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How Often Is Taylor Swift Actually Shown at N.F.L. Games?

A romance between the pop star and Travis Kelce has dominated social media, but TV broadcasts are focusing on it less than many seem to think.

Taylor Swift, wearing a red Chiefs sweatshirt, claps and looks up to her left while standing next to Brittany Mahomes, who is wearing a red vest over a white top and holding a baby.

Taylor Swift’s regular appearances at Kansas City Chiefs games — often alongside Brittany Mahomes — have drawn a huge amount of attention online. Some think TV networks are focusing on her too much.Credit…Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

As Taylor Swift’s N.F.L. adventure began in earnest at a Kansas City Chiefs game against the Chicago Bears on Sept. 24, the reaction of the Fox broadcast crew — and much of the N.F.L. world in general — was summed up by Erin Andrews, a veteran sideline reporter.

“We all need to calm down,” Ms. Andrews said, shortly after Travis Kelce scored a second-half touchdown.

Ms. Andrews was making a nod to one of Ms. Swift’s songs, but she was also acknowledging how star-struck she and her colleagues were to have the world’s biggest pop star at Arrowhead Stadium to see her new love interest, Mr. Kelce, play for the Chiefs. Greg Olsen, the lead analyst on the broadcast, went as far as bragging that Ms. Swift had once liked one of his tweets.

While Ms. Swift’s presence dramatically expanded the audience for Chiefs games — Nielsen Media Research estimated an additional two million women watched Kansas City’s game on Oct. 1 — some backlash was inevitable. Ms. Swift joked about “pissing off a few dads, Brads and Chads” in her Time Person of the Year profile, but she had run out of one-liners (and facial expressions) by the time the comedian Jo Koy, in a disastrous hosting gig at the Golden Globes, said: “The big difference between the Golden Globes and the N.F.L.? At the Golden Globes, we have fewer camera shots of Taylor Swift.”

Mr. Koy soon went on a media tour defending the joke as a criticism of the broadcasts, not Ms. Swift. But the reality was that the sequence at the awards ceremony took 16 seconds to play out, which was more time than CBS had dedicated to showing Ms. Swift at either of the last two Chiefs games she’d attended leading up to that night.

And that dissonance between how many times Ms. Swift is shown versus how many times people seem to think she was shown, has continued despite the reality that she is typically on screen for less than 25 seconds over the course of broadcasts that run longer than three hours, and her name is rarely mentioned.

Rob Hyland, the coordinating producer for NBC’s Sunday Night Football broadcasts, has run the coverage for two games Ms. Swift attended — the Jets-Chiefs game on Oct. 1 and the Packers-Chiefs game on Dec. 3 — and said his team prepares heavily for how they cover her, but that everything falls away if the game gets interesting.

“It is always a balance with what’s happening on the field and how you can enhance what’s happening on the field,” said Mr. Hyland, who challenged any dissatisfied viewers to name any aspect of the games they missed as a result of the cutaways. “It wasn’t like, ‘Hey, let’s, let’s show her this many times.’ It was, ‘Hey, when appropriate, let’s remind the audience that she’s there.’”

Mr. Hyland’s crew spent the lead-up to the Jets game — which was only a week into Ms. Swift and Mr. Kelce’s public relationship — frantically trying to find out if Ms. Swift would attend, going as far as having a spotter plane searching the area for police escorts. But a close game led to most of their preparation being tossed aside in favor of game action (and at least six cutaways to Aaron Rodgers, the Jets’ injured quarterback, sitting in his own suite).

Two months later, NBC showed her only once during the broadcast of the Packers game, largely because the novelty of the relationship had begun to wear off.

A close look at the games that have aired since Christmas reveals familiar patterns of coverage that have Ms. Swift’s fans hoping to see her more while some vocal N.F.L. fans remain overwhelmed.

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Brittany Mahomes, in a red jacket with the number 15 on it and a black hat, holds one fist in the air while Taylor Swift, in a white coat with a red star on it opens her mouth wide and holds up her hand in surprise.
Cameras often spotlight Ms. Mahomes and Ms. Swift after big plays by Travis Kelce. Their outfits are scrutinized heavily by fans online.Credit…Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports, via Reuters
Brittany Mahomes, in a red jacket with the number 15 on it and a black hat, holds one fist in the air while Taylor Swift, in a white coat with a red star on it opens her mouth wide and holds up her hand in surprise.

Times shown: 5 | Total duration: 24 seconds
Travis’s day: 5 catches, 75 yards, 2 touchdowns
Time devoted to a shirtless Jason Kelce: 21 seconds
Score: Chiefs 27, Bills 24

After an early catch by Mr. Kelce, Ms. Swift was shown sitting in her luxury suite, and Tony Romo, the color commentator, said, “There’s an interested fan right there.” The broadcast went back to her suite after both of Mr. Kelce’s touchdown catches to see her celebrations. On the second one, Mr. Romo pointed out that Jason Kelce was sitting behind Ms. Swift, drinking a beer with no shirt on. “There’s your brother-in-law right behind you,” he said, incorrectly characterizing her relationship with Travis Kelce, just as he had during Kansas City’s game on Christmas.

Taylor Swift, wearing a white knit hat and a red jacket with No. 87 on it, walks through a crowd.

Ms. Swift has featured a different Chiefs-themed wardrobe choice at each game, including a custom jacket that Kristin Juszczyk made using one of Mr. Kelce’s jerseys.Credit…Ed Zurga/Associated Press
Taylor Swift, wearing a white knit hat and a red jacket with No. 87 on it, walks through a crowd.

Times shown: 5 | Total duration: 1 minute 16 seconds
Travis’s day: 7 catches, 71 yards
Score: Chiefs 26, Dolphins 7

Ms. Swift’s jacket — a custom creation by Kristin Juszczyk — quickly became the talk of social media. As for the game, which was shown exclusively on the Peacock streaming service, the mentions of Ms. Swift were few and far between, other than an extended stretch in which the game’s commentators, Mike Tirico and Jason Garrett, discussed their proximity to her.

“So I’m not exactly sure where in the stadium Taylor Swift sits, right?” Mr. Tirico said, as the cameras showed her suite and began to pull back. “We’re just sitting here watching the game. The last quarter-and-a-half, there have been people up here, and I’m like, ‘Man, they must love Jason Garrett.’ Everybody’s pointing their camera up to our booth to take a picture of Jason. And then about 10 minutes ago I was like, ‘Hey dummy, they’re taking a picture of Taylor.’”

As the camera showed a wide shot of the booth, which was just above Ms. Swift’s suite, Mr. Garrett said, “And the worst part is, I’ve been waving the whole time.”

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Taylor Swift, in a white coat and black pants, walks with a group of men through a tunnel under a stadium.
Even a simple white Chiefs jacket can cause a stir, as there was speculation online that she had borrowed a coat that Mr. Kelce had recently worn. Swifties soon discovered subtle differences between the jackets.Credit…Ed Zurga/Associated Press
Taylor Swift, in a white coat and black pants, walks with a group of men through a tunnel under a stadium.

Times shown: 3 | Total duration: 12 seconds
Travis’s day: 3 catches, 16 yards
Score: Chiefs 25, Bengals 17

This was a quiet day for Mr. Kelce, which led to very little mention of Ms. Swift. After a crucial defensive play by one of Mr. Kelce’s teammates late in the game, the CBS cameras showed Ms. Swift celebrating in her suite, and Mr. Romo said, “You see all the fans — and your favorite fan — all excited out here.”

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Taylor Swift, wearing a plaid skirt, red shirt and a Santa hat, claps above her head while a young girl stands in front of her in a Chiefs dress and Austin Swift, dressed as Santa Claus, claps.
Ms. Swift brought several family members with her to the Chiefs game on Christmas, including her brother, Austin, who dressed as Santa Claus.Credit…Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
Taylor Swift, wearing a plaid skirt, red shirt and a Santa hat, claps above her head while a young girl stands in front of her in a Chiefs dress and Austin Swift, dressed as Santa Claus, claps.

Times shown: 3 | Total duration: 14 seconds
Travis’s day: 5 catches, 44 yards
Score: Raiders 20, Chiefs 14

Ms. Swift and her entire family spent Christmas with the Chiefs, and her brother, Austin, dressed as Santa Claus. But after CBS opened its broadcast with a shot of Ms. Swift in her suite, she largely disappeared, probably because Mr. Kelce played relatively poorly in a frustrating loss. The third and final time the cameras showed Ms. Swift was after a catch by Mr. Kelce in the second quarter, prompting Mr. Romo to say: “And his wife loves it — I mean girlfriend.”

 

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