In the deadly serious business of sports, a cartoon character from 1927 played a role in Al Michaels' hop from Monday Night Football to NBC.
The network traded rights to Ryder Cup matches, Olympics highlights, historic cartoon character Oswald the Rabbit and more to ESPN to acquire the services of Emmy-winner Michaels for its Sunday night games it was announced Thursday.
NBC takes over Sunday night next season from ESPN, which will broadcast Monday Night Football. John Madden, Michaels' partner for the last four seasons, agreed in June to a six-year contract with NBC.
Besides Madden and Michaels, NBC will have Bob Costas and Cris Collinsworth as co-hosts of the network's studio show.
"When we made the deal with the NFL this spring, there were four key stars I knew I wanted to build our football team around, but I wondered from the beginning, if I would be lucky enough to get them all," NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol said in a statement Thursday.
To get the final piece of Ebersol's team, NBC gave ESPN broader access to the Olympics, Ryder Cup golf, Notre Dame football, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.
NBC also returned Oswald the Rabbit to The Walt Disney Company almost 80 years after the character played a role in the development of Disney's signature icon.
Walt Disney produced 26 Oswald cartoons in 1927, but Universal distributed the series and owned the rights to the character, prompting Disney to develop Mickey Mouse.
Specifically, ESPN gets:
• Rights to broadcast live Friday coverage of the Ryder Cup golf championship between the United States and Europe in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014, as well as the right to re-air NBC coverage and extended highlights.
• Expanded Olympics highlights from this year through 2012.
• Monday Night Football promotions during the NBC Sunday night through 2011.
• Expanded highlights from Notre Dame football, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness through 2011.
When the Monday games move to ESPN next season, retired quarterback Joe Theismann, Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser and Mike Tirico will be in the ESPN booth.
Michaels had been with ABC since 1976 and had been the play-by-play voice of Monday Night Football since 1986, when he replaced Frank Gifford.