Jason Benetti, baseball want Peacock’s package of games worth waking up for
Benetti is the voice of “MLB Sunday Leadoff,” the NBC-produced package of 18 games that will appear on the network’s streaming service, Peacock. The slate begins Sunday, with the White Sox visiting the Red Sox, the one game that will be simulcast on NBC.
Fortunately, White Sox TV voice Jason Benetti is a morning person. Otherwise, he might’ve struck out with NBC and its new package of games on late Sunday mornings.
Sometimes he’ll be up at 5:30 exchanging emails with NBC Sports Chicago producer Chris Withers about graphics for the Sox’ game that day. And Benetti called his share of morning games as the voice of the minor-league Syracuse Chiefs.
“We had a bus trip from Syracuse to Toledo once; that night was a 7 o’clock game,” he said. “Then the next two were ‘SpongeBob’ kids days at 11 o’clock in the morning. And they always say, the second day is when it hits you. And so when the second day is 11 in the morning, you’re like, wow.”
Benetti figures to have it easier as the voice of “MLB Sunday Leadoff,” the NBC-produced package of 18 games that will appear on the network’s streaming service, Peacock. The slate begins Sunday, with the White Sox visiting the Red Sox, the one game that will be simulcast on NBC.
First pitch is 10:35 a.m.
NBC has had success in the late-morning window with the Premier League. Knowing that MLB has played in the morning on Patriots’ Day in Boston and the Fourth of July in Washington, the network presented a case for a morning package.
“To baseball’s credit, they were open to it,” Peacock executive vice president Rick Cordella said. “So we found this unique situation where you have an exclusive window on Sunday mornings for what effectively becomes the game of the week for us.”
Part of the deal is partial exclusivity. The first six broadcasts in the package begin at 10:30, and the rest begin at 11. No other MLB broadcast that day can start until 12:30 p.m.
Another unique element is NBC’s plan for analysts. Benetti will be joined by different analysts every week, one from each team’s local broadcast. On Sunday, he’ll call the game with his regular partner, Steve Stone, and former Red Sox and White Sox infielder Kevin Youkilis.
A revolving door of analysts won’t be a problem for Benetti, who has worked with countless partners on ESPN’s college football and basketball broadcasts. In fact, he relishes the opportunity.
“It feels like you’re hosting a cocktail party every week,” Benetti said. “This one friend doesn’t know this other friend, or they might, but the idea is to make sure that there’s always conversation and to get to know people quickly. I have found I really have a love for that.
“When I heard about the different analysts rotating in, it was my favorite part of the whole thing. I just love the idea that every telecast is different.”
“There’s a reason we picked Jason,” NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood said. “We did our homework. We know him. We love what he does, and we think he’s the perfect person to be in that middle seat at the dinner party.”
Flood also said the broadcasts would give a nod to NBC’s history with baseball through graphics and music. The network began airing games in 1947, and it aired “Game of the Week” broadcasts on Saturdays from 1966 to ’89. Its all-time list of announcers is a veritable who’s who of baseball broadcasting. Games returned to NBC from 1994 to 2000, mostly in the postseason.
“Anyone who remembers baseball back in the day will appreciate it,” Flood said. “There are some graphic treatments that will connect the past with the present because we think there’s a lot of value to that. For a certain segment of the population, the only baseball game of the week was on NBC, and we’re proud of that heritage. We’re going to lean into it. But we’re taking our own twist to it.”
Streaming games is a new twist to sports broadcasting. MLB is following the trend, adding Peacock’s package to that of Apple TV+ on Friday nights. Amazon will carry the Thursday package of NFL games exclusively starting next season, and ESPN+ aired exclusive NHL games all of this season. The NBA’s next media-rights deal figures to have a streaming element, as well. Its current deal expires after the 2024-25 season.
“I’m all about different,” Benetti said. “My deal is, if it’s easier for people to watch, put it on there. I love the idea that it’s easier for the consumer in the end. I know it’s more difficult in terms of subscribing. Everybody knows that’s a hurdle. But if you can carry your device with you and watch the game, once you get past those bumps, I think it’s really valuable.”
- The “MLB Sunday Leadoff” pregame show will begin at 10 a.m. on NBC and Peacock. NBC Sports’ Ahmed Fareed will host, and he’ll be joined by a different analyst each week. Former White Sox player Nick Swisher will join him Sunday. Legendary announcer Vin Scully, who was NBC’s lead baseball broadcaster from 1983 to ’89, will voice the open at 10:30 a.m.
- The White Sox weren’t the only ones to sweep the two-game set this week at Wrigley Field. NBC Sports Chicago beat Marquee Sports Network in household rating 2.7-2.0, according to Nielsen, for the two games combined. One ratings point equals roughly 35,000 HH in the Chicago designated market area (DMA). NBCSCH also won among adults 25-54, the key demographic for advertisers, 1.5-0.7.
- Cubs fans will hear ESPN’s much improved “Sunday Night Baseball” broadcast this weekend for the game against the Dodgers. Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner will be mic’d up for an in-game conversation with the new crew of Karl Ravech, David Cone and Eduardo Perez.