Al Michaels’ long-rumored move to Amazon to become the play-by-play voice of Thursday Night Football is finally, truly going to happen.
After reporting for weeks that Michaels and Amazon were “on the half-yard line” in agreeing to a deal, the two sides have now pushed the ball over the goal line. The New York Post‘s Andrew Marchand reports that Michaels’ deal will be “in the Joe Buck neighborhood,” which presumably means that the legendary broadcaster will earn in the $15 million per year range. His contract is a three-year agreement.
(Buck reportedly agreed to a five-year, $75 million contract with ESPN.)
Michaels was reportedly under consideration by ESPN for its Monday Night Football booth and a pairing with Troy Aikman would have been intriguing. But the opportunity to keep Aikman teamed up with Joe Buck and continue a 20-year partnership was too enticing to resist.
There was also speculation (or maybe fantasizing for sports media observers) that Michaels could replace Buck on Fox’s No. 1 NFL broadcast team. But all signs point to Fox elevating Kevin Burkhardt to the network’s top play-by-play role, likely alongside analyst Greg Olsen.
As mentioned, Michaels is signing a three-year deal and perhaps that was a concern for both ESPN and Fox if they wanted at least a five-year commitment. Michaels was clearly waiting to put pen to paper with Amazon until the ESPN and Fox situations worked themselves out. Once it became apparent that both networks were moving in other directions, however, Amazon was the last option remaining for a broadcaster of Michaels’ stature.
Besides the money and best available opportunity, Amazon was believed to have an advantage with Michaels by hiring NBC’s Sunday Night Football producer, Fred Gaudelli, to oversee its Thursday Night Football coverage. Michaels and Gaudelli have worked together for decades, going back to their days on ABC’s Monday Night Football.
Michaels will partner with Kirk Herbstreit on Thursday Night Football broadcasts. Herbstreit signed on earlier this month and will continue broadcasting both College GameDay and college football telecasts for ESPN and ABC. Prior to bringing on Herbstreit, Amazon reportedly pursued Aikman, John Lynch, and Sean McVay for the TNF analyst role.
According to Marchand, Herbstreit’s deal will pay him “eight figures a year.” Amazon is expected to officially announce Michaels and Herbstreit as its TNF broadcast team, perhaps as early as this week.
One question that may be answered with that official announcement: How many games will Michaels call each season for Amazon? Marchand reports that Michaels will still call “a game or two” for NBC, including a playoff game — which isn’t part of Amazon’s package.
But Michaels hasn’t called a full slate of broadcasts during the past two seasons. NBC had 20 NFL telecasts in 2021, including Thursday night games for the season opener and Thanksgiving. Mike Tirico filled in when Michaels took a week off. But he was also contractually entitled to call some games each season, which might be why Michaels had some bye weeks on the schedule.
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.