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.
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.