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NBC’s Al Michaels has emerged as Amazon Prime’s top choice for its forthcoming exclusive Thursday Night NFL package, The Post has learned.
The courting has already begun with NBC an active part of the discussions that could include its top production people being part of a potential deal as well, according to sources, when Amazon begins its exclusive broadcast in the 2022-23 season.
While Michaels is at the top of Amazon’s list, he is not alone as the platform has interest in Fox’s Joe Buck and CBS’ Ian Eagle. Right now, though, Amazon is focused on Michaels.
Ultimately, this could lead to an extraordinary contract for Michaels. Tony Romo set the market when CBS gave him a 10-year, $180 million contract, the largest in sportscasting history.
Michaels, 76, will not receive that length, of course, but he could ask to surpass Romo’s near $1 million per game.
For NBC this year, Michaels is slated to call the Super Bowl in his hometown of Los Angeles in the final season of his current deal. Michaels has shown no inclination yet toward retiring after he does another Super Bowl. Even if the Amazon deal went through, Michaels would remain the No. 1 play-by-player for NBC for this season.
In the wings at NBC is Mike Tirico, who is slated to take over the Sunday Night booth full-time from Michaels in 2022-23. Tirico left ESPN’s MNF booth in 2016, thinking he would do more NFL, but has had to wait as Michaels has continued his legendary run. Tirico is eager to have the lead role.
Tirico has hosted the SNF pregame show and has served as Michaels’ understudy, calling occasional NFL games.
Michaels could join Amazon in ‘22 and remain at NBC in a lesser role than the lead voice on SNF, the perennial highest-rated show in network primetime TV.
In this scenario, Michaels would call Amazon Prime’s 15 regular-season games, while also broadcasting one of NBC’s wild-card playoff matchups. NBC could make Michaels part of its Olympics or golf coverage, if he wanted.
The negotiations, at this point, are Michaels and NBC with Amazon, according to sources. If Michaels goes, he could be joined by other members of NBC’s Sunday Night crew.
While analyst Cris Collinsworth has two years left on his SNF deal, NBC recently brought in Drew Brees as a potential replacement.
NBC will evaluate what they have in Brees, a TV rookie, this year as he does Notre Dame games and the “Football Night in America” pregame show. Collinsworth is perceived to be a longer shot to end up doing Amazon games than Michaels.
Nate Burleson, who is approaching potential free agency and is a rising star at CBS and NFL Network, is someone Amazon is high on, according to sources.
NBC could also share with Amazon parts or all of its production team, led by executive producer Fred Gaudelli and director Drew Esocoff. This could prove beneficial to both NBC and Amazon, as NBC just lost the NHL and has an excess of people that it would like to keep fully employed. For Amazon, it would prevent it from having to hire a whole crew of folks for its production.
“We have a great relationship with Al and we look forward to it continuing for years to come,” NBC Sr. VP Greg Hughes said.
Amazon declined comment.
When Amazon takes over Thursday night from Fox after this season, its broadcast is expected to feature a lead traditional network-level offering — which is why its focused on the likes of Michaels, Buck and Eagle — and then alternative streams that could feature aspects like betting or home team-focused presentations.
The final chapter of Michaels’ career has been a story for a while now. Last year, The Post reported that ESPN — knowing the growing tension over Tirico’s on-deck circle status — asked NBC about trading for Michaels, but was quickly rebuffed.
ESPN is entering its second year with Steve Levy, Louis Riddick and Brian Griese as its top team. With Disney watching closely how ESPN spends, it is unclear if it would make another run at Michaels. It already has landed Super Bowls for ABC/ESPN.
As for Buck and Eagle, both are 52 and under contract with their networks. Buck’s deal is up in 2023, while Eagle works for CBS, TNT and YES. He just signed a new deal with CBS and is a top candidate to replace Marv Albert as Turner’s lead NBA play-by-player.
With Buck or Eagle, Amazon could likely have a longer-term relationship than with Michaels. Amazon has a 12-year agreement with the NFL beginning next season.
Michaels has long been a part of intrigue when packages change hands. In 2005, when NBC bought “Sunday Night Football,” Michaels initially agreed to stay with “Monday Night Football” when it switched from ABC to ESPN, but then had second thoughts and ended up being dealt in a trade that included “Oswald The Lucky Rabbit” going back to Disney. Michaels was on the air in 2006 when it started “Sunday Night Football.”
Now, Michaels is in the middle of NFL TV free agency again. He is arguably the greatest TV NFL play-by-player of all-time and, while he could decide for a storybook ending with NBC’s Super Bowl in his hometown of LA in February of ‘22, he and NBC have already started talks with Amazon about the future.
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