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Madden leaves Fox for ABC
Football analyst joins Monday Night Football, replacing Fouts and Miller; Fox saves $8M on last year of contract.
February 28, 2002: 2:02 p.m. ET
By Staff Writer Chris Isidore

graphic NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Football analyst John Madden is leaving Fox's NFL broadcasts, headed to ABC's Monday Night Football, as Fox let the former Oakland Raiders coach out of his contract a year early to make the move.

Madden will replace two members of the Monday Night Football broadcast team -- former quarterback Dan Fouts and comedian Dennis Miller, both of whom had one year left on their ABC contracts. While it appears that Fouts may stay with the network working college football games, this is the end of ABC Sports' two-year experiment with Miller.

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Madden has been with Fox for eight years, since the network shook up football broadcasting to win the contract to show NFC conference games away from CBS.

But Fox has lost an estimated $4.4 billion on its NFL contract for the eight-year deal it signed in 1998, and it has been trying to cut programming costs as a result.

John Madden, shown here in a file shot before this year's Super Bowl, is moving from Fox's NFL broadcasts to ABC's Monday Night Football, the two networks announced Thursday.
Earlier this month Fox Entertainment Group Inc. (FOX: up $0.96 to $22.30, Research, Estimates) took a $387 million charge for losses associated with the NFL contract, part of $909 million in charges related to sports rights contracts. Madden's Fox contract reportedly would have been worth $8 million for next year.

Associated Press reported that Madden only will be paid $5 million a year for four years under his ABC contract. But Madden, a successful commercial pitchman, could see his endorsement opportunities increase from the greater exposure that goes with the Monday Night Football position.

Fox issued a statement wishing Madden well, saying his agent, International Management Group, had informed Fox that it has long been Madden's wish to go to Monday Night Football. When asked if cost-cutting was a factor in the decision to let Madden out of the contract, Fox Sports spokesman Lou D'Ermilio responded, "That's between John and us."

But an analyst said that the increasing concern with costs at Fox likely played a role in the move.

"I think cost-cutting is an element of Fox thinking, if you listened to Rupert Murdoch's last few diatribes to Wall Street," said Jeffrey Logsdon, analyst with Gerald Klauer Matttison & Co. "The cost/rating benefits equation didn't make it onerous to let him go early."

Logsdon said even if Madden gets a new deal for similar money at ABC, a unit of Walt Disney Co., the contract could make sense for that network since the prime time schedule gives it greater upside in terms of advertising revenue.

ABC Sports President Howard Katz also pointed out that Madden will be able to contribute to ESPN, Disney's all-sports cable network, and that since ABC has only one game a week rather than the seven broadcast by Fox, Madden's impact on the network would be greater than it would be for Fox.

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    Katz and Madden's agent Sandy Montag said that the two sides didn't have any discussions until Fox released Madden from his contract in the middle of the day Wednesday, and that talks took only six or seven hours to complete. Asked about accepting less money, Madden didn't give any details of his new deal, but neither he or Montag denied the AP report of the lower salary.

    "I told Sandy, 'This isn't about money. It's something that I want to be a part of very strongly. Just whatever it takes to get it done, I want to do it,'" Madden told reporters during a conference call.

    Monday Night Football is one of the strongest sports broadcasting franchises, with a rating among the top 10 of any primetime program. But the show, which enters its 33rd year next season, has seen competition from cable and the general decline in sports ratings overall have reduced its impact.

    ABC has also struggled to find a popular mix of broadcasters that would click with football fans. While Al Michaels has been well respected, neither Fouts nor the acerbic Miller has won the following that ABC had hoped.

    "Al and John are the best at what they do, said Katz. "Putting them together creates the ultimate 'dream team.' This is a great day for ABC Sports."

    Fox and ABC both have seen football ratings decline in recent years, although the overall ratings still easily outpace any other sport. ABC's Monday Night Football ratings fell to an average of 11.0 percent of U.S. homes with televisions from 12.7 percent the year before, while Fox's ratings slipped to 10.2 percent from 10.6 in 2000.

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    In January, just before the Super Bowl aired on Fox, it was announced that Madden's longtime partner Pat Summerall would be leaving the network when his contract expired at the end of the season. Summerall, who did play-by-play, and Madden, who provided color commentary, had worked together for 13 years at CBS before moving together to Fox. Summerall's departure was part of the reason Madden decided to seek permission to move to ABC, he said.

    "Everything lined up for this to happen now," he said. "I was going to be working with a new partner anyway, and it was great to get the opportunity to work with Al Michaels, who's the best."

    ABC will broadcast next year's Super Bowl, returning Madden to the big game once again. But he will miss the playoff games that Fox got to broadcast and that ABC does not carry.

    Monday Night Football has rarely worked with only two announcers in the broadcast booth, but Katz said given Madden and Michaels' strength, it was decided that the pairing would work best without a third voice.

    "I don't think that would have been a smart move," Katz said when asked if there was consideration to Fouts as a second analyst in the booth. "For John to do what he does so well, he needs space."

    ABC also announced it would bring back Melissa Stark as a sideline reporter, but that it had dropped former NFL star Eric Dickerson. Katz said the network may work with only one sideline reporter this season. graphic