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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”