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Brief Published: 18 Dec 2020

CBS Uses SpongeBob to Get Kids Watching NFL

SpongeBob takes over the NFL

In a bid to attract younger viewers to its sports broadcasting, US media giant ViacomCBS has partnered with US children's TV channel Nickelodeon to bring surreal animated visuals to a National Football League (NFL) Wild Card game in January.

While the game will be broadcast traditionally on CBS, a special presentation on Nickelodeon's mobile app – featuring cartoon character SpongeBob Squarepants and fun graphics overlaid on the action (such as googly eyes on players) – will be available for kids to watch with their parents. An accompanying website, NFLNickPlay, will provide info on football basics and offer NFL-themed content, while viewers will be able to access QR codes to unlock SpongeBob collectibles.

During the game, "we'll decide what plays we want to 'Nick-ify'" said CBS Sports producer Shawn Robbins in an interview with US film industry magazine The Hollywood Reporter. "We send them to the Nickelodeon animators in New York. They then send them back to us. It's happening within minutes. So something that may happen early in a series could come back and be on your screen in a bumper to commercial."

While NFL viewership has been fairly robust despite the impact of the pandemic, ratings were still down 7% in the most recent week of play. Other sports leagues have suffered worse declines in 2020, so the need to attract new, younger audiences is imperative for 2021.

For more on innovation in sports, see our Next-Gen Sports Fandom report, and look out for our upcoming State of Media: 2021 Update, publishing in February.