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Madden Is Headed to NBC in 2006

NFL analyst signs a six-year deal with the network, which might also make a run at Al Michaels for play-by-play.

June 16, 2005|Larry Stewart | Times Staff Writer

Rupert Murdoch shocked the sports world in December 1993, bidding a then-whopping $1.58 billion over four years and wresting the NFL away from CBS for his upstart Fox network.

The next step was to establish credibility by hiring the biggest name in football commentating, John Madden.

To get him, Fox paid Madden a yearly salary of $8 million, far more than anyone else in sports television was making.

Madden, 69, apparently is still the hottest announcer in sports TV. NBC announced Wednesday it had hired him to work on its NFL Sunday night package, beginning in 2006.

The economics have changed, though. Madden, who is making $5 million a year with ABC, will make $4 million a year at NBC, a source said.

NBC signed him for six years, which is the duration of its $3.6-billion contract with the NFL. Madden will be 76 at the end of his contract.

Asked about retirement on a conference call Wednesday, Madden said, "I plan to go on forever."

NBC is the only broadcast network Madden has not worked for.

He began his broadcasting career in 1980 with CBS, after a 10-year run as coach of the Oakland Raiders. He went to Fox in 1994 and then ABC in 2003, where he was paired with Al Michaels on "Monday Night Football." He'll remain on Monday night games through the '05 season.

NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol, in announcing the Madden hiring Wednesday, indicated Michaels was on the top of the list for the play-by-play job but added that negotiations with Michaels couldn't begin until after the NBA Finals. Michaels, who is in Detroit working the finals for ABC, declined to comment.

ESPN also is interested in hiring Michaels to work on its new Monday night package, beginning in 2006.

Ebersol said he first talked with Madden's agent, Sandy Montag, on the afternoon of April 18, which was the day it was announced that NBC got the Sunday night package and ESPN the Monday night package.

ESPN will pay $8.8 billion over eight years for Monday nights.

Ebersol said negotiations with Madden began in earnest in mid-May, when he went to visit Madden at his home in Pleasanton, Calif.

Ebersol said NBC had tried to sign Madden in 1994, before Fox got him.

"John Madden is the best analyst in the history of the National Football League and, in my opinion, the best analyst of any kind in sports television history," Ebersol said.

"John is much more than a football legend, he's an American icon."

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