NBC’s mad for Madden

Peacock pacts with sportscaster for 'Sunday' preem

NEW YORK — John Madden has signed a six-year deal with NBC Sports to do color on the premiere season of “NBC’s Sunday Night Football,” beginning in October 2006.

NBC has ponied up $600 million a year for the right to take over the Sunday-night NFL franchise next year from ESPN, which has elbowed out its sister network ABC as the new outlet for “Monday Night Football.”

NBC had bowed out of NFL football carriage in 1997, claiming it was losing too much money to pay the $550 million a year the league was asking for network rights to of Sunday AFC games. CBS paid the license fee and took over the AFL package, which it has renewed for another six years, through 2011, for $622.5 million a year.

After a successful stint as coach of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, Madden started his career as football analyst with CBS in 1980. In 1994 he moved to Fox, where he was lead NFL analyst for eight years. ABC lured him away in 2003 to join Al Michaels as the two-man team on “Monday Night Football.” That contract expires at the end of the 2005 season; “MNF” shifts to ESPN in 2006.

In a telephone conference call to announce the signing, Dick Ebersol , chairman of NBC Universal Sports and Olympics, called Madden more than a football legend — “he’s an American icon.” “This is something new and different and fresh,” Madden said.

Ebersol said NBC is interested in hiring Michaels to rejoin Madden in the broadcast booth for “Sunday Night Football.” Another possible play-by-play announcer with Madden is Bob Costas, a 25-year veteran of NBC Sports. But whether Madden’s partner is Michaels or Costas, Ebersol said NBC will not try to squeeze more than two men into the announcers’ booth on Sunday night.

In addition to 16 regular-season Sunday-night games and one Thursday-night primetime contest each year, Madden’s contract calls for him to do two Super Bowl games for NBC (the 43rd from Tampa in 2009 and the 46th in 2012 at a city still to be determined) plus two Wild Card games, three preseason contests and two Pro Bowls each season.

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