There’s nothing like kicking back on a Sunday afternoon, turning on your local NFL game and taking in seven hours of football. But being forced to watch just one game during the 1 p.m. or 4 p.m. time slots while seven or eight games are happening can be the bane of any avid fan’s existence. Most want to keep up with all the action, which is when a channel like NFL RedZone comes in.
“NFL RedZone is, according to our fans, the best way to watch NFL football,” said host Scott Hanson. “It is the 10,000-foot view of the NFL. Instead of watching just one game on a Sunday afternoon, you watch every game. We control the CBS and FOX feeds from however many games are going on and we will take you to where the action is hottest, specifically if someone is in the red zone or within the 10-yard line.”
The seven-hour, commercial-free program by NFL Media is celebrating its 10th anniversary, having first aired on Sept. 13, 2009, four years after DirecTV started its own version for the NFL Sunday Ticket package. Hanson, a Syracuse University alumnus, had been with NFL Network since 2006 and was just a roving reporter for the channel before getting the big hosting opportunity.
“They knew my passion for the game, my knowledge of the game and my energy level which were three things that were required to host RedZone,” said Hanson. “I was brought in for an audition, which was five hours long. Usually, a television audition is 10 minutes and they usually put you up on set to see how you look and sound. For this, they wanted to see how much knowledge you had, how you can ad-lib, and if you can keep it going for a long time.”
Hanson said that he “flopped and sweated” through his audition and didn’t know if he had done well in order to get the job. However, a few weeks later, he got the call to be the host. For 11 seasons since, he’s been the face of the channel that has changed the way people watch the NFL.
“It’s a little bit like air traffic control at the world’s busiest airport,” said Hanson. “You got to get [the games] in and get them off the runway as soon as possible. You can’t pause, wait a few minutes and think about it. You have to keep going constantly because the next airplane is coming in. It’s controlled chaos. Our goal is to show viewers, live or right after it happens, every moment we’ll be talking about on Monday.”
A moment that stands out to Hanson in his time doing NFL RedZone was Oct. 14, 2012, nearing the end of the late-game window. Three games were going down to the wire and deserved the channel’s attention, so the channel showed a triple-box of all three games being played at once. Within 30 seconds of each other, Hanson described how Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III had a 76-yard run to clinch a win against the Minnesota Vikings, rookie quarterback Russell Wilson threw a game-winning touchdown pass against the New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals kicker Jay Feely missed a game-winning field goal against the Buffalo Bills.
“When we hit all three of those at the same time, it was like the scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey when they look out and go ‘It’s full of stars,’” said Hanson. “It is nothing we’ve ever seen before or can even contemplate. I thought at that moment that, if we can continue to do this production the right way, fans will want to watch NFL RedZone every single week. They’ll make it their football tradition. That’s proven to be the case.”
Hanson said that NFL RedZone always tries to be engaging, even when there aren’t many games on in the late window. When all the games are at halftime or in commercial, the show takes the opportunity to go back and re-experience a moment that happened in the early window and also follow that up with sound bites from post-game press conferences. It gives them an opportunity to present these story lines for the viewers at home.
“When we have a game-winning touchdown or defensive stop, one or two hours later, people are going to want to see it again,” said Hanson. “We always find a way to display compelling football. It’s exhausting because a seven-hour show with no commercials and me as the solo host is a physical, mental and even biological channel with no bathroom breaks. It’s like nothing else on television.”
Hanson encourages anyone who has not experienced the channel before to give them one Sunday to experience the action and see if they can get hooked. If it isn’t part of your cable package, you can order RedZone for your mobile device using the NFL app.
“If you would go back in time and tell 10-year-old Scott Hanson that there would be a channel that showed nothing but showed the best parts of the NFL as they were happening, he would pass out from excitement knowing it existed, let alone be the voice, face and host of that channel,” he said.