May 11, 2022 - Sports

Talent wars come for NFL announcers

Illustration of a football with headphones on

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tom Brady's mega-deal with Fox Sports shows just how much TV networks are willing to pay to stay competitive in the broadcasting booth.

Why it matters: Big names have the ability to lure viewers at a time when more and more people are cutting the cord.

Driving the news: Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch announced Tuesday that Brady will join as Fox Sports' lead analyst "immediately following his playing career."

  • Brady will call games with Kevin Burkhardt and "serve as an ambassador" for Fox Sports, Murdoch added.

By the numbers: The 10-year deal is reportedly worth $375 million, per the New York Post, a testament to Fox's willingness to spend big to make up for lost ground.

  • Earlier this year, ESPN snagged Fox's top two NFL announcers — Troy Aikman and Joe Buck — for a reported $33 million per year combined to host Monday Night Football.
  • Add in what ESPN pays Eli and Peyton Manning to host an alternative broadcast of Monday Night Football on ESPN2, and the network's shelling out more than $50 million for big-name announcers on Monday nights, per The Post.

Between the lines: Streamers with ample cashflow are giving traditional networks a run for their money, making the talent wars even more competitive.

  • In March, Amazon snagged NBC's legendary analyst Al Michaels to announce its exclusive Thursday Night Football games beginning this season.
  • The Post reported that Michaels, the longtime voice of NBC's Sunday Night Football games, has a standing offer from Amazon Prime Video "that may reach $11 million a year."
  • Amazon is paying around $1 billion per year over 10 years to carry and produce the games. Former cornerback Richard Sherman is also reportedly in talks with Amazon about an on-air gig.

Be smart: Networks have long hired ex-football players as announcers, but in recent years, those contracts have gotten much bigger as the competition for NFL rights has intensified.

  • CBS Sports renewed Tony Romo's contract for a then record-breaking deal of $170 million over 10 years in 2020, kicking off the bull market for booth talent.
  • In an interview with Axios earlier this year, Eli Manning noted that pro-footballers from big markets can sometimes have a leg up in the broadcasting booth, as they are used to a lot of media attention.

Yes, but: Fox is paying a huge sum to a player that's never been a broadcaster before, and that comes with some risk, as evidenced by the mixed reaction to Drew Brees as an announcer.

The big picture: NFL games are by far the most-viewed television programs in America, which gives the league license to charge streamers and TV networks big bucks to broadcast their games live.

  • Next year, NFL rights will collectively cost TV networks around $10 billion per year. The cost of live sports rights will continue to cut into networks' profits if networks can't continue to attract viewers as more people cut the cord.

What's next: It's unclear when Brady will officially start with Fox. He was supposed to retire from the field this year, but reversed his decision in March to play another season.

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