For its new Thursday night package, Fox wanted a big-name quarterback — and now the network is on the verge of having one.
After striking out with Peyton Manning, Fox is closing in on a deal with its own Troy Aikman that would team him with his longtime partner, Joe Buck, to call its new “Thursday Night Football” package, sources told The Post.
Buck and Aikman will continue as Fox’s top Sunday team, but will have some Sundays off under the new plan.
Fox paid $3.3 billion for five years of Thursday nights and wants to turn it into a bigger event than it was for NBC or CBS, where it rated well but was maligned for its schedule.
After Fox went all-out but failed to land Manning, The Post reported the network turned back to Buck and Aikman, whom it originally wanted to keep as just its lead team on Sundays.
With Fox having offered Manning around $4 million per year for the 13-game schedule, sources said Aikman felt if Fox were going to spend big on Manning, that he deserved to be dealt with the same, considering his years as the network’s No. 1 game analyst and a playing career similar to Manning’s.
Aikman’s position was strengthened by Fox having no apparent alternative. Plus, he and Buck made it clear they only wanted to work together, if either did the broadcasts.
Buck is expected on board as well, despite a very busy fall schedule that includes the baseball playoffs. A deal with Buck is anticipated, but it isn’t as far down the road as Aikman’s. The duo is expected to do the first two games that will be only on NFL Network. All of Fox’s 11 games also will be simulcast on NFL Network.
Fox has its TV upfronts on Monday, when the network presents its fall plans. While the pregame team, featuring Michael Strahan as a host, is expected to be announced, Aikman’s and Buck’s deals may not be signed by then. Buck is hosting the upfronts.
Fox declined comment.
After trying to sign Manning and toying with the idea of attempting to borrow NBC’s lead play-by-player, Mike Tirico, Fox asked Buck and Aikman to do it. While Fox wanted to present a big-game feel to Thursdays, it was hesitant to use its top Sunday team. Now, it has reached a compromise by softening Buck and Aikman’s Sunday schedule.
Aikman and Buck will only work Sundays during the 13-week Thursday night schedule when Fox has a double-header. In those cases, they will usually handle the late-afternoon game that goes to most of the country. So, in essence, the duo will add six or seven games to their schedule.
In going with its Sunday A team, Fox will mirror what NBC and CBS did on Thursday, using their top broadcast crew on the telecasts. It is one of the mandates the NFL has made in its Thursday night contract with networks.
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