ben Fischer said TelevisaUnivision will have two separate broadcasts of the same game, one airing in the U.S. and one in Mexico. Fischer said CBS sublicensed U.S. Spanish-language rights to Univision instead of ESPN Deportes. Variety’s Brian Steinberg also had an interesting piece on Univision’s Super Bowl plans.
What if I don’t want to watch the Super Bowl?
You’ll be one of more than 200 million Americans who won’t be watching. (Most, in fact, will not be watching television.) But if you are looking for some alternative sports during the Super Bowl Sunday pregame window, Fox will air Caitlin Clark and Iowa’s No. 2-ranked women’s basketball team against Nebraska (1-3 p.m. ET); ESPN will air another women’s basketball headliner in No. 11 UConn at No. 1 South Carolina (2 p.m. ET), followed by Oklahoma State-UCLA softball (4 p.m. ET); NBC has final-round coverage of the PGA Tour’s WM Phoenix Open (3-6 p.m. ET); ABC has the NBA’s Boston Celtics against the Miami Heat (2 p.m. ET).
What viewership number should we expect?
CBS has a legitimate shot to surpass last year’s Nielsen audience of 115.1 million across Fox (114.21 million) and Fox Deportes (882,000). This year’s game has a ton of viewership momentum.
Look at the last couple of weeks: the Chiefs at the Baltimore Ravens was the most-watched AFC Championship Game ever, averaging 55.473 million viewers; the Buffalo Bills vs. the Chiefs in the divisional round topped 50 million viewers; and Fox’s airing of the 49ers hosting the Detroit Lions in the NFC Championship Game averaged 56.9 million viewers. I recommend this great piece from Jon Lewis of Sports Media Watch on why calling last year a record is not exactly a perfect science.
Is there something from the broadcast that we should root for as viewers?
Yes. Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker or 49ers kicker Jake Moody to hit the upright at some point during the game so we can experience the majesty of “Doink Cam.”
Welcome to the ‘Doink Cam’: How CBS’ Super Bowl TV innovation came to life
(Top photo of the Sphere in Las Vegas promoting Super Bowl LVIII on CBS: Aaron M. Sprecher via AP)