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Friday, April 19, 2024

New broadcasting duos take over Thursday, Sunday, Monday night football

Examining the new commentators on NFL prime-time programming for the 2022 season


By PATRICK FIGUEROA — sports@theaggie.org


A normal sports commentary booth usually has two experts: the play-by-play commentator and the color commentator. The play-by-play commentator provides live commentary of what is happening during each play while the color commentator goes more into more detail to help fans better understand the game and its players. Throughout the fifteen-week football season, these commentators become familiar voices in many American households.

One of the underrated storylines of the 2022 NFL offseason was that multiple well-known NFL commentators switched to different broadcast networks, while other popular sports commentators rose to new positions as prime-time NFL broadcasters. With so many new broadcast duos after this shuffling, NFL fans are examining new broadcast teams’ chemistry as they watch their favorite teams.

Thursday Night Football is almost exclusively on Amazon Prime Video now, but NFL fans are still able to watch Thursday Night Football games on cable television if they live in one of the two teams’ local markets. However, this still leaves most NFL fans needing an Amazon Prime subscription if they want to watch Thursday Night Football — not only for this season but for at least the next 10 seasons as well.

Thursday Night Football’s broadcasters this season are the iconic, longtime Sunday Night Football play-by-play voice Al Michaels and legendary college football analyst and color commentator Kirk Herbstreit. Both are being compensated more than $10 million a year for these new jobs. In addition, Herbstreit will still work for the ESPN show “College Football Gameday,” a college football preview show, and be a part of ABC’s Saturday Night Football. Michaels will no longer be on Sunday Night Football, but he will return to NBC as a commentator for the NFL playoffs.

While NFL fans are adjusting to viewing the prime-time broadcast almost exclusively on Amazon Prime, the platform offers a variety of new features. Along with the familiar voices of Michaels and Herbstreit, Amazon allows viewers to choose between their regular broadcast view or their “Prime Vision” broadcast. The “Prime Vision” broadcast offers a skycam view of the field so that fans can see every player on the field at once. It also provides live “Next Gen Stats,” such as a player’s sprint speeds, a team’s win probability and a graphic that recommends when teams should go for it on fourth down. These features appeal to both NFL experts who understand the Xs and Os of the sport and more casual fans wanting to learn more about the sport.

While Michaels focuses on Thursday nights, former ESPN broadcaster Mike Tirico will be taking over his role as the play-by-play commentator on Sunday Night Football. Tirico has been signed to NBC since 2016 but will now be a primary commentator alongside color commentator Cris Collinsworth. The former NFL wide receiver is a talented analyst — and is well-known for his notorious slide into the camera view on Sunday Night Football. 

With Tirico in the booth, Sunday Night Football’s commentary has a similar rhythm to last year’s with Michaels. Tirico adds excitement to each broadcast that balances well with Collinsworth’s insight. 

The final NFL primetime slot is Monday Night Football, which now features Fox’s longtime commentating duo Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. Both signed multi-year contracts with ESPN to be the new voices of Monday Night Football. ESPN had been experimenting with different commentary teams for the past few years since losing Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden. Signing Buck and Aikman will provide ESPN with stability for their Monday Night Football commentary in the years to come. 

While getting Buck and Aikman was important to ESPN, one of the most appealing viewing experiences for NFL fans is ESPN’s alternate Monday Night Football broadcast on ESPN2, the Manningcast. The Manningcast features brothers and former NFL quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning. The program debuted during the 2021 season during multiple Monday night matchups and was so successful that ESPN extended their contract through 2024

It also inspired ESPN to do an equivalent for Sunday Night Baseball, the KayRod Cast, which features Yankees’ play-by-play commentator Michael Kay and former Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez. 

It is evident that football is evolving both on and off the field with new voices and platforms changing the way the game is viewed. And it seems that NFL fans welcome these changes, as the NFL continues to achieve record viewership across all platforms. One can only wonder where the NFL will go next. 


Written by: Patrick Figueroa — sports@theaggie.org