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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

FOX Sports Sees Record-Setting Ratings Weekend

The World Cup matchup between the U.S. and England on Black Friday and Michigan/Ohio State on Saturday saw tens of millions of viewers tuning in.

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FOX Sports has been home to a number of record-setting games in terms of viewership over the last several days.

In addition to FOX Sports setting a new mark for a Thanksgiving and regular season NFL audience, the World Cup matchup between the U.S. and England on Black Friday and Michigan/Ohio State on Saturday saw tens of millions of viewers tuning in.

The network reported the U.S./England match in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup averaged 15.377 million. It was the most-watched English-language soccer game in the U.S. ever, topping the 1994 World Cup final between Italy and Brazil.

Viewership of the match was up 11% compared to the second group stage contest for the U.S. team in 2014 against Portugal. The audience peaked at 19.646 million from 3:30-3:45 p.m.

FOX Sports also reported the Michigan/Ohio State game on Saturday drew in 17 million, which made it the most-watched regular season college game on the network ever. That figure was also the highest of any regular season contest since 2011. That game also saw the audience peak at 19.6 million.

Viewership for the game was up 3% compared to last year.

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Sports TV News

ESPN Bowl Plans Could Be Altered By NFL Flex Scheduling

“While this situation poses a challenge, we are accustomed to flexibility and having to maneuver our event schedules.”

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ESPN could be forced to adjust its upcoming bowl season schedule if the NFL decides to flex a Las Vegas Raiders game a week before Christmas.

ESPN announced its contingency plans for two bowl contests, the Las Vegas Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl. The Las Vegas Bowl is currently planned to kick off from Allegiant Stadium at 7:30 p.m. on December 17. The Raiders right now are still planning to play in the Sunday night game the next night against the Patriots.

Should the NFL decide to flex the Raiders out of the SNF window, ESPN will swap kickoff times between the Las Vegas Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl. That would mean the game in sin city will kick off at 11:30 a.m. local time, with the contest in Albuquerque starting at 5:20 p.m. local time that evening.

“The SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl and New Mexico Bowl are both owned and operated by ESPN Events, so this change is a solution that will work for all parties,” ESPN Events vice president Clint Overby said. “While this situation poses a challenge, we are accustomed to flexibility and having to maneuver our event schedules. We are more than prepared to move forward with this revised schedule if necessary.”

Kickoff times will be determined well enough ahead that the schools taking part in both games shouldn’t be adversely affected.

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Sports TV News

NFL Thanksgiving Games Set Ratings Records

FOX Sports added that viewership was up 49% compared to 2021.

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The Thanksgiving slate of NFL games last week brought in the largest audiences ever. Viewership across all three games averaged 33.5 million.

The game with the largest viewership was Giants/Cowboys in the 4:30 p.m. window. FOX Sports reported that 42 million watched Dallas beat New York 28-20. It is the largest regular season audience ever, surpassing the previous leader set 32 years ago.

The network added that viewership was up 49% compared to 2021. FOX carried the Detroit Lions traditional noon Thanksgiving game last year. Compared to the Cowboys turkey day contest on CBS in 2021, viewership was up 3%.

The Bills/Lions game in the early window on CBS averaged 31.627 million, with the audience peaking at 41.981 million. It was the most-watched early Thanksgiving game on record.

Patriots/Vikings on NBC in the nightcap averaged 25.9 million. That figure was up 24% compared to Bills/Saints a year ago, with NBC Sports claiming it’s the second most-watched primetime Thanksgiving game on record. The game was simulcast in Spanish on Telemundo, which averaged 565,000 viewers and made it the most-watched NFL game ever on the network.

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