How hiring Al Michaels fits the next phase of Amazon’s sports takeover

How hiring Al Michaels fits the next phase of Amazon’s sports takeover

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One of the biggest stories over the next decade will be the growth of Amazon Prime Video in sports media. Next year at this time, we will be fully immersed in Amazon having exclusive rights to Thursday Night Football.

In April, I went “Inside Amazon’s plan to transform the sports broadcasting world.” Let’s follow up and tell you how the next 12 months will go. Let’s do it:

  1. Amazon will hire Al Michaels as its lead play-by-player. On the official Clicker Probability Scale, we have this at 90 percent, so we expect it to happen. One of our sources put it at 95 percent. No one we spoke to was pessimistic about Amazon Al becoming a reality. It’s not a done deal, but I’d put money on it.

    Michaels would stay with NBC in a limited capacity, but Mike Tirico is expected to move into the No. 1 spot on “Sunday Night Football” after Michaels, 76, does the Super Bowl for NBC in his hometown of Los Angeles in February.

  2. Michaels still would do NBC’s extra playoff games and could dabble with some other games — maybe some West Coast Sunday night games (that idea is mine more than something I’ve heard).
  3. Michaels likely will see how this year goes, but he sounded very good in Week 1. An official Michaels deal with Amazon may not happen until later this year or after the Super Bowl, or it could coincide with when the Amazon-NBC partnership is announced. We first wrote about the possibility months ago.
  4. Michaels, a sportscasting icon, will be able to go out on his own terms, and, more importantly for him, we’re told, Amazon is bringing over Michaels’ Sunday Night Football producer, Fred Gaudelli, to head their game coverage. Gaudelli, we’ve been told, will do this on top of remaining at NBC. Amazon is going for instant credibility in front of the camera with Michaels and behind the scenes with Gaudelli.
  5. Who will be Amazon’s game analyst? The top candidates are Troy Aikman, Drew Brees, Cris Collinsworth and the mystery candidate*.

    Aikman makes sense because, according to sources, he received more money to do Thursday Night Football after Fox didn’t land Peyton Manning a few years back.

    That money will go away when Amazon takes exclusive rights from Fox after this year. This could inspire Aikman to want the gig and motivate Fox to allow him to do it. Michaels prefers someone established.

    Amazon could turn to Brees or Collinsworth because of the Michaels/Gaudelli NBC connection. Collinsworth, I believe, will stay with Tirico on Sunday night broadcasts for now. It is unlikely he will do both, even with the affinity between him and Michaels.

    Amazon had Manning on the top of its list to call before ESPN snatched him up for 10 jazzed-up Zoom games per year.

    *Mystery candidate: Who do you think you are, Marchand, a baseball reporter? Well, I was in a former life. Anyway, I’d put someone like Mike Tomlin as a mystery candidate if for some reason he left the Steelers. (Let’s be clear: There is no reason to believe he is leaving the Steelers and, as a Steeler fan, I don’t want him to.) The preference of Michaels, who can be a little particular, will be to avoid breaking in a new analyst.

    However, if it’s a big name — such as Tomlin, whom Michaels has singled out as a future TV star — then I could see it. Hence, there is a mystery candidate possibility.

Understanding Amazon

Emma Raducanu of Great Britain celebrates with the U.S. Open trophy on Sept. 11, 2021.Emma Raducanu’s U.S. Open exploits turned into a tidy deal for Amazon.USA TODAY Sports
  1. Amazon could grow by buying the 49 percent of NFL Network and its media properties that the NFL has for sale. I keep hearing Amazon and NFL Network linked together.

    Of course, Amazon Prime Video is a front-runner for Sunday Ticket as well. Could the platform take in both Sunday Ticket and NFL Network? It would cement Amazon’s relationship with the NFL. It will cost billions. Amazon has endless money, so it can afford it.

  2. Prime Video had exclusive coverage in Germany of last week’s Champions League opener for Bayern Munich, the biggest club in that country, vs. Barcelona. In Italy, it had exclusive Champions League coverage of Inter Milan vs. Real Madrid. Amazon isn’t building just a United States platform; it’s creating a world platform.
  3. The Emma Raducanu Prime story: In 2019, Raducanu received funding as one of two winners in England of the Prime Video Future Talent Award. She received advice and training from Andy Murray.
  4. Amazon Prime Video owns the U.S. Open broadcast rights in England. When Raducanu became the first British woman in 44 years to win a singles Grand Slam event, Amazon struck a deal with Britain’s Ch. 4 to make sure of mass distribution. It was reported as a seven-figure deal for Amazon. The Ch. 4 broadcast had 9.2 million viewers in England. Amazon had the production and its sponsorship all over it. The company does not release figures on how many viewers streamed it.

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Mike Greenberg on the set of ESPN's Mike Greenberg has emerged as a candidate for NBA Finals host.ESPN

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