“Monday Night Football” will be brought to you by Fox next N.F.L. season — the faces and voices behind Fox Sports, that is.
ESPN announced Wednesday that it had signed Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, the Hall of Fame former Cowboys quarterback, to multi-year deals to man the booth of one of sports’ signature programs.
Additional details — such as Buck and Aikman agreeing to contribute content to the ESPN+ streaming service — will be announced later, ESPN said in a news release. But a person familiar with the arrangements said Buck would be paid nearly $15 million per year, and Aikman almost $18 million — making them among the highest-paid sports broadcasters. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the terms of the contracts had not been announced.
The switch by Buck and Aikman, who will call games together for their 21st N.F.L. season in 2022-2023, was hardly a surprise, with Buck’s expected departure first reported by the New York Post. Still, the official announcement offered yet another reminder of how crucial — and lucrative — football has been for the networks and broadcasters who deliver the games.
Despite criticism dogging the N.F.L. over a broad swath of issues, including a lawsuit accusing the league of discriminatory hiring practices, N.F.L. games accounted for 48 of the 50 most-watched broadcasts in the 2021 regular season. This year’s Super Bowl, which aired on NBC, recorded the game’s best ratings in five years, with an average audience of 112.3 million viewers across television and streaming.
If anything, the competition should be even more fierce next season, with Amazon set to air “Thursday Night Football.” So that has prompted some musical chairs among the predominantly male niche of football broadcasters.
This past season, ESPN’s Monday crew featured Steve Levy as the play-by-play announcer and the former player and scout Louis Riddick and the former quarterback Brian Griese as analysts. With Griese having recently departed ESPN, which is owned by Disney, to become the quarterbacks coach of the San Francisco 49ers, the network made a strong push to woo Buck and Aikman, who have called six Super Bowls together.
At nearly $18 million a year, Aikman’s salary will rival that of CBS’ Tony Romo, another former Dallas Cowboys quarterback turned color analyst.
“When you have the opportunity to bring in the iconic, longest-running N.F.L. broadcasting duo, you take it, especially at a time when we are on the cusp of a new era in our expanding relationship with the N.F.L.,” Jimmy Pitaro, the chairman of ESPN and sports content, said in a statement.
As for the other broadcasters, Fox Sports is reportedly leaning toward naming Kevin Burkhardt its primary N.F.L. play-by-play announcer, according to reports, while Amazon has been linked to Al Michaels, who called the Super Bowl last month for NBC.