The weekly series, a collaboration between Nickelodeon, the NFL and CBS Sports, looks to build on Nick’s successful, network-branded telecast of last January's Chicago Bears-New Orleans Saints NFL Wildcard playoff game by offering league highlights and player interviews delivered from a Nickelodeon perspective. The series is hosted by former NFL player, The NFL Today analyst and CBS Mornings co-host Nate Burleson and Dylan Gilmer, star of the network series Tyler Perry’s Young Dylan series, and also includes sports correspondent Dylan Schefter.
I had a chance to speak to NFL Slimetime executive producer and showrunner Shawn Robbins shortly after he finished filming the series' first episode to discuss expectations for the 23-episode series as well as the collaboration between the league and the kids-targeted brand. An edited version of the interview appears below.
Picture This: What is Nickelodeon looking to accomplish with NFL Slimetime?
Shawn Robbins: The show is really an extension of what we did with the Wild Card game — it extends the partnership with the NFL and it brings sports to Nickelodeon. We know that we were able to really merge the NFL and CBS Sports with Nickelodeon, and obviously nobody reaches a youthful audience better than Nickelodeon.
PT: Was the Wild Card game and now NFL Slimetime an effort to provide kids with a greater understanding of football, or was it an opportunity to provide sports programming for Nickelodeon’s lineup?
SR: Both of those things. I think the game of football is great in itself, but if you want to reach kids, Nickelodeon has this fantastic [intellectual property] that touches kids of all ages. There’s also a nostalgic value to the Nickelodeon brand that also touches adults, so we know that there’s a crossover opportunity where we can reach both kids and their parents. Mom and Dad may watch the live football games on Sunday, and now we’re giving them a product where they can introduce their kids to the game using the Nickelodeon brand. It’s just really special.
PT: What should viewers expect to see on the show?
SR: What’s great is we have a lot of fun with the show. Much like the wildcard game we want to keep the values and tradition of the game and be respectful to the game of football, but we had fun with it. The show will feature action from the games on Sunday, Monday and Thursday mixed with what the Nickelodeon brand represents. We asked the players fun, Nickelodeon-style questions and they had a great time with it. The players aren’t that far off [age-wise] from the Nickelodeon target audience, so it’s been really special to see that come together.
PT: What kind of questions did you ask the players?
SR: Questions like, ‘is having good breath important coming into the huddle, or what might have been the worst thing that you’ve eaten before the game?’ The players really responded fantastically to that. Also Dylan Schefter did an interview yesterday with [wide receiver] Christian Kirk from the Arizona Cardinals who scored two touchdowns in Sunday’s game. They had such a fun interview about the game. I’ve done a lot of these interviews before with all of our big guys at CBS Sports over the years, and it’s such a different experience to see how players talk to kids. The players get it, and I loved how they interacted with Dylan. I’m looking forward to doing a lot more of that throughout the season.
PT: Does the show get into the X's and O’s of the sport?
SR: We do a little bit. You’ll see during the show that Nate Burleson does break down a play, so we will get into some X’s and O’s from a broader base standpoint. We want to bring kids into the game and that’s how we’ll do it … there’s definitely some teaching involved.
PT: Do you expect you’ll have to make adjustments to the show as the NFL season progresses?
SR: Oh my goodness, I hope so. We’re going to build on it. This was our first show and we put the team together pretty quickly to get this out. Like any show, you look at the last episode and see what you did and how we can make it better.
R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.
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