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Who Will Call MNF and TNF Games on FOX and ESPN?

Brandon Contes

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Fox and ESPN might be competing for the same analyst, attempting to court Peyton Manning to fill the Thursday Night Football and Monday Night Football openings, but the networks have their sights set on different play-by-play announcers.

According to Andrew Marchand of The New York Post, Fox is interested in Mike Tirico for their new Thursday Night Football broadcast, while ESPN’s Louis Riddick stated he would like to be considered as the Monday Night Football play-by-play voice.

Tirico is currently under contract with NBC, but now that the network no longer owns the broadcast rights to Thursday Night Football, they have no NFL play-by-play opportunities available for the established announcer. If NBC will allow him to make the switch, Tirico himself might be more interested in joining Fox to continue calling NFL games. Marchand reported Manning would like to work with Tirico, stating the two developed a strong relationship during Tirico’s time at ESPN.

As ESPN attempts to lure Peyton Manning to the Monday Night Football booth, Fox could potentially use the former voice of Monday Night Football as a bargaining chip to bring Manning to Thursday Night Football.

Following Tirico’s departure from ESPN, Sean McDonough has held play-by-play responsibilities for Monday Night Football, but after losing analyst Jon Gruden, the network might choose to replace McDonough as well. According to Marchand, ESPN has considered internal candidates Joe Tessitore, Steve Levy, Dave Pasch and Bob Wischusen, but in Richard Deitsch’s SI Media Podcast this week, ESPN analyst, Louis Riddick, expressed interest in the job which is still held by McDonough.

“This is something that has been a goal of mine and ESPN is very well aware that I am very interested in it,” Riddick told Deitsch. “It is the pinnacle of broadcasting as far as I am concerned, the most iconic position in broadcasting. To be involved with Monday Night Football either as a play-by-play person or analyst is something I am hoping I can achieve.”

A former NFL safety, Riddick spent time as an NFL scout for the Redskins and Eagles before joining ESPN in 2013. With no play-by-play experience, Riddick shared his understanding of how to be a successful broadcaster.

“I have no reservations about my ability to call a game live, to do it quickly and concisely, to not step on the toes of the person who is handling the play-by-play, to working a telestrator, to working an All-22 film video that you would have at your disposal in the booth, to giving quick anecdotes that would keep people informed, to understanding the rules of the game, to understanding the flow of the game,” Riddick told Deitsch. “That is me. That is who I am. You just have not seen that because I have not had that platform yet. I do not say this as someone who is trying to be a salesman of myself. This business is not about what you did as a player. This business is about what you can do as far as analyzing the game of football and communicating it to other people so that they can understand it.”

Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.

Sports TV News

Roger Goodell: ‘Wouldn’t Surprise Me’ To See Thursday Night Football Move to Flex Scheduling

“Not today, but it’ll certainly be something that’s on our horizon.”

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Thursday Night Football

In 2023, Monday Night Football will join Sunday Night Football in having the ability to flex NFL games into its window. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday Night Football could someday join that elite club.

During his “State of the League” speech Wednesday, Goodell said Thursday Night Football having the ability to flex matchups “wouldn’t at all surprise me”.

“Not today, but it’ll certainly be something that’s on our horizon,” the NFL Commissioner said.

ESPN bargained for the ability to move higher profile games into Monday Night Football during its negotiations with the league for the next television contract that begins this upcoming season.

NBC has long held the ability to shift a select number of games from earlier windows into the Sunday Night Football primetime slot.

Amazon Prime Video just completed the first of an 11-year contract that sees the streaming platform spend nearly $1 billion per year on the Thursday Night Football package.

One of the largest storylines of Amazon’s debut season with the NFL was the near-constant ridicule from play-by-play announcer Al Michaels over the lackluster TNF schedule. Michaels made headlines over several weeks for his candor on the lack of interesting matchups, going as far as to joke that if the schedule didn’t improve he would retire.

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Sports TV News

Michael Irvin Removed From NFL Network Super Bowl Coverage

“I came into the lobby and I talked to somebody. I talked to this girl. I don’t know her, and I talked to her for about 45 seconds.”

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A complaint from a female to NFL Network has caused the network to remove Michael Irvin from its Super Bowl coverage.

NFL Network did not comment on the nature of the complaint or the allegation of any impropriety by Irvin, simply stating Irvin would not be a participant in coverage of the event from Arizona.

“Michael Irvin will not be a part of NFL Network’s Super Bowl LVII week coverage,” said NFL Media Vice President of Communications Alex Riethmiller in a statement.

Irvin claimed the interaction happened during a brief moment Sunday after having dinner and drinks with former Cowboy defensive back Michael Brooks.

“This all happened in a 45-second conversation in the lobby,” Irvin told The Dallas Morning News. “When I got back after going out … I came into the lobby and I talked to somebody. I talked to this girl. I don’t know her, and I talked to her for about 45 seconds. We shook hands. Then, I left…That’s all I know.”

Irvin, 56, admitted he didn’t recall the conversation between him and the female but called the interaction “just a friendly conversation”. He defended himself by saying “There was definitely nothing physical”.

The report from The Dallas Morning News added that Glendale police officials do not know about any incident regarding Irvin.

A report from Front Office Sports claims ESPN executives are “poised to pull the plug” on Irvin’s scheduled appearance on First Take from Radio Row Friday.

The Pro Football Hall of Famer has been with NFL Network since 2009, and in August of last year signed an extension to remain with the cable channel.

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Sports TV News

Pro Bowl Lowest Rated Since 2006

While the numbers decreased, the Pro Bowl was still the second-highest rated All-Star Game for the major professional sports leagues.

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The NFL completely revamped its Pro Bowl format for the 2022 season, and the changes did not garner more viewers.

An average of 6.28 million viewers tuned into the event across ABC, ESPN, and DisneyXD Sunday for the first 7-on-7 event. That number is a decrease of 6% compared to last year and is the lowest-rated Pro Bowl since the 2006 event saw just 5.96 million viewers. That figure excludes the 2021 Pro Bowl, which was a “virtual” event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the numbers decreased, the Pro Bowl was still the second-highest-rated All-Star Game for the major professional sports leagues, with the MLB All-Star Game seeing an average viewership of 7.51 million. The 6.28 million who watched the Pro Bowl is a virtual tie with last season’s NBA All-Star Game.

The Pro Bowl Skills Challenge — now produced by Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions — did see a large increase in viewership compared to last year. More than 1 million viewers tuned into the Thursday night primetime event, which is the second-best figure on record. That audience is a 23% increase compared to last year’s event.

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