Well tomorrow's Super Bowl XL matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks is significant for a number of reasons, one of them being that this will mark the final NFL broadcast of the current television deal. Big changes are coming next year.
Next year marks the most significant shift in the NFL broadcast package since the year Fox replaced CBS as the carrier of NFC games. ABC bows out from NFL coverage after tomorrow's Super Bowl, ending a 36-year association with the game. ESPN will take over Monday Night Football, while NBC takes over ESPN's Saturday night package and ABC's playoff games. So the Super Bowl will be significant as the final NFL broadcast for ABC Sports and the final matchup pairing Al Michaels and John Madden. Or is it?
We know that Madden, who just today was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, is moving to NBC to be part of Football Night in America. The question is whether Al Michaels has gotten cold feet about his deal that he signed with ESPN and whether he is looking to get out of it and go to NBC. He's apparently playing coy with the press this week over this issue and the speculation is on that he may be bolting to NBC, which promises to have the premiere prime-time NFL matchups next year and a first-class broadcast crew that includes Bob Costas and Cris Collinsworth. A move to NBC would reunite Michaels with John Madden and keep that popular broadcast crew going. Presumably, he might even get a chance to call the Olympics, something that he'd have no chance of doing with ESPN/ABC with their penchant for cost-cutting at the moment.
The other rumor I keep reading about over on the Call of the Game boards is that ESPN is planning to woo Tony Kornheiser to work Monday Night games if Michaels bolts, and there are rumors that Mike Tirico might take over as play-by-play announcer. We'll see what happens with Michaels and ESPN, and find out if he stays put or bolts to NBC. He also calls games for the NBA on ABC and I wonder whether those broadcasts have something to do with his decision.
JAMES BROWN TO CBS
The changes aren't going to be limited to NBC or ESPN next year; the LA Times is reporting that James Brown is leaving the NFL on Fox pregame show, to join CBS in the same capacity. Brown worked for CBS for ten years until Fox snatched the NFC rights from them in 1994. I read the reason Brown is moving to CBS is because The NFL Today is broadcast from New York. New York is closer to his home in Washington D.C. and word is that he is sick and tired of commuting all the way to Los Angeles for Fox Sports' football coverage.
He replaces Greg Gumbel who is going to go back and be a play-by-play announcer for the NFL on CBS. Fox Sports, on the other hand, is in a hole. In fact it looks like Fox's NFL coverage is going to stink next season, with Brown gone to CBS and Cris Collinsworth gone to NBC. No word on what becomes of Dick Enberg, but I did read in one of the New York papers that Armen Keteyian is probably heading to CBS News and that CBS sideline reporter Bonnie Bernstein has left the network.
No word who Fox will get to host the NFL pre-game show but a lot of people think it will be Chris Myers, who hosts the NASCAR race coverage and is very comfortable covering sports like the NFL.
So interesting changes coming to football on TV next season; it'll be interesting to see what happens to Al Michaels and these NFL broadcasters.