When it comes to the NFL and TV, the rule is too much is never enough. So get ready for a three-hour — yes, three-hour — NFL pregame show from the ESPN this season.
That’s right. ESPN will extend its long-running “Sunday NFL Countdown” pregame show to three hours starting Sept. 10 (10 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET). To put that in perspective, the first two-hour Super Bowl pregame show didn’t air until 1984.
It will be a trial by fire for the revamped studio crew at “Sunday NFL Countdown,” as Samantha Ponder takes over hosting duties from Chris Berman after his historic 31-year run.
I see this as good and bad for Ponder as she gamely tries to fill the seat long held by Boomer. On one hand, it puts pressure on her to lead and moderate a longer pregame show than her predecessor. On the other, it gives Ponder more running room to query analysts, lead the debate and otherwise put her stamp on a show that will always be linked to Berman and his now-retired partner Tom Jackson.
Ponder will be be joined on the show by returning analysts Matt Hasselbeck, Randy Moss and Charles Woodson; newly hired Rex Ryan; and NFL Insiders Adam Schefter, Chris Mortensen and Louis Riddick.
— Sam Ponder (@sam_ponder) July 26, 2017
This is not the first time ESPN has programmed a three-hour NFL pregame show.
Berman’s old “Sunday NFL Countdown” ran three hours from 2011-2014, switching back to two hours for the 2015 season when ESPN introduced “NFL Insiders: Sunday Edition.” That show aired from 10-11 a.m. ET.
To make way for this season’s three-hour “Countdown,” ESPN is dumping “NFL Insiders” as a separate show, integrating its content and talent into “Countdown.”
That’s similar to what ESPN is doing for its weekday “Insiders” show, where a 90-minute “NFL Live” has replaced the time slot that had been taken up by a 60-minute “NFL Live” and separate, 30-minute edition of “NFL Insiders.”
Besides Schefter, Mortensen and Riddick, it remains to be seen which NFL insiders will appear on the expanded “Countdown.”
Josina Anderson, the connected NFL Insider, is certainly deserving of more air time. But other respected insiders who appeared on the show, such as Ed Werder and John Clayton, fell victim to ESPN’s layoff of 100 on-air talents this spring.
So it will be interesting to see who’s in and who’s out on “Countdown” this season.
Meanwhile, ESPN is also expanding “Fantasy Football Now” to three hours on ESPN2 to air simultaneously with “Countdown.”
ESPN is also planning to air six hours of “SportsCenter” — from 7 to 10 a.m. ET on ESPN and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET on ESPNews.
Said Burke Magnus, ESPN’s executive vice president of programming and scheduling: “With the tremendous interest in the NFL, we are particularly excited to expand Sunday NFL Countdown and Fantasy Football Now to three hours, with each show offering a distinct pregame experience featuring our expert hosts, analysts and insiders.”