Table of Contents
Behind the Mic provides a roundup of recent news regarding on-air talent, including new deals, departures, and assignments compiled from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, Amazon pushes to pursue Al Michaels as its lead NFL voice, NBC Sports continues announcements of on-air talent for Olympics, and more.
Amazon Pursues Al Michaels for Mega-Deal to Make Him Lead NFL Voice
NBC’s Al Michaels has emerged as Amazon Prime Video’s top choice to do play-by-play for its forthcoming exclusive Thursday night NFL package. According to Andrew MArchand of the New York Post, the courting has already begun with NBC an active part of the discussions that could include its top production people being part of a potential deal as well when Amazon begins its exclusive broadcast in the 2022-23 season.
Michaels could join Amazon in 2022 and remain at NBC in a lesser role than the lead voice on “SNF,” the perennial highest-rated show in network prime-time TV. Though Amazon is focused on Michaels, he is not alone on the platform’s list. Amazon also has interest in Fox’s Joe Buck and CBS’ Ian Eagle. (New York Post)
NBC Sports Continues Announcements of On-Air Talent for Olympics
NBC Olympics introduced a group of announcers who will make their NBC Olympics play-by-play debuts during this summer’s Tokyo Olympics on events ranging from men’s and women’s basketball to the returning baseball and softball competitions to the new 3-on-3 basketball.
Following is a look at NBC Olympics’ new play-by-play voices for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics:
Shane Bacon will provide golf play-by-play commentary and will also host golf studio coverage. Bacon, who joined GOLF Channel and NBC earlier this year, currently serves as host of Golf Today on GOLF Channel. He previously contributed play-by-play at both the U.S. Open (FOX) and for featured groups at The Masters.
Jason Benetti will call baseball, which returns to the Summer Games for the first time since the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Benetti is the voice of the Chicago White Sox for NBC Sports Chicago and is a play-by-play announcer for a wide range of ESPN events.
Jack Benjamin will handle play-by-play for several events. Benjamin, who has provided play-by-play for Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, is the voice of Nicholls State on ESPN Radio-New Orleans and calls various sports on Cox Sports Television and ESPN platforms.
Krista Blunk will provide play-by-play for several sports. Blunk, who handled play-by-play for NBC Sports California’s all-female Sacramento Kings broadcast team during a Women’s History Month game in March, has served as a commentator for various networks, including Pac-12 Networks, Westwood One and ESPN. She also spent 13 seasons as an analyst for the Sacramento Monarchs and two years as pregame, halftime and postgame host for the Kings.
Brendan Burke will handle play-by-play for rowing and canoe sprint. Burke currently serves as a play-by-play commentator for NBC Sports’ NHL coverage, and is the play-by-play voice for New York Islanders telecasts on MSG+. He is also the play-by-play voice for NBC Sports’ coverage of the Premier Lacrosse League, which begins the 2021 season this weekend on NBCSN and Peacock.
Lisa Byington, who will call soccer, serves as a play-by-play announcer and reporter for the Fox Sports, Big Ten Network, CBS and Turner Sports. This past March, she became the first female play-by-play announcer to call the men’s NCAA basketball tournament. She has also handled play-by-play for NBA games. In August 2018, Byington was part of the first all-female broadcast team to call an MLS match. A soccer and basketball player at Northwestern University, she also called 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup games for Fox Sports.
Rupert Cox will handle play-by-play for rugby from Sky Sports studios in the U.K. Cox has covered the sport as a commentator and presenter for multiple media outlets, including Sky Sports and NBC Sports, for more than 15 years. He handled play-by-play for NBC Sports’ presentation of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Noah Eagle will call the action in the 3-on-3 basketball competition, which makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo. Eagle is the radio voice of the Los Angeles Clippers, is a contributor for SiriusXM NBA Radio and Tennis Channel, and calls college basketball for Fox Sports. In January 2021, Eagle called an NFL Wild Card game for Nickelodeon.
Jenn Hildreth, who will handle soccer, is a play-by-play announcer at ESPN for various sports, including college soccer, and has called the last five NCAA Women’s College Cup championships. She is also a play-by-play announcer for the NWSL on CBS Sports after serving in the same capacity previously for ESPN, Lifetime and FS1. Hildreth, who played college soccer at Emory, also called 2019 and 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup matches for FOX Sports.
Patrick Kinas will call select swimming competition. Currently the radio/TV voice of the Durham Bulls, Kinas previously served as Westwood One’s play-by-play announcer for figure skating and short track at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, and swimming at the 2016 Rio Olympics. He also has handled play-by-play for various sports for Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA since December 2018.
Rich Lerner makes his NBC Olympics play-by-play debut for both men’s and women’s golf from on-site in Tokyo. Lerner has been a studio host and play-by-play commentator for GOLF Channel for nearly 25 years, leading GOLF Channel’s Golf Central Live From studio coverage from golf’s biggest events. He will be the lead play-by-play voice for GOLF Channel and NBC’s coverage of the U.S. Women’s Open this weekend.
Chris Lewis will call table tennis. The radio of voice of Boise State, Lewis also serves as a play-by-play announcer for CBS Sports Network and handles select events for Mountain West Network.
Courtney Lyle will handle play-by-play for the field hockey competition. Lyle calls a variety of sports for ESPN and the SEC Network, and previously served as a sports anchor and reporter for TV stations in Knoxville, Tenn. and Macon, Ga.
Beth Mowins will serve as the play-by-play voice for softball, which returns to the Olympics for the first time since Beijing 2008. Mowins handles play-by-play for many of ESPN’s highest-profile sports, and in 2017 became the first women in 30 years (since NBC’s Gayle Sierens) to call an NFL game on television. She also serves as ESPN’s lead voice for softball, and today begins her 27th year in the booth at the Women’s College World Series.
Derek Rae will handle soccer play-by-play. He currently serves as ESPN’s lead play-by-play announcer for Bundesliga coverage and has called multiple FIFA World Cups (men’s and women’s) and UEFA Champions League competitions. Previously, Rae called matches and hosted studio coverage of the Premier League for NBC Sports and in the U.K.
Kate Scott will call basketball. The host of the morning show on 95.7 FM “The Game” in San Francisco and a play-by-play voice for Pac-12 Networks, Scott was the first woman to call an NFL game on the radio, the first to call football for the Pac-12 Networks, the first to call a Golden State Warriors game, and in March 2020 on NBCSN served as the play-by-play announcer for the first all-female NHL broadcast in the United States.
Matt Winer will call handball. A veteran broadcaster for Turner Sports, primarily on NBA TV, Winer has led coverage of the NBA’s signature events, reported long-form stories, called NBA and USA Basketball games, and filled in as host of TNT’s “Inside the NBA.” In addition, he has served as an MLB studio host and reporter for TBS, and anchored March Madness coverage for Turner Sports and CBS. Previously, Winer spent nine years at ESPN.
Tony Hawk, Steve Kornacki, Tara Lipinski, and Johnny Weir will serve as NBC Olympics correspondents. They will join Mary Carillo and Jimmy Roberts. Andrea Joyce will serve as a reporter at the gymnastics competition and handles play-by-play for rhythmic gymnastics.
Ahmed Fareed will handle his third assignment for NBC Olympics, hosting coverage on USA Network from NBC Sports Group’s International Broadcast Center in Stamford, Conn. Previously, Fareed anchored daytime NBCSN coverage during PyeongChang 2018, and made his NBC Olympics debut as a USA Network host for Rio 2016. He also served as a co-host of the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. Fareed is a host and reporter for Triple Crown horse racing, rugby, and Premier League.
Liam McHugh will serve as an NBC Olympics host for the fifth time this summer, and will be based in NBC Sports Group’s International Broadcast Center in Stamford. For PyeongChang 2018, he hosted NBCSN primetime and late night, while also anchoring the daily Olympic Ice figure skating preview show. Previously, McHugh was a studio host in Rio in 2016, hosted Olympic hockey coverage at the 2014 Sochi Games, and served as an anchor of NBCSN’s coverage during London 2012. McHugh serves as a host for the NHL on NBC, which is in second-round coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. For the past three seasons, McHugh has served as co-host of Football Night in America, the most-watched weekly studio show in sports.
Kathryn Tappen, in her fourth NBC Olympics assignment, will host coverage on USA Network from Tokyo. Previously, she served as a hockey host for PyeongChang 2018 and Sochi 2014, and was the beach volleyball reporter at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Tappen serves as a host of NBC Sports’ NHL coverage, which continues this spring and summer with the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the networks of NBCUniversal. She also works as a reporter on NBC Sports’ coverage of Notre Dame Football. During the 2020 NFL season, Tappen served as the sideline reporter for two NBC Sunday Night Football games as well as an NFL Wild Card Playoff Game.
Tiger Woods Declines Invitation to Join Booth for U.S. Open
Still in recovery from a serious single-car crash in February, Tiger Woods declined an invitation to provide commentary for the June 17-20 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego. News that Woods was offered and rejected the assignment came during a conference call with NBC Sports broadcasters who will call the action at the third major tournament of the year. (Rome News-Tribune)
ESPN Signs SportsCenter Anchor Stan Verrett to New, Multi-Year Deal
Longtime SportsCenter anchor Stan Verrett has signed a new, multi-year deal to remain with the network. In addition to continuing to anchor the 1 a.m. ET edition of SportsCenter from Los Angeles, Verrett also will begin a schedule of anchoring the 11 p.m. ET edition as well.
Broadcasting Legend Jim Lampley Becomes The Lead Voice Of Triller Fight Club
Triller Fight Club has signed Emmy Award-winning broadcaster Jim Lampley as its new lead play-by-play voice. Lampley will begin his multi-fight deal with the historic June 19 Triller Fight Club card at Miami’s loanDepot park, which will feature both men’s and women’s undisputed world title fights for the first time.
After more than three decades in network television, and nearly 30 of them as host of HBO’s flagship World Championship Boxing franchise, Lampley is one of America’s most renowned and respected broadcasters and journalists. He was host and blow-by-blow announcer for all HBO Boxing telecasts from March 1988 until December 2018 and has called some the biggest fights in the history of the sport. From the biggest upset in heavyweight championship history (Mike Tyson vs. Buster Douglas in 1990), to the stirring trilogies between Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe and Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward, to the remarkable triumph of 45-year-old George Foreman over Michael Moorer in 1994, to the long-awaited showdown between Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson in 2002, to the prolific confrontation between Oscar de la Hoya and Floyd Mayweather in 2007, Lampley and history have gone hand in hand.
ESPN Signs Brian Custer as SportsCenter Anchor, Play by Play Commentator for College Basketball, Football
Emmy Award-winning sportscaster Brian Custer has joined ESPN as an anchor for the network’s signature news and information program SportsCenter and a play-by-play commentator for college football and basketball.
He started his broadcasting career in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, as a news and sports reporter for the local ABC-TV affiliate. He later worked in Dallas as a news and sports reporter before moving to New York as a host at SNY-TV. He won two Emmy Awards while at SNY-TV.
He joins ESPN from Fox Sports, where he had called college football, college basketball and boxing since 2014. He also has been co-host of a program on SiriusXM NBA Radio.
In addition to his ESPN duties, Custer will continue his role as host for Showtime Championship Boxing.
Custer holds a degree in broadcast journalism from Hampton University. A cancer survivor, he is a spokesman for the Prostate Cancer Foundation.