Veteran play-by-play announcer Al Michaels and longtime ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit have signed on to handle Amazon Prime’s “Thursday Night Football” telecasts, the tech giant announced Wednesday.
The hiring of the two veteran broadcasters is aimed at showing that Amazon will provide the kind of viewing experience that NFL fans are accustomed to from network TV.
“Thursday Night Football” is the first regular weekly NFL property to be available exclusively through a streaming platform, as Amazon committed to more than $1 billion a year to the package in the TV rights deal signed last year.
Amazon will carry 15 regular-season games and one preseason contest each season over the next 11 years.
Michaels, 78, spent the last 16 years at NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” the most watched prime time program on network television. He was also in the booth for “Monday Night Football” from 1986 to 2005, when it aired on ABC.
Michaels has called 11 Super Bowls across the two networks and is part of TV sports history for his call of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team’s “Miracle on Ice” victory over the Soviet Union in Lake Placid, N.Y.
NBC has already announced that Mike Tirico, who joined the network in 2016, will take over for Michaels alongside color commentator Cris Collinsworth on “Sunday Night Football” this fall.
Herbstreit has served as lead college football analyst for ESPN since 1996, working on ABC’s “Saturday Night Football” and on ESPN’s “College GameDay.” He will remain a part of those telecasts.
In Amazon’s case, the signing of Michaels is akin to Fox Sports landing the legendary analyst John Madden in 1994 after the network scored its first NFL rights deal. Fox needed Madden to give its unproven sports division legitimacy. Amazon is looking to Michaels to give its telecasts a similar stature.
Amazon’s pickup of Michaels and Herbstreit follows ESPN’s signing of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. The longtime NFL announcing team left Fox Sports to take over the announcing booth on “Monday Night Football,” as ESPN tries to elevate the telecast, where ratings often fluctuate with the team matchups.