Days after ESPN hired Troy Aikman before Amazon could finalize a deal with the analyst, Amazon may try to poach one of ESPN’s top football voices.
The New York Post‘s Andrew Marchand reports that Amazon is targeting Kirk Herbstreit for its NFL Thursday Night Football analyst position. Of course, Herbstreit is ESPN/ABC’s No. 1 college football game analyst and a key part of ESPN’s College GameDay Saturday pregame show. He’s arguably the network’s top voice on the sport across its programming.
But according to Marchand, his current contract may allow him to broadcast NFL games with another outlet while continuing to call college football with ESPN. As could be expected, however, lawyers would likely have something to say about that, possibly interpreting that contract in different ways. Disney’s lawyers might say his ESPN contract wouldn’t allow him to work for Amazon.
Additionally, ESPN would still be interested in Herbstreit calling NFL games for the network even if he took the TNF Amazon job. With its new rights deal, ESPN (with ABC and ESPN+) will have up to 25 games per season, including 23 regular-season games, Divisional Round playoff games in addition to Wild Card playoffs, and Super Bowls in the 2026 and 2030 seasons. The network will need more than the regular Monday Night Football crew to call those broadcasts.
Marchand’s report clarifies that serious talks between Amazon and Herbstreit haven’t begun. Yet that’s expected to change soon.
Obviously, calling Thursday Night Football, then doing College GameDay on Saturday, followed by a college football broadcast for ESPN or ABC would be a considerable workload. But Herbstreit has expressed interest in broadcasting both college football and NFL games in the past.
Herbstreit has dabbled in NFL broadcasting during the past few years. He was part of NFL Draft coverage for ESPN in 2018 and last year for ABC. In 2020, he called the first game of ESPN’s Monday Night Football doubleheader with regular play-by-play partner Chris Fowler. Last season, the two returned to call the first game of ESPN/ABC’s NFL Week 18 Saturday doubleheader.
Speaking of Fowler, Marchand mentions that ESPN is considering Fowler as the play-by-play partner for Aikman on Monday Night Football, along with Joe Buck, Al Michaels, and Ian Eagle. Could both Herbstreit and Fowler call NFL games — and for different entities — then reunite each Saturday for their usual college football showcase?
Just about anything seems possible — though improbable — in this frenzied NFL broadcasting carousel.
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3.72 Million Tune In To See LeBron James Break Scoring Record
Lakers star LeBron James surpassed the NBA’s all-time scoring record on Tuesday night, and TNT benefitted from the milestone ratings wise.
According to Sports Media Watch, Tuesday night’s game averaged 2.98 million viewers. That figure made it TNT’s biggest regular season audience in over two years.
The broadcast peaked at 3.72 million around 11:45 p.m. when James passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the record.
Reporting also indicated that the game was the number one single-network program on TV in key demographics.
Disney Makes ESPN Independent Division In Corporate Restructuring
Disney is in the process of reorganizing and restructuring the company, and details have emerged about the company’s plans for ESPN.
Deadline reported on Wednesday that ESPN will be one of three standalone segments comprising Disney. Entertainment and Parks, Experiences & Products are the other two segments.
The reorganization comes amid the exit of former CEO Bob Chapek and the re-entry of CEO Bob Iger. As one of Iger’s first moves back running Disney, he announced a restructuring of Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution.
It was also reported that Jimmy Pitaro will continue as the president of ESPN.
In total, more than 7,000 jobs will be eliminated after the restructuring.
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.”
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.