The Chiefs and the Jets are playing on “Sunday Night Football.” But many who tune in will be watching for shots of a luxury suite.
From a football perspective, the game on Sunday night between the Kansas City Chiefs and the New York Jets is not must-see TV.
The Chiefs, favored by 7.5 points, are the reigning Super Bowl champions and are led by the N.F.L.’s best player. The Jets are flailing after their 39-year-old would-be savior tore his Achilles’ tendon minutes into the season.
But many millions of people have tuned in anyway for a reason not related to sports: America’s most breathlessly covered situationship — between Kansas City’s All-Pro tight end, Travis Kelce, and pop music’s biggest star, Taylor Swift — is playing out on prime-time television.
“They are two of the biggest media entertainment entities that exist,” said Nora Princiotti, a football writer for The Ringer who also co-hosts a popular music podcast that often focuses on Swift.
“It’ll be a hard task for anything to top this,” she said about this year’s biggest pop culture moments.
The host of NBC’s pregame show on Sunday night, Maria Taylor, opened her monologue with an unsubtle nod to a Swift song, “Enchanted.” Over the next hour, anchors called attention to a Swift look-alike, and cameras showed fans wearing Swift T-shirts. At one point, NBC aired a high-gloss spot showcasing Swift’s Eras Tour.
The network also featured a collage of photos of Swift at last week’s Chiefs-Bears game, and around 7:42 p.m., cameras showed Swift herself at MetLife Stadium. To mark the moment, Taylor, the pregame host, said “the Eras Tour continues,” a reference to the pop star’s record-breaking string of concerts.
The game offers a spectacular collision of the nation’s most-watched prime-time show and the ardent fans of a pop star at the height of her powers.
Given Swift’s mega-fame and penchant for writing songs about her romantic relationships, her dating life has long been a subject of scrutiny. But the frenzied curiosity of the past week is rare even for Swift.
Fox Sports said that the Chiefs-Bears game last weekend, which Swift attended, was the week’s most-watched telecast on any network, with 24.3 million viewers powered in part by a strong female audience.
“We’re aware we could be reaching new eyeballs,” Rob Hyland, the coordinating producer of NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” said on Friday.
Last week, Fox cameras frequently panned to Swift’s reaction after Kelce, the game’s leading receiver, touched the ball. Richie Zyontz, Fox’s lead N.F.L. producer, told The Athletic there were extra opportunities to show Swift during a 41-10 blowout.
It remains to be seen exactly how NBC will handle the celebrity story line. Hyland said his team had designed a few “elements” related to Kelce and Swift, but emphasized that the network’s top priority would be the on-field action.
The Chiefs and a publicist for Swift did not respond to a request for comment.
But with Swift’s Eras Tour briefly on pause, her concert movie forthcoming and Kelce’s commitment to a popular football podcast as his Hall of Fame-caliber career wanes, a supercharged dose of crossover publicity on national television is probably a welcome boost, even for the already famous.
“If 30 million people tune in to watch Zach Wilson and the Jets,” Princiotti said, “that’s a fairly good illustration of her impact.”