On Sunday, an NFL playoff game between the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints aired simultaneously on CBS and Nickelodeon, with the former being a traditional broadcast and the latter being a kid-friendly version with some jazzed-up graphics and Nickelodeon cameos designed to make the traditionally dull and needlessly complex sport of American football seem more appealing to children. From an aesthetic standpoint, the experiment was an unmitigated success. Virtual slime cannons appears onscreen when teams got touchdowns, player stat cards included references to their favorite Nickelodeon shows, and SpongeBob SquarePants would appear during field goal attempts. Also, someone on the field said “fuck” at one point, and everyone on the Nick broadcast had to awkwardly pretend it didn’t happen.
As it turns out, the special broadcast was also a success from a ratings standpoint, with The Wrap reporting that the NFL game gave Nickelodeon its highest ratings in “nearly four years.” In fact, combined with the CBS broadcast, the game was the most-watched match-up of the weekend and pulled in just over 30 million views… 28 million of which came from CBS. So yeah, the Nickelodeon version of the game apparently didn’t put up especially huge numbers when compared to a regular football game, but that’s probably only because traditionalists hadn’t yet realized how much better football games are when SpongeBob and the cast of All That are there (new All That, not the one you remember if you’re the appropriate age to be reading this). ESPN has a good write-up on how and why the Nickelodeon game was so much better than regular football, despite the fact that the game itself was apparently “terrible.”
We suggested on Sunday that it would probably be more fun to just talk about SpongeBob SquarePants than to complicate all of this with footballs, but apparently something about adding football to the equation did help elevate this thing beyond a regular Nickelodeon day.