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NBCUniversal heavily promoting start of NFL season, with plugs on Leno, 'America's Got Talent'
NEW YORK (AP) ' If you watch one of the NBCUniversal television networks this week, it will be difficult to not know about the opening of the National Football League's new season.
The "Today" show, the Weather Channel, Telemundo and E! Entertainment are all reporting live this week from Green Bay, where NBC is televising Thursday's opening game between the Packers and the New Orleans Saints.
Pro football is among the most dependable ratings-grabbers for broadcast television as networks otherwise leak viewers. NBC and the NFL have recently tried to make the season opener a big event. Last year's opener between New Orleans and the Minnesota Vikings was seen by 27.5 million people, the most-watched NFL regular season game in 14 years, according to the Nielsen ratings company. This year's game pits the last two Super Bowl winners against each other.
NBCUniversal owner Comcast Corp., based in Philadelphia, is using full-force corporate synergy to drum up interest for the event.
Thursday's game is preceded by a one-hour entertainment show, yet NBC's telecast of that event was unclear Tuesday as it conflicts with President Barack Obama's jobs speech.
NBC's "Today" show is sending Matt Lauer and Al Roker to Green Bay this week. The network promised interviews with NBC Sports commentators and features with Packers and Saints players. The morning news ratings leader also will encourage viewers to wear NFL jerseys to work or school on Friday.
Using news programs to promote network events no longer seems uncommon, since "Today" routinely travels to Olympics sites for special coverage. Fox News Channel this summer stationed Shepard Smith in Arizona, where the Fox network covered the Major League baseball All-Star Game.
The breadth of NBCUniversal's promotional effort goes beyond the news programs, however. NBC promised Tuesday that Jay Leno will include football's return in monologue jokes and fellow late-night comic Jimmy Fallon will do football-related comic sketches on his show. "America's Got Talent," the summer's most popular prime-time show, will talk about the upcoming football season.
The Weather Channel's Roker and Stephanie Abrams will report live from Green Bay on Thursday, as will CNBC's sports business reporter, Darren Rovell. Telemundo's late-night show "Titulares y Mas" originates from Green Bay opening night. "Access Hollywood" will have a profile of singer Faith Hill recording the NBC Sunday night football show's theme song, "Waiting All Day for Sunday Night," a retooling of Joan Jett's "I Hate Myself For Loving You."
Many local NBC stations also will send reporters to Green Bay, and content will be fed to all 235 stations and Comcast regional sports networks. Local on-air personnel across the country will be encouraged to wear NFL jerseys to work, NBC said.
The promotion even extends to the Universal theme park in Florida, where employees will be instructed to wear NFL hats and jerseys.
NBC's Sunday night NFL telecasts, which begin this Sunday with the New York Jets hosting the Dallas Cowboys, are particularly important to the network's bottom line with other prime-time fare yet to take off.