NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Fox Sports will go with a three-man broadcast team on its lead National Football League games this fall, as Joe Buck, Cris Collinsworth and Troy Aikman will replace the venerable two-man team of Pat Summerall and John Madden.
Buck will handle the play-by-play, a function he served in a handful of secondary games for Fox last season, while former players Collinsworth and Aikman will handle color commentary.
It will be the first time that Fox will work with a three-man crew for NFL games, which is still somewhat rare in football broadcasts. ABC's Monday Night Football has traditionally gone with a three-man crew, though this year it will debut a two-man team of Madden and Al Michaels.
Summerall and Madden had worked together for 21 seasons, first at CBS and then at Fox when the latter network captured the rights to the National Football Conference games from CBS. But Summerall left Fox at the expiration of his contract last year, while Madden was given a release from his $8 million a year contract so he could explore an opportunity to go to Monday Night Football.
|Cris Collinsworth, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will share the booth for Fox's NFL games this fall.
"I think it will be an entertaining booth," said Fox Sports President Ed Goren, although he acknowledged, "A three-man booth has limitations. Most people prefer a two-man booth."
Goren and Fox Sports Chairman David Hill acknowledged there was also a risk disturbing the team for the Fox NFL studio broadcast, which handles pre-game and half-time reports. Collinsworth has been a part of that team for four seasons. The executives said they do not yet have a replacement in mind for Collinsworth spot on that show, though they seemed intent on filling the spot rather than going with a smaller studio crew.
"We have discussed the revolving chair with a number of people. We're nowhere near making our minds up," said Hill.
Fox Sports has been under pressure to cut costs of its broadcasts. It did away with the popular virtual first down line for part of last season, because the special effect that showed viewers how far was needed for a first down cost $25,000 a game.
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The company took a $387 million charge in January for anticipated losses from its NFL rights contract. But Goren said he believed the network needed to go with the additional member of the team to maintain viewership of what is Fox's best-rated show most weeks.
"It's not a case of who's in the booth increasing ratings," said Goren. "But unless you present your best face, you stand a chance of losing ratings. We feel it (the cost of a third member of the team) is a wash."
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Buck will be leaving the team during October to be the lead broadcaster on Fox's coverage of baseball post-season games, and will be replaced in the booth by Dick Stockton handling the play-by-play.