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Kirk Herbstreit Extends ESPN Contract, Joins Amazon ‘Thursday Night Football’

“I’m not going to lie, it’s going to be monumental. For four months, I’m not really going to have any days off.”

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Kirk Herbstreit was officially introduced Wednesday as part of Amazon’s new Thursday Night Football broadcast team, providing color commentary alongside play-by-play announcer Al Michaels. But he’ll also be continuing the work at ESPN that made him one of the best-known football broadcasters in sports media.

Herbstreit has agreed to a contract extension with ESPN, which was also announced Wednesday. According to the New York Post‘s Andrew Marchand, it’s a three-year extension added to the two years remaining on Herbstreit’s current deal.

Herbstreit will remain the top commentator on ESPN’s College GameDay Saturday morning pregame show and the No. 1 analyst with play-by-play announcer Chris Fowler on the ABC Saturday Night Football college football telecast. He will continue calling one of the College Football Playoff semifinal games and the National Championship game. Additionally, Herbstreit will maintain a role in ESPN’s NFL Draft coverage.

The extension continues Herbstreit’s 26-year relationship with ESPN, which began when he joined College GameDay in 1996.

“Kirk’s passion for college football and reverence for its traditions is unmatched,” said ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro in the network’s official announcement. “His signature analysis and in-depth insight have earned him the respect of both fans and the teams he covers, and we are thrilled to ensure that Kirk will continue to be there for college football’s biggest moments for years to come.”

As mentioned, Amazon also officially introduced Herbstreit and Michaels as its new Thursday Night Football broadcast team. According to The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch, the new duo will call one preseason game for Amazon before making its regular-season debut on Sept. 15. Amazon will have 15 TNF broadcasts for the season and will later announce alternate feeds for those games.

With the Thursday Amazon broadcast followed by GameDay and a college football telecast on Saturday, Herbstreit is going to be a very busy man during the fall.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s going to be monumental,” Herbstreit told the New York Post. “For four months, I’m not really going to have any days off.”

But he’s also going to be very well compensated. According to Marchand, Amazon will pay Herbstreit $10 million per season. While the financials of his ESPN deal weren’t announced, Marchand reports that his total package puts him near the $18 million Aikman will earn with ESPN annually.

Calling Thursday Night Football with Michaels will take some of the sting out of the disappointment Herbstreit says he felt when ESPN hired Aikman for Monday Night Football. He hoped that the network might eventually move him and Fowler to the MNF booth and a Super Bowl broadcast in 2027.

But Aikman going to ESPN obviously opened up the opportunity for Herbstreit to call NFL games for Amazon. While he won’t call a postseason game or Super Bowl there, it’s a showcase position for Herbstreit which will get plenty of attention from fans and media as he works with one of broadcasting’s greatest play-by-play voices.

Sports TV News

Al Michaels: Condensed Prep Time For Thursday Night Football ‘A Downside’

“It’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us.”

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There were bound to be unexpected hiccups and unintended consequences as Al Michaels moved to Thursday Night Football with Amazon Prime Video.

He told The Boston Globe Thursday that one of the downsides of the week’s schedule is less prep time with the teams playing in the game.

“When we go to see the teams, it’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us,” Michaels said. “And all the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve built some great relationships with coaches and players and GMs and owners and you name it, and I don’t get that much time to spend with them anymore. That’s a downside part of it for me. Some of the best stories you get come from those relationships.”

Michaels has raised eyebrows this season while not being shy about his disdain for some poor matchups early in the schedule. However, he now understands that there are quality games as the season approaches its close.

“The schedule was a little leaky with the Carolina-Atlanta game and a couple of other games that we’ve had, but now we’re positioned for a nice run down the stretch,” said Michaels.

The 78-year-old was also asked how he remains energetic and passionate for the job he’s held for so long.

The games are exciting. I love sports. You don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s no script. And unscripted television is the greatest.”

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Sports TV News

Jimmy Pitaro: Reaching Younger Audience A Priority for ESPN

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience. As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

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Many in the media industry have voice concern that millennials and Gen Z aren’t consuming traditional media outlets like previous generations. ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said it’s a priority for the network.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience,” Pitaro said, quoted by Morning Consult sports business reporter Mark J. Burns. “As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

Pitaro made the comments at Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators conference Wednesday. It is a continuation of comments he has made in recent years.

In 2018, Pitaro said at ESPN’s upfront “I think we are doing a fantastic job serving the sports fanatic,” said Pitaro. “What about the casual sports customer? Are we doing all we can to serve him or her?”.

In 2019, Pitaro said it was “all hands on deck” to reach a younger audience and women. “We have to be open and go to where our customers are,” he said in regards to reaching younger viewers on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Earlier this year, Pitaro added that ESPN won’t be leaving linear television anytime soon.

“What I will tell you is that as I sit here right now, that business is still incredible,” Pitaro said. “We serve the sports fan anyway and at any time. I know there are a lot of people that still want ESPN in that traditional ecosystem.”

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Sports TV News

Don Mattingly Joining Blue Jays Staff After YES Network Courtship

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

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The New York Yankees regional sports network can take Don Mattingly off its talent wish list. Mattingly was announced Wednesday as a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays starting in 2023.

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

But Mattingly told Andrew Marchand of The New York Post this week that he had another opportunity in the works but wouldn’t elaborate.

YES also has been considering luring Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter into broadcasting. But no formal talks have taken place.

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