The NFL has blocked NBC’s proposal to have Mike Tirico call “Thursday Night Football” games, which felt essentially like a foregone conclusion for those who follow sports media.
Tirico successfully handled the play-by-play duties for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” before NBC Sports hired him away. The able and talented Tirico came aboard in time for the Rio Summer Olympics, and the assumption by many was that he’d take the Thursday pigskin while Al Michaels stuck with “Sunday Night Football,” broadcast’s top TV series. The powerful NFL had other plans, apparently.
“When we bid out the Thursday Night Games, NBC came to us with an impressive pitch to bring the magic of ‘Sunday Night Football’ — specifically Al and Cris and their production team — to Thursday Night,” the NFL told TheWrap. “That was very attractive to us as we look to continue to build on the success of ‘Thursday Night Football,’ and is similar to the deal we have with CBS for their lead broadcast and production team. We came to a contractual agreement with NBC on those terms.”
The league continued: “In fact, when the NFL, CBS and NBC jointly announced the expansion of ‘Thursday Night Football’ last February, we said: ‘Both CBS and NBC will produce ‘Thursday Night Football’ with their lead broadcasters and production teams, and both will contribute to the production of ‘Thursday Night Football’ exclusively on NFL Network. CBS and NFL Network will televise the first half of the ‘Thursday Night Football’ schedule with NBC and NFL Network televising the second half.'”
“Our contract with NBC requires that the Sunday Night Team also do Thursday Night,” the NFL concluded. “It is up to NBC to determine who the talent is for both nights based on those parameters.”
Here’s all NBC Sports had to say: “We made an agreement to use our team of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth on ‘Thursday Night Football.'”
This season, NBC and CBS are splitting the valuable “Thursday Night Football” package on broadcast. As part of the bidding process, both networks agreed to use their No. 1 NFL team on the telecasts.
However, with Tirico’s experience, reputation, and existing relationship with the NFL, the Comcast owned network thought a substitution would be acceptable. It was not.
What this all means is that NBC’s most-recent talent acquisition won’t immediately serve a big role within America’s biggest sport, one that he’s well-associated with. Plus, the 71-year-old Michaels will now be twice as busy this fall than in recent years.
The NFL regular season officially kicks off Thursday, September 8 at 8:30 p.m. ET with a Super Bowl 50 rematch between the champion Denver Broncos and runner-up Carolina Panthers.