NBC Aims to Boost Carrie Underwoods Sunday Night Football Opener With Real-World Footage

Carrie Underwood doesn’t have to open NBC Sports’ “Sunday Night Football” all by herself.

The show, one of TV’s most-watched programs each year, hopes to take on new relevancy this season by incorporating scenes from each week’s host city and activity from the stadium in the opening segment starring Carrie Underwood.

Fans have seen the famous singer belting out “Waiting All Day for Sunday Night” for years. NBC hopes dedicating a film crew to capturing the action around the game on the day it’s played will add a boost to the proceedings and get fans more engaged.

“This season, with stadiums full again, we wanted to get that sense of reality and optimism and energy – and the more authentic connection that comes with that,” says Tripp Dixon, creative director for the show open for each of the past 10 years.

“You might see a fan at a tailgate leading a song. You might see a player signing an autograph,” says Dixon. “I think it gives off an energy, and it also gives things an immediacy. It’s an opening that’s meant to be unique from week to week, and it’s kind of episodic in a way. We are doing more than just showing the teams or the matchup. This is really meant to go a step further and capture those moments that help build anticipation going into the game.”

The technique marks an evolution from last year’s opening creation. In 2021, NBC Sports put Underwood at a virtual football tailgate via a shoot conducted at an Industrial Light & Magic sound stage that using virtual technology recently utilized in the Disney+ series “The Mandalorian.” NBC augmented the performance with user-generated videos from fans at their own tailgates, as well as from NFL stars.

This year’s “SNF” opens after all of the NFL’s partner networks have signed new rights deals that will keep the bulk of professional football games on NBC, CBS, Fox and ESPN. Amazon, however, has taken control of “Thursday Night Football,” though it is using NBC Sports’ production crews to bring the games home to fans. Only CBS comes into the new season with its regular broadcast team intact. NBC, Fox and ESPN will all be offering new teams – some of the members of which will be quite familiar – who will hold forth for different networks or as part of a new assemblage of broadcasters.

Underwood has long done her part to offer bespoke elements to the opening segment, which lasts just over a minute and a half. When she tapes a new version of the song each year, she typically adds names of quarterbacks and teams that can be used in each week’s broadcast. But this year, the scenes that play as she belts out the tune will have a similar effect.

“Performing the show open for Sunday Night Football for 10 years has been such a joy and privilege for me,” said Underwood, in a statement.  “It’s always a fun day when we shoot the new open — our amazing creative team somehow manages to top themselves year after year.” This year’s performance was taped from The Resorts World Theatre in Las Vegas, home of her residency, “Reflection.”

The opener is meant to whet fans’ appetites for the program,” says Dixon. “It’s that dinner bell. It’s that call to action.”

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