SBJ/January 9 - 15, 2006/Media

Sources: ‘MNF’ producer will sign with NBC

Monday Night Football” producer Fred Gaudelli is close to signing a deal with NBC to produce the network’s Sunday night NFL broadcasts next year. Gaudelli was promised an unspecified job within ABC/ESPN after ABC did not renew its “Monday Night Football” deal, but there had been no word on what that job would be. It was pretty clear all along that he might leave the network, and there was no more obvious place for him to go than NBC. “Monday Night Football” director Drew Esocoff is likely to join Gaudelli at NBC, industry sources said.

The end of “Monday Night Football” on ABC
started a talent swapfest among networks.

Their ABC swan song will be the Super Bowl. They also were scheduled to work the AFC wild-card game in New England on Saturday.

The pair had been at “Monday Night Football” since 2001. Before that they handled ESPN’s Sunday night NFL games, where Gaudelli was the producer for a decade. He’d been with ESPN since 1982, cutting his football chops on the USFL in the early ’80s.

Gaudelli jumping to NBC is just another piece of the Sunday-Monday swapfest that saw analyst John Madden switch networks and nights, while Al Michaels stayed put on Monday night by signing with ESPN.

On the production side, ESPN announced last summer that the current Sunday team — producer Jay Rothman and director Chip Dean — would stay with ESPN and take over “Monday Night Football.” That left Gaudelli and Esocoff without an assignment, and a fairly obvious choice to fill the same posts at NBC.

Fred Gaudelli will take his broadcast
innovations to a new network.

The prime-time broadcast network NFL gig is considered the top job in sports television production, and is probably the highest-paying. At ABC, Gaudelli has lived up to that billing through experimentation and occasionally inviting controversy. Whether it was practical-joke segments, the constantly updated lyrics to the “Monday Night Football” song (for which he recently got some ink in The New Yorker) or the “Desperate Housewives” pregame debacle, Gaudelli always pushed the envelope and aimed to advance the tradition of “Monday Night Football” being an entertainment as well as a sports vehicle.

Perhaps he generated the most discussion in industry circles through the credits that preceded each “MNF” game. The names of Gaudelli, Esocoff and a few other techies were splashed on the screen as if they were the stars of the show — unheard of in sports broadcasting.

Now that his boss will be the best-known sports producer in the world, Dick Ebersol, it will be interesting to see whether Gaudelli and his name will still be front and center.

LOWBROW, BUT EFFECTIVE?: Fox Sports Net teamed with The Sporting News and Coca-Cola’s Full Throttle energy drink brand to create “the Best Damn Guide to Football,” a 12-page, 4-by-6-inch guide filled with Super Bowl facts, recipes and tips on throwing an “estrogen-free Super Bowl party.” Three million guides will be distributed at convenience stores. They are free with the purchase of a can of Full Throttle. The guides also will be inserted into The Sporting News’ Feb. 3 Super Bowl preview issue. Low-brow as it may be, it’s one of the better examples of sales integration between television, print and consumer product brands.

Contact Andy Bernstein at abernstein@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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