NBC broadcasts Super Bowl with pomp and promotion

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NEW YORK (AP) - Clint Eastwood’s patriotic pep talk about “halftime in America” might just as well have applied to NBC.

The languishing, fourth-place network, owned by Comcast Corp., needed more than a touchdown from Sunday’s Super Bowl broadcast _ that much was assured with a marquee rematch between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots. No, NBC needed to kick-start its own second half.

It had little to complain about, getting an increasingly riveting game that came down to the final play, a buzzed-about halftime show with Madonna and no notable flub (except for a middle finger from singer M.I.A. that slipped past censors) that interfered with a solid, well-produced broadcast of the game.

But it will surely take more than Eli Manning’s heroics to rescue NBC primetime.

The cross-promotion had an almost desperate feel, as if some NBC executive had wagered his life on the audience awareness score of the network’s two biggest hopes: the reality singing competition “The Voice” (which was given the plush postgame time slot to premiere its second season) and the Steven Spielberg-produced drama “Smash” (which premieres Monday, after, naturally, another two hours of “The Voice”).

“It’s hard to believe this is the last Super Bowl in the pre-Smash era,” tweeted Seth Meyers of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”

But in between ads for “Smash,” the Patriots and Giants played a closely contested game before Manning and Tom Coughlin yet again defeated Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, as they did four years ago in Super Bowl XLII.

Since then, the television landscape has changed, as was evidenced by Sunday’s broadcast. In a first, it was streamed live online on both NFL.com and NBCSports.com. The feed was a sure forerunner to more streaming sports, but was rudimentary, with variable camera angles, slight social media integration and about a 30-second delay.

On TV, the echoes of Super Bowl XLII were sometimes eerie, and play-by-play team Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth didn’t miss any chance to compare the two games.

“Wow,” said Collinsworth as the teams vied in the tense fourth quarter. “We should just have these teams play all the time.”

Michaels, not missing a beat to promote NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” added: “On Sunday night.”

That both Giants wins were enabled by remarkable receptions _ earlier by David Tyree against his helmet, Sunday by Mario Manningham on the sideline _ was fittingly cited. At another moment, when Brady eluded a pass rush and then heaved an interception, Collinsworth, recalling Manning’s disappearing act four years ago, said it was “like the opposite of the last Super Bowl.”

In his second Super Bowl but first for NBC, Collinsworth, the former Cincinnati Bengal and longtime dispenser of no-nonsense, offered proof that he’s the best color man in the business. He was most at home in the biggest moments, when commentators are most needed.

Before the thrilling final drives, the game at times seemed oddly lacking mojo. Was it the lack of Tebowing? The missing cutaways to Peyton Manning?

The broadcast was led by NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” crew and overseen by producer Fred Gaudelli and director Drew Esocoff. An audience anticipated to top 100 million (last year’s drew a record 111 million average viewers) helped NBC sell $250 million in advertising, with 30-second commercials going for as much as $3.5 million.

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