Behind the Mic: Al Michaels, Kirk Herbstreit Tapped for Thursday Night Football on Prime Video
Behind the Mic provides a roundup of recent news regarding on-air talent, including new deals, departures, and assignments compiled from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, Amazon signs Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit for Thursday Night Football, multiyear extensions at ESPN, and more.
Amazon Taps Al Michaels, Kirk Herbstreit for Thursday Night Football on Prime Video
Prime Video has announced that iconic play-by-play announcer Al Michaels and Emmy-winning analyst Kirk Herbstreit have joined Prime Video to call its exclusive coverage of NFL Thursday Night Football. The inaugural season of the historic 11-year agreement kicks off Sept. 15.
The recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award in 2011, Michaels recently completed his record 36th campaign as the play-by-play announcer of the NFL in prime time. Michaels called his 11th Super Bowl in February, matching the most ever for a television commentator.
Herbstreit has served as the lead college football analyst for ESPN since 1996. In that time, Herbstreit has established himself as one of the preeminent voices in the sport, garnering 14 Sports Emmys for his work as both a live event analyst on ABC’s Saturday Night Football as well as a studio analyst on ESPN’s College GameDay.
Fred Gaudelli, a 24-time Emmy-winning producer, will also join Prime Video as executive producer of Thursday Night Football. Gaudelli will lead the Thursday Night Football production on-site each week, as part of a collaboration with NBC Sports, continuing a storied career with his 33rd season as the lead producer for the NFL in prime time. Gaudelli, who produced his seventh Super Bowl in February, will continue on NBC Sports’ executive team and will serve as a key contributor to NBC Sunday Night Football’s editorial and production efforts.
“Over the last 36 seasons, I’ve been at the mic describing some of the most magical moments and games in NFL history and am looking forward to many more,” says Michaels. “This is the new frontier in sports television and to be a part of the launch at this point in my career is both exciting and stimulating. The NFL is the king of unscripted television and I’m looking forward to joining Kirk to bring fans more dramatic episodes on Thursday nights this fall.”
“I’m thrilled to be a part of Prime Video’s game-changing new Thursday Night Football telecasts, and it’s an honor to join the booth alongside Al,” sats Herbstreit. “Together, we will build the next generation of NFL programming. I’m proud to be part of the Amazon team and can’t wait to get started.”
“Al and I have had a great run for 21 years and I’m thrilled to extend our relationship and welcome Kirk Herbstreit to the Prime Video team,” said Gaudelli. “Al and Kirk will make Thursday Night Football a unique viewing experience for all NFL fans.”
“Al and Kirk bring unparalleled experience to our historic new Thursday Night Football game telecasts, as we kick off our groundbreaking new agreement with the NFL,” says Marie Donoghue, vice president, Global Sports Video, Amazon. “Having these two legends in the booth, with the best game producer in the business, Fred Gaudelli, will help make Thursday night the most exciting football night of the week.”
“With their infectious passion for the game, Al, Kirk, and Fred are the perfect building blocks to make Thursday Night Football on Prime Video a weekly destination for all football fans,” says Jared Stacy, director of Global Live Sports Production, Prime Video. “We’re thrilled to have this crew on board as we create a dynamic, informative, and entertaining night of NFL programming that will make every big moment on the field feel even bigger.”
When TNF returns, Prime Video will become the first streaming service to air a season-long exclusive national broadcast package with the NFL. The 11-year deal includes 15 regular-season games and one preseason game per year, with Prime Video also delivering new pregame, halftime, and postgame shows as well as fan-favorite interactive features like X-Ray and Next Gen Stats powered by AWS. Prime Video and the NFL will continue to collaborate on exclusive NFL content and enhanced fan-viewing experiences around Thursday Night Football, with more information to follow in the coming months.
Jake Peavy, Hunter Pence Named MLB Network Analysts
MLB Network has announced that two-time World Series Champions Jake Peavy and Hunter Pence have joined MLB Network as on-air analysts appearing across its programming.
Peavy, the 2007 National League Cy Young Award winner, most recently contributed to MLB Network’s National Baseball Hall of Fame roundtable program leading up to election day this past January.
Pence, a four-time MLB All-Star, most recently joined MLB Network as an in-studio guest analyst during the 2021 Postseason. Peavy and Pence were teammates on the 2014 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants, who defeated the Kansas City Royals in seven games. Viewers can follow Peavy on Twitter via @JakePeavy_22, and Pence on Twitter via @hunterpence.
MLB Network recently announced that newly retired players Alex Avila and Cameron Maybin have also joined MLB Network.
“Sharing stories and talking about the game a few months ago at MLB Network really excited me for this opportunity,” says Peavy. “I’m looking forward to teaching a few tips I learned along the way while having some fun doing it.”
“I’m thrilled about the opportunity to contribute to MLB Network,” says Pence. “As a former player, I’m excited to get back into the game in a new capacity and become teammates with a great group of talent at MLB Network.”
“We were nothing short of impressed when Jake and Hunter contributed to MLB Network over the last few months,” says Marc Caiafa, MLB Network senior vice president of production. “Both guys have great personality, championship experience, and the ability to easily communicate their baseball knowledge to our viewers. We’re excited to have them on our team.”
Peavy’s career began with the San Diego Padres (2002-2009), before joining the Chicago White Sox (2009-2013), Boston Red Sox (2013-2014) and Giants (2014-2016). Peavy — who led the National League in ERA with 2.27 in 2004 and 2.54 in 2007 — was an All-Star in 2005, 2007 and 2012. For his Cy Young season in 2007, Peavy posted an NL-best wins (19), strikeouts (240) and FIP (2.84). Peavy appeared in four Postseasons and won back-to-back World Series as a member of the 2013 Red Sox and 2014 Giants. Drafted by the Padres in Round 15 of the 1999 MLB Amateur Draft, the right-handed pitcher went on to collect a 152-126 record, 3.63 career ERA, 2377.0 innings pitched, 2,207 strikeouts, 110 ERA+, 15 complete games and six shutouts over 388 regular season games. Peavy is the founder of The Peavy Family Foundation, which strives to support sports, music, the arts and financial literacy programs for young people. Viewers can follow Peavy on Twitter via @JakePeavy_22 and on Instagram via @peavy_jake.
Pence spent the first five years of his career with the Houston Astros (2007-2011), before joining the Philadelphia Phillies (2011-2012), Giants (2012-2018), Texas Rangers (2019) and finishing his career with San Francisco. Pence, who played in the 2006 All-Star Futures Game, was an MLB All-Star in 2009, 2011, 2014 and 2019. As a two-time World Series Champion with the Giants, Pence batted a combined .390 (16-for-41) in the 2012 and 2014 Fall Classic games, collecting 10 runs, six RBI, four doubles, four walks, one stolen base and one home run. Drafted by the Astros in Round 2 of the 2004 MLB Amateur Draft, the right fielder went on to amass 1,791 hits, 942 RBI, 891 runs, 324 doubles and 244 home runs in 1,707 Major League games. Since retiring in 2020, Pence has contributed analysis to NBC Sports Bay Area and the College Sports station on SiriusXM. Viewers can follow Pence on Twitter via @hunterpence and on Instagram via @hunterpence.
In addition to Avila, Peavy, Pence and Maybin, MLB Network also recently announced that Ruben Amaro Jr., A.J. Andrews, Keiana Martin, Bo Porter and Siera Santos have joined its lineup of on-air personalities, plus its regular season morning program MLB Central will now start weekdays at 9 a.m. Eastern beginning on Opening Day, April 7.
ESPN Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski Signs Multiyear Extension
ESPN has reached an exclusive, multiyear extension with Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski. The award-winning journalist and leading NBA voice throughout the industry will continue to appear on ESPN’s numerous shows and platforms, including NBA Countdown, NBA Today, SportsCenter, ESPN.com, the ESPN app and the NBA Draft.
Wojnarowski will maintain a strong mutlimedia presence through the continuation of “The Woj Pod” as well as developing new opportunities, such as creating content for ESPN+, the company’s direct-to-consumer sports platform. He has been with ESPN since July 2017.
“Millions of NBA fans rely daily on Woj’s distinctive insight and perspective,” says Jimmy Pitaro, chairman, ESPN and Sports Content. “He’s accessible to fans through so many ESPN touch points and his tenacity, dedication and presence on social media provide added connectivity. We are thrilled to continue to showcase his exceptional work well into the future.”
Wojnarowski adds, “I’m eager to continue working with a remarkable group of colleagues and grateful for ESPN’s relentless commitment to newsgathering and reporting. My profound appreciation to Jimmy Pitaro, Cristina Daglas, Norby Williamson, Dave Roberts, Lauren Reynolds, Greg Dowling, David Kraft and the entire universal news desk for the support, vision and leadership that makes ESPN such a remarkable place to do my job. Also, a thank you to my representative Matt Kramer for helping to bring and keep me at ESPN.”
A prolific news breaker and storyteller, Wojnarowski’s daily output, access and perspective make him a must follow for sports fans. He is recognized for transforming NBA reporting over the past decade-plus.
Prior to his work for ESPN, Wojnarowski worked for Yahoo Sports, where he spent nearly 10 years, including two as editor of The Vertical. His standout career in journalism includes nearly 10 years at The Record of New Jersey (where he was twice named the APSE “Columnist of the Year”), as well as several years each at The Fresno Bee, The Waterbury (Conn.) Republican-American.
Wojnarowski’s peers voted him the National Sports Media Association’s National Sportswriter of the Year in three consecutive years — 2017, 2018 and 2019. Wojnarowski joined a distinguished list of all-time greats to have won that award in at least three successive years – Red Smith, Jim Murray, Frank Deford, Rick Reilly, Bob Ryan and Tom Verducci.
Wojnarowski is the New York Times best-selling author of “The Miracle of St. Anthony: A Season with Coach Bob Hurley and Basketball’s Most Improbable Dynasty.”
He is a 1991 graduate of St. Bonaventure University and a 1987 graduate of Bristol Central High School (BCHS) in Bristol, Conn., the site of ESPN’s headquarters. He was named the 2019 Alumnus of the Year at St. Bonaventure, and is inducted into the Russell Jandoli School of Communications Hall of Fame.
With the help of Gale Dickau, an English teacher of five decades at Bristol Central High School, Wojnarowski founded and funds the “The Writing Initiative.” The multifaceted program encourages students at BCHS to write and helps them develop and hone their skills, funds scholarships for college, residential summer writing programs, numerous educational trips in the Northeast and develops teacher enrichment programs for educators teaching writing. Wojnarowski is also active in fundraising with the Bristol Boys and Girls Club and Family Center.
Multiyear Extension for ESPN Senior NFL Insider Adam Schefter
ESPN has reached agreement with senior NFL Insider Adam Schefter to an exclusive multiyear deal, extending one of sports’ most prolific reporter’s tenure with the company. Under the new agreement, Schefter will remain a staple on ESPN’s multiple platforms, breaking and reporting on NFL news year-round, and continue to be a key part of both ESPN’s pregame shows, Sunday NFL Countdown and Monday Night Countdown.
Throughout the year, Schefter will remain on NFL Live, the network’s daily weekday NFL show, and appear regularly on SportsCenter, Get Up, First Take, and more. The veteran insider will also be part of ESPN’s NFL Draft presentation and Super Bowl coverage, in addition to other major NFL events.
Schefter will also contribute to ESPN.com, and develop new opportunities, such as creating content for ESPN+, the company’s direct-to-consumer sports platform.
“The news cycle on the NFL has become a non-stop, year-round enterprise, and no one is more dialed in than Adam,” says Jimmy Pitaro, chairman, ESPN and Sports Content. “Thanks to his tireless work ethic and skill, Adam is constantly delivering the latest information to NFL fans who can’t get enough. He has a profound impact on ESPN shows as well as in the social media space, and we are excited to have him continue to call ESPN home for many years to come.”
Says Schefter, “Covering the most popular sport in the United States for the leading sports media company has been a dream combination. Every day, at each show and event, I am surrounded by the best teammates — producers, directors, researchers, production staff, and so many more — who elevate everyone around them. I love my job, feel blessed to continue and thank ESPN and Jimmy Pitaro for their consistent faith in me.”
Schefter is entering his 13th season with ESPN, having begun with the network in 2009. Overall, he has covered the NFL for more than 30 years, starting in 1990 as a beat writer covering the Denver Broncos, first with Rocky Mountain News and then the Denver Post. He was named Colorado Sports Writer of the Year twice (2002 and 2003) and served as the President of the Pro Football Writers of America (2001-02). Schefter joined the NFL Network in its launch year, 2004, contributing to multiple shows and NFL.com. He remained with the network until he was hired by ESPN.
Outside of NFL reporting, Schefter is an accomplished author, having written five books. His most recent, The Man I Never Met: A Memoir, co-written with Sports Illustrated’s Michael Rosenberg, is a powerful story of loss and hope, centered around his family and the memory of his wife Sharri’s first husband, Joe Maio, who died in the 9/11 terror attacks in New York City.
Schefter’s additional books include Romo: My Life on the Edge Living Dreams and Slaying Dragons with Broncos linebacker Bill Romanowski; TD: Dreams in Motion with Super Bowl MVP Terrell Davis; Think Like A Champion: Building Success One Victory at a Time with Super Bowl Champion head coach Mike Shanahan; and The Class of Football: Words of Hard-Earned Wisdom from Legends of the Gridiron.
Schefter is involved in a variety of philanthropic work including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), helping to raise funds and awareness for diabetes, as his wife, Sharri, is a Type 1 diabetic. This year, Barrett Sports Media honored Schefter with its Champion’s Award, given each year to someone that has gone above and beyond to make a difference for others.
He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1989 and earned his master’s degree at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in 1990.