Trades between networks just don’t happen, but ESPN and NBC have now pulled off two trades in the span of eight years.
The first one is legen .. wait for it … dary. Back in 2006 after NBC got the rights to Sunday Night Football, it wanted Al Michaels to join the already-signed John Madden in the broadcast booth, however, Michaels was still under contract to ESPN and was committed to call Monday Night Football with Joe Theismann (imagine how that announcing team might have been). But when Al discovered that NBC had hired the crew that he had worked with on ABC’s Monday Night Football to produce the new SNF, he wanted to join NBC. So the owners of the two networks, NBCUniversal and Disney worked out a trade that would send Michaels to the Peacock in exchange for a long forgotten Walt Disney cartoon that was the precursor to Mickey Mouse. It was known as “Oswald the Rabbit” which Disney had been coveting for quite some time. It had been hoping to get the rights back from Universal for which Walt worked before creating his own company.
The trade was made and you know the rest of the story. Michaels has happily called Sunday Night Football on NBC since 2006 and worked with Madden and Cris Collinsworth over that span.
Now cut to 2013. Michelle Beadle’s show “The Crossover” has been canceled by NBCSN. She’s unhappy and no longer wants to work for the Peacock. She’s trying to engineer an exit to ESPN her former home. How can she do it?
It appears that ESPN and NBC got together again to produce yet another trade. In late 2013, the two sides were discussing the rights to the 2014 Ryder Cup. ESPN had the rights to the first day matches while NBC would air the final two days of competition. And ESPN airing the first day of the Ryder Cup was part of that Michaels-for-Oswald trade. So with NBC jonesing to obtain the first day of Ryder Cup matches, it began a discussion with ESPN. Veteran golf reporter Geoff Shackelford reported in December that ESPN was willing to trade its Ryder Cup rights in exchange for increased English Premier League highlights.
It appeared that the two sides were on their way to making the trade, but Shackelford then reported to the world in January that the actual final piece of the exchange was Beadle.
So in essence, NBC has traded Michelle Beadle to ESPN in exchange for the rights to the first day of the Ryder Cup. Beadle made her first appearance back on ESPN earlier this month. And just this week, it was announced that Golf Channel and NBC would air the 2014 Ryder Cup live from Scotland in the fall.
So NBC Sports Group and ESPN have become dance partners once again. With two successful trades, one wonders if the companies could get together down the road to exchange rights or on-air talent.