Troy Aikman’s spinning wheel of offseason fortune will reportedly stop with a new home for the broadcaster, but not the one most sports media observers have expected.
According to the New York Post‘s Andrew Marchand, Aikman is close to signing a deal with ESPN to be the top analyst for Monday Night Football. Marchand describes the two sides as “deep in negotiations” to the point where a deal is expected to be completed.
The exact terms of Aikman’s deal with ESPN haven’t yet been revealed, but Marchand said on Twitter that it would be a five-year agreement. The average annual salary is expected to rival the $18 million per year that Tony Romo earns in the 10-year, $180 million contract he signed with CBS two years ago.
Aikman reportedly earned $8 million this past season with Fox. (Marchand reports that he would earn $13.5 million annually over the next four years if he stayed with Fox, but could opt out if he received a higher offer.)
Aikman reportedly on the verge of joining ESPN means that the network is blowing up the three-man booth of Steve Levy, Brian Griese, and Louis Riddick that’s called Monday Night Football for the past two seasons. Griese’s contract is up with ESPN and it’s doubtful that Riddick would be on the crew with Aikman. And Levy could be the play-by-play announcer, but wouldn’t the network want to pair a star analyst with an equally marquee partner?
Will ESPN get Al Michaels to join Aikman in a revamped MNF booth? The two were expected to be Amazon’s top choices for its upcoming exclusive Thursday Night Football package. But ESPN has reportedly showed interest in hiring Michaels with his NBC contract expiring after Super Bowl LVI, and the network is facing a possible overhaul of its NFL studio coverage as well.
Putting the potential money aside, Michaels may not find Amazon as appealing if he’s not partnered with Aikman. Would Kurt Warner be someone that could fill that role?
The belief is that he would prefer not to work with a first-time analyst like Sean Payton. Perhaps Michaels would put that aside if Amazon hired Sean McVay, but he’s expected to remain as coach of the Los Angeles Rams. Besides, ESPN appeared to be the network showing the most interest in McVay. Would Tom Brady also be an appealing option?
Aikman leaving Fox knocks down another set of dominoes as well. Who replaces him on Fox’s No. 1 NFL broadcast team with Joe Buck? The network will broadcast two of the next three Super Bowls. The expectation is that rising star Greg Olsen will be bumped up to the top crew. But Fox may also want to make a splashy move with a big name like Payton. (McVay or Brady probably have to be considered in the mix as well.)
Marchand also raised one other moonshot-type move in his report: ESPN could make a run at Joe Buck, whose contract expires next year. Yet Buck also calls MLB broadcasts for the network, including the World Series and All-Star Game. Fox would presumably want to keep him and Buck doesn’t have the same kind of opt-out in his deal.
Poll Data Shows Tepid Response To Tom Brady Joining FOX
“A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.”
FOX Sports reportedly signed Tom Brady to a 10-year deal worth $375 million to make the seven-time Super Bowl champion the new lead analyst for its top NFL broadcast once his playing career is over.
A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.
The poll said 2 in 5 NFL fans have a better opinion of FOX Sports following the deal, with 41% of NFL fans being at least somewhat more likely to watch a game with Brady as an analyst.
Data shows one-third of NFL fans think the deal Brady reportedly agreed to is worth about the same as its reported value.
That reaction could probably be described as “tepid”. That may be exactly what FOX expects and maybe all it wants.
Last week, Domonique Foxworth of ESPN suggested that the paycheck is less about what the network thinks Tom Brady means to viewers and more about showing the NFL that the network values its product.
FOX Not Interested In Joining Streaming Sports Wars
“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take?”
The CEO of FOX doesn’t plan on forking over billions of dollars to be people’s last choice for paid streaming services.
Lachlan Murdoch said at a time when more than 80% of American homes already have some kind of paid streaming service, it’s not worthwhile to jump on that train.
Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ typically account for the average streaming presence in a household.
“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take,” Murdoch said at a tech conference earlier this year. “And so the billions of dollars that’s being spent by multiple aspirants is all for that last position. And so we are extraordinarily — I want to say that — we’re happy to be sort of sitting on the sidelines.”
Murdoch told Benjamin Swinburne that when it comes to the NFL, FOX’s media rights are the same as CBS, NBC and ESPN. The main focus for the company remains on keeping games on TV.
“We don’t believe it helps us to put those rights under a streaming service or free on over-the-air. We think it’s very important that those rights remain exclusive to the broadcast environment,” Murdoch said.
FOX does stream games through its app, but it is only the games it is also carrying on its broadcast network or FS1.
NBA Draft To Get Simulcast From ESPN & ABC
“This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.”
ESPN is set for the 2022 NBA Draft coming up on June 23 at 8 p.m. from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The network announced Wednesday the crews that will handle coverage on both ESPN and ABC.
ABC will broadcast the first round in primetime. Kevin Negandhi will host and will be joined by Stephen A. Smith, Chiney Ogwumike and Jalen Rose. Monica McNutt will be reporting and interviewing draftees.
This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.
Malika Andrews will host both rounds for ESPN. Jay Bilas, Kendrick Perkins and Adrian Wojnarowski will share the set. Analysts Bobby Marks and Mike Schmitz will contribute.
“We’re thrilled that Malika Andrews will host this year’s ESPN presentation as she brings her well-documented, widespread skillset to our main set,” said David Roberts, head of NBA and Studio Production for ESPN. “The event will showcase the scope and depth of our NBA and college basketball talent roster with accomplished journalists and high-profile personalities across ESPN, ABC and ESPN Radio.”
ESPN will air a pre-draft red carpet show hosted by Cassidy Hubbarth from 5-6 p.m. Perkins and Richard Jefferson will also make appearances.