Local TV viewers will notice some changes in the announcing lineup for Buffalo Bills this season, and they include the hiring of a fan favorite.
Fred Jackson, who played nine seasons with the Bills and was the host of his own TV show on WBBZ-TV, will team with Rochester sportscaster Mike Catalana on "Bills Tonight," the postgame show carried on MSG after regular-season games.
However, Catalana has lost another of his roles with the Bills. He no longer will be part of the TV coverage of Bills preseason games, which start Aug. 9 against Carolina at New Era Field.
Thad Brown, who works for a Nexstar station in Rochester and appears on Buffalo’s Nexstar station, WIVB-TV (Channel 4), is replacing Catalana as the sideline reporter for the three preseason games carried by WKBW-TV (Channel 7).
They are produced by Pegula Sports and Entertainment (PSE) and carried in Buffalo on WKBW-TV. Brown also is part of Channel 4’s coverage of the Bills with sports director Josh Reed.
The Bills think highly of Catalana, the sportscaster for WHAM-TV in Rochester who has worked Bills preseason games since 2000.
But the switch in sideline reporters is being made as a result of Catalana’s station losing the rights in Rochester to the Nexstar station where Brown works, WROC-TV. Nexstar stations in Syracuse, Binghamton, Albany, Utica, Elmira and Erie, Pa., also are expected to carry Bills preseason games starting Aug. 9, and the company understandably didn't want Catalana to be seen on its Rochester station when he works for a competitor.
The only Nexstar station upstate that isn’t carrying the preseason games is in Buffalo because Channel 7 owns the rights until 2020. In 2020, Channel 4 gets the rights to Bills preseason games in Buffalo as well.
The eventual loss of the right to be called the official station of the Bills is a big blow to Channel 7, which has held the preseason rights for some time. The E.W. Scripps Company, which owns Channel 7, presumably had trouble matching a Nexstar bid that involved several of its stations.
Rob Stone, recently seen on Fox's World Cup coverage, is doing play-by-play for the Carolina preseason opener alongside Steve Tasker. Andrew Catalon, who is unavailable for the Carolina game because he is part of CBS' coverage of the PGA championship, joins Tasker for the other two Bills games carried on Channel 7. The fourth preseason game against Cincinnati is being carried by the Fox network.
PSE also announced that it is premiering a new four-part series on Facebook Watch, “Buffalo Bills: Embedded,” at 8 p.m. Aug. 15 and it will run on consecutive Wednesdays through Sept. 5.
In a release, Mark Preisler, PSE executive vice president of media and content, said the series "is the next step in providing our fans unprecedented access to life as a Buffalo Bill. Our Emmy Award-winning production team captures the intensity of building a team from the first day of practice right up until the final 53 step on the field for game action.”
The series will follow team practices, meetings, coach conversations and player interactions. It also will be carried on BuffaloBills.com, the Buffalo Bills app and Buffalo Bills YouTube Channel at 8 p.m. Thursdays after the Wednesday premiere.