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.
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 email@example.com.
Stephen A. Smith Details How Kobe Bryant Handled Criticism
“Kobe was a savant. You did not know more basketball than Kobe Bryant.”
We are approaching the three-year anniversary of the untimely and tragic death of former NBA legend Kobe Bryant, and ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith reminisced about the former Laker during an appearance on The Howard Stern Show Wednesday.
While promoting his book, Straight Shooter, Smith shined a light on his relationship with the five-time champion, saying he knew if he received a phone call from Bryant, the resulting conversation was likely to be contentious.
“Kobe scared the living shit out of me,” Smith said. “Kobe was a savant. You did not know more basketball than Kobe Bryant. So when Kobe called you — I can quote him for you right now. Voicemail: ‘You know who this is, motherf—er. Get your ass up, pick up the f—ing phone and call me back. That bullshit you just said. And don’t keep me waiting for so long, either. Your ass better not go on the air and say some more shit before you talk to me.’ That was Kobe. I would say something along the lines of ‘I don’t like the way he’s playing. It’s selfish basketball…I don’t like this decision.'”
Smith continued by commenting on Bryant rebutting that he would only play “selfish basketball” when the players around him weren’t playing up to their potential, before then saying Bryant was open to criticizing coaches if Smith was critical of the 18-time All-Star.
“‘He don’t know what the f— he’s doing, Steve. He don’t know what the f— he’s doing, so you don’t know what the f— you’re talking about, Stephen A. So you’re gonna bring up all that shit you’re talking about me, but you didn’t bring up that.'”
Smith then concluded by saying Bryant would tell him “I don’t know why I love your ass. I really, really, don’t. But I love you.”
Super Wild Card Weekend Ratings Down Slightly From Last Year
Last year, the six games averaged 30.5 million viewers over linear television and streaming platforms.
Ratings for nearly every Super Wild Card game of the NFL Playoffs opening weekend have been released, and while the numbers are encouraging on a per-game basis, overall, they show a slight dip from last season.
ESPN was first to unveil their ratings, showing Monday’s contest between the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers — which aired on both ESPN and ABC — was watched by an average of 30.6 million viewers. That number is the largest NFL audience from the Disney-owned channels since Super Bowl XL in February of 2006. The 30.6 million viewers number is a 32% increase from last season’s game that saw the Los Angeles Rams beat the Arizona Cardinals.
“This exceptional number proves once again that live sports are unequaled in amassing large audiences,” said ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro. “The success is also a clear reflection of how ESPN, working alongside the NFL and our colleagues at Disney, can help attract fans, build anticipation, and expand our reach. Even without a dramatic ending, it was an extraordinarily memorable evening.”
When final viewership totals are announced, it is expected that the game will be the largest NFL Playoff broadcast in the history of The Walt Disney Company’s ownership of ABC/ESPN, which began in 1996.
FOX Sports touted the highest viewership total of the weekend, with 33.2 million viewers watching the New York Giants defeat the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. The broadcast peaked at over 40 million viewers in the final minutes of the game.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s San Francisco 49ers win over the Seattle Seahawks saw an average audience of 27.4 million.
An average of 28.6 million watched the Cincinnati Bengals thrilling triumph over the Baltimore Ravens on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. According to the network, the broadcast was the most-watched Sunday primetime program since Super Bowl LVI in February of 2022. Ratings for the Jaguars and Chargers broadcast on Saturday were not made available, but NBC Sports did claim that for the first time since 2021 both of its broadcasts eclipsed an average of 20 million viewers.
Finally, CBS Sports scored it’s most-watched Sunday AFC Wild Card game in nearly a decade as 30.8 million watched the Buffalo Bills defeat the Miami Dolphins. Similar to other broadcasts, the game peaked with nearly 40 million viewers. Coincidentally, the game was the most-streamed Wild Card game in the history of the network’s streaming platform, Paramount+.
Even with several networks experiencing noticeable highs, the numbers are a slight decrease from 2022. Last year, the six games averaged 30.5 million viewers on linear television and streaming platforms.
Mad Dog To Stephen A. Smith: ‘Can We Move On From This Stupid Book?’
“You’ve made a fortune. We get it! The book’s not bad! We can move on!”
Stephen A. Smith is a busy man this week as he hits the interview circuit to promote his new memoir Straight Shooter. Some of those interview obligations have taken the First Take host away from the ESPN show that made him a star. His friend and part-time partner Chris “Mad Dog” Russo wants to make sure Smith has his priorities straight.
“Your meal ticket is here, in that chair,” he said on Wednesday’s edition of First Take. “Your meal ticket is not on these radio shows; not on these TV shows. How dare you miss openings of shows to do radio or TV interviews!”
The segment was clearly done tongue-in-cheek as both men smiled through the interaction, but Mad Dog let Smith have it. He said that he was already sick of the book.
“Enough already! You’ve made a fortune. We get it! The book’s not bad! We can move on! Can we move on from this stupid book? I’ve had enough of Straight Shooter!”
Molly Qerim and Marcus Spears laughed as they looked on. Qerim even added that she hoped Dave Roberts, ESPN’s head of NBA and studio production, who oversees First Take, was watching.
After Mad Dog’s rant was over, Smith had a chance to fire back. He stayed calm and simply pointed out that while Russo may be sick of the promotional tour for the book, he is feeding the beast.
“Where am I appearing on today? You said you’re tired of the book, but you’re talking to me at 4 o’clock.”
Smith and Russo will likely continue the theatrical tete-a-tete on Wednesday afternoon on SiriusXM channel 84.