Al Michaels, considered the dean of NFL announcers, will helm Prime Video’s exclusive Thursday Night Football livestreams this fall, alongside ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit.
Amazon made the news official today, though it has been in the wind (at least the Michaels part) for months. The tech giant will kick off its 11-year rights deal on September 15, the first time a streaming platform will have a weekly NFL exclusive. While the company has not confirmed the price it paid for rights, numerous reports have pegged it at $1 billion a year. The weekly showcase of 15 regular-season games will add some potent fuel to Amazon’s burgeoning efforts to scale its video advertising business, across Prime Video, IMDb TV and Twitch.
Michaels, 77, had a 15-year run on NBC’s Sunday Night Football and before that became a national figure during his tenure at ABC, which encompassed Monday Night Football as well as baseball and other sports. His iconic call of the 1980 U.S. men’s hockey upset over the USSR — “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” – came during ABC’s coverage of the Lake Placid Olympics. Last February was the 11th Super Bowl with Michaels on the play-by-play call.
Herbsreit is ESPN’s No. 1 college football analyst and will continue in that role. Feedback had been positive from his forays in calling select pro games.
With viewership and revenue surging for the NFL and media partners having just renewed their rights deals for the next decade, the makeup of broadcast booths is changing. Michaels is being replaced — as NBC Sports had forecast back in 2016 — by Mike Tirico. Fox’s longtime tandem of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, meanwhile, have decamped for ESPN’s Monday Night Football. Salaries have escalated dramatically since CBS signed Tony Romo to a precedent-shattering extension in 2020 paying him a reported $17 million a year. Michaels is believed to be receiving in the range of $12 million to $15 million a year. Buck and Aikman together stand to get $165 million for their ESPN deal.
The free spending is happening despite abundant research to indicate that viewers flock to the best game, not necessarily to announcers they know and enjoy. Still, for Prime Video, Michaels and Herbstreit give them a recognizable duo to start off with, even if Herbstreit is less familiar to NFL fans.
Another key element for Thursday Night Football is Fred Gaudelli, a 24-time Emmy-winning producer, who is joining as executive producer. Gaudelli will lead the Thursday Night Football production on-site each week, as part of a collaboration with NBC Sports.
“Over the last 36 seasons, I’ve been at the mic describing some of the most magical moments and games in NFL history and am looking forward to many more,” Michaels said. “This is the new frontier in sports television and to be a part of the launch at this point in my career is both exciting and stimulating. The NFL is the king of unscripted television and I’m looking forward to joining Kirk to bring fans more dramatic episodes on Thursday nights this fall.”
Herbstreit described the Prime Video streaming effort as “game-changing.” In teaming with Michaels and the behind-the-camera crew, he added, “We will build the next generation of NFL programming. I’m proud to be part of the Amazon team and can’t wait to get started.”
Michaels and Herbstreit “bring unparalleled experience to our historic new Thursday Night Football game telecasts, as we kick off our groundbreaking new agreement with the NFL,” said Marie Donoghue, vice president, Global Sports Video, Amazon. “Having these two legends in the booth, with the best game producer in the business, Fred Gaudelli, will help make Thursday night the most exciting football night of the week.”
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