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Al Michaels Reflects On Move From ABC to NBC, Past Super Bowl Broadcasts

“I said what you want to do on Monday night on ESPN is not how I do games. I would like to have the opportunity to go back where I belong at NBC with my guys.”

Ricky Keeler

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On Sunday, Feb. 13, Al Michaels will call his 11th Super Bowl when he is the play-by-play voice for Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals on NBC. This will be his fifth and possibly final Super Bowl on NBC since his contract will be up after the game.

Michaels appeared on the latest episode of The Press Box podcast with Bryan Curtis from The Ringer, telling stories from the previous 10 Super Bowls that he was able to call. He mentioned that 2005 was not a good year and leading up to Super Bowl XL, most of the talk was about what he would do next with Monday Night Football moving to ESPN.

According to Michaels, NBC’s Dick Ebersol came in and signed analyst John Madden, producer Fred Gaudelli, and director Drew Esocoff by the time the season was over. But Ebersol and Michaels were unable to come up with a deal at the beginning. Then things started to change, as Michaels explained:

“We get to the Super Bowl and I’m thinking all of my guys are over there, Ebersol makes another run at me,” said Michaels. “We get close. I had a contract at ESPN, but I’m thinking this is not going to work the way they wanted it to work at that point. They wanted to pair me with Joe Theismann. Nothing against Joe, but I’m leaving John Madden, the greatest of all-time.

“I didn’t like what their philosophy was and finally I went to the powers that be at Disney and since I had been there for a long time (30 years), I said, ‘Guys, I know it’s not going to look good for anybody here, but I think it’s best for both of us.’ I said what you want to do on Monday night on ESPN is not how I do games. I would like to have the opportunity to go back where I belong at NBC with my guys. I know it’s going to be an embarrassment maybe for you guys for losing me and for me, it looks like I am walking out on the contract, but I think it’s the best for everybody concerned.”

One of the reasons things didn’t seem right for Michaels was that he was going to feel different since ESPN’s people were now in charge of MNF and not ABC, and he disagreed with some of their ideas:

“They had a lot of bells and whistles. They had a guy who they were going to put in charge of creative operations of the show who I was not on the same page with,” Michaels said.

” They had ideas that were not my ideas that were tried 20-30 years before that and they were re-inventing the wheel and I was kind of like the Lone Ranger. Instead of being one of the central figures on Monday Night at ABC for 20 years. Now, I’m kind of the guy on the outside. There was a rivalry between ESPN and ABC. ESPN, they were so happy to have MNF and their people were going to do Monday Night and I was the outlier. I knew it wouldn’t work and I knew it would have been very bad for all of us. It turned out fine, at least for me anyway.”

Michaels was the voice of Monday Night Football for 20 years, despite being a position he said he wasn’t particularly coveting while at ABC:

“I was doing Monday Night Baseball. I was very happy doing that. I was doing a ton of Wide World of Sports shows,” he said. “I was doing the number two game in college football and good assignments at the Olympics. I was never eyeing Monday Night Football, ever. All of a sudden, it just popped up one day, thanks to Dennis Swanson. I’ll be forever grateful.”

While Michaels doesn’t want any part of the Super Bowl or any broadcast he does to be about him, he likes to put his own personality into the equation a little bit. He learned that if he starts off doing some analysis, it allows whoever is with him in the booth to go deeper into the play:

“If it’s just cut and dry play-by-play, you might as well have a PA announcer do it,” he said. “I don’t need the spotlight, but sometimes what I try to do is I do the rudimentary analysis that Tim McCarver loved. Instead of just stopping, I would do the early analysis and let Tim and Jim go deeper… McCarver, for one, told me ‘I love when you do that because it frees me to go to places I’ve never been before.’ I love to set my guys up.

“I think it’s a good thing to inject a little bit of your personality from time-to- time. You are not a robot. I’ve been on national TV for 45 years. A lot of people say, I grew up with you. Yeah, they know you, but it’s never going to be about me.”

If you are looking for a walk down memory lane at past Super Bowls, then this episode of The Press Box is perfect for you to listen to in preparation for next Sunday’s game. 

Sports TV News

The NFL Still Considering Multiple Offers For Sunday Ticket

The NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has not bid for the package but has stated it is willing to partner with the new rightsholder for a potential deal.

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Sunday Ticket Negotiations

DirecTV currently has the rights to Sunday Ticket. That deal expires at the end of this upcoming football season. The NFL is expected to make a boatload of cash when they decide which media organization gets the next rights to the package. The only question is… who will that be?

Alex Sherman of CNBC reports that the NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has decided not bid for the package. However, they are interested in partnering with the new rightsholder for a potential deal. DirecTV knows that Sunday Ticket is a staple in bars and restaurants and is interested in maintaining those relationships.

Outside of the bar/restaurant industry, success has been limited for the satellite provider with the football package. Fewer than two million subscribers signed up for Sunday Ticket each year which made the package a money-loser for the satellite TV provider.

According to the report, the NFL wants more than $2 billion for the rights and a stake in NFL Media, which is being packaged with Sunday Ticket. Also on the table is the NFL’s mobile rights. The league’s previous mobile agreement with Verizon has ended.

An interesting piece of the negotiations is Sunday Ticket price. According to the report, a buyer would have limited flexibility on pricing. The NFL signed contracts with CBS and Fox and within the framework of those deals, language mandates Sunday Ticket have a premium price. That’s to prevent loss of viewers from the networks that feature local market Sunday afternoon games. So essentially, the price is the price for the consumer.

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Sports TV News

F1 Renews With ESPN For U.S. Media Rights

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

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F1 ESPN

The racing series F1 has decided to stick with ESPN through 2025.

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

The reported value of the three-year contract is set to pay F1 $75-90M per year for the U.S. media rights. Amazon had offered to pay roughly $100M per year, with the right to sublicense to a linear broadcast network. Comcast’s offer was similar to ESPN’s in terms of value and the structure. They also wanted to put select races on it’s streaming service, Peacock.

Netflix was in on the negotiations, as well. The makers of Drive to Survive, the streaming series that many credit with the sport’s explosion in popularity in recent years, wasn’t close on on their financial offer. Also, it seems F1 executives were not ready to put all of its races on a streaming service just yet.

Currently, F1 receives $5M per year for ESPN to broadcast it’s races. ESPN has grabbed about 1.0 million viewers per race. That makes F1 a more than viable option for the network to invest into again. ESPN will be able to put a small number of races on its ESPN+ streaming service exclusively. The vast majority being on ABC or ESPN.

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Skip Bayless Says He And Stephen A. Smith ‘Sorted Out’ Their Disagreement

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

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Skip Bayless

Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless were locked in a war of words last week following the First Take host’s appearance on JJ Redick’s Old Man and the Three podcast.

The origins of their partnership were discussed and Bayless admitted he did not like the way Smith characterized the state of First Take before he arrived on set. Smith insisted that Bayless simply misunderstood what he meant by saying that he was told the show needed him.

Over the weekend, Skip Bayless says he and Stephen A. Smith got together at the Bayless home in California to talk things out in private.

“He was in LA, he came over, we sat by the pool,” he said on the latest episode of The Skip Bayless Show. “It wasn’t the easiest conversation for a while, but we slowly but surely sorted it out. We got through it, and we have been through so much together.”

Bayless reiterated that he considers Smith a brother. They love each other. That doesn’t mean they are always going to remember events the same way or see eye-to-eye all the time.

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

Fighting doesn’t mean the relationship is fractured. In fact, Skip Bayless was adamant that he remains closer to Smith than he is to most people in his life.

“I don’t trust easily because of the way I was raised, but I do trust Stephen Anthony Smith. Trust him with my life. Always have and always will. I trust he will always be there for me, and you better believe I will always be there for him.”

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