Television revenue has exploded in the past 25 years, surpassing ticket sales as the main revenue driver for sports like the NFL. As a result, play-by-play announcers, color commentators, and studio hosts have seen their salaries grow exponentially. John Madden became one of the first multi-million dollar commentators in the early 2000s, when he accepted a $5 million per season offer from ABC to call Monday Night Football games in 2003. His big payday set the stage for escalating contract offers in the past twenty years. As of today, 18 sports analysts, commentators, and play-by-play specialists make $6 million or more each year from major networks.
Top 10 Sport Announcer Salaries in 2023
1. Tom Brady, Football Commentator For Fox Sports, $37.5 Million
Tom Brady’s industry-leading contract will make him more money by the end of his ten-year deal ($375 million for 10 years) than he made during his legendary playing career ($332.9 million). According to sources, ESPN was also very interested in signing Brady, which undoubtedly drove up his market value. It is still unclear when he will begin calling games for Fox or Fox Sports and if those games will include NFL contests. He could be in the booth as early as this fall or sometime in 2024 according to reports.
2. Jim Rome, Sports Commentator for CBS, $30 Million
The long-time radio and television host has built himself an empire and found a lucrative home at CBS. CBS Sports Network syndicated his radio show in 2018 and since then his overall reach and exposure have grown exponentially. A veteran of both TV and radio, Rome has spent the majority of his career as a one-man act, from his days at ESPN hosting “Rome Is Burning” to the “Jim Rome Show” which currently airs on CBS Radio.
3. Tony Romo, Pro Football Commentator For CBS, $18 Million
The former starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys made a little over $127 million during his playing days. By the end of his ten-year contract with CBS, which is set to end in 2030, he will have made $180 million from commentating on NFL games. He is paired with industry veteran Jim Nantz on Sundays in the fall. The four-time Pro Bowl quarterback has proven adept at explaining the intricacies of football to a general audience and continues to predict play calls before they happen.
4. Troy Aikman, Pro Football Commentator For ESPN, $18 Million
It’s good to be a former Dallas Cowboys quarterback apparently. Much like Romo, Aikman has found a home in the broadcast booth and has quickly become one of the NFL’s highest-paid color commentators. Aikman spurned FOX for ESPN last fall and became the voice of Monday Night Football alongside his trusty partner Joe Buck. The three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback has been calling NFL games since 2001.
5. Kirk Herbstreit, Football Commentator For ESPN/Amazon, $18 Million
Herbstreit has been a household name dating back to his debut on ESPN’s College Gameday in the 1990s. Since then he’s parlayed that success into the broadcast booth calling both college football and NFL games. When you combine his salaries from Amazon which pays him to call Thursday Night Football games and ESPN, he slides into a third-place tie with former quarterbacks Romo and Aikman on the salary totem poll.
6. Michael Strahan, Pro Football Studio Host for FOX, $17 Million
Pre and post-game studio shows have been a staple of the major networks for years, and Strahan has climbed the mountain as the highest-paid personality on any of them. Not only does he work Sundays for FOX, but he also makes $20 million a year as a host of Good Morning America. When you toss in guest appearances on other shows, it’s conceivable that he could be the highest-paid sports and entertainment personality on television in the world in a given year.
7. Joe Buck, Pro Football Commentator For ESPN, $15 Million
Troy Aikman’s partner in the booth has been calling play-by-play since 1989, mainly covering baseball and professional football. He worked exclusively for Fox and Fox Sports from 1994 through 2021, before making the move with Aikman to ESPN. Unlike many of the people featured on this list, Buck has an impressive trophy shelf. He has won nine Sports Emmys, including eight for his play-by-play work and one as a studio host.
8. Al Michaels, Pro Football Commentator For Amazon, $15 Million
Kirk Herbstreit is paired up with Michaels in the booth for Thursday Night Football games. The legendary play-by-play man, best known for the Miracle On Ice call, is a five-time Sports Emmy Award winner and has worked for the three major terrestrial networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) as well as Amazon. In addition to pro football, he has covered baseball, basketball, ice hockey, horse racing, and boxing.
9. Stephen A. Smith, Sports Commentator for ESPN, $12 Million
While many of the commentators, announcers, and studio hosts on this list focus solely on one sport or only work during one sporting season, Stephen A. Smith is seemingly grinding away year-round. The sports analyst has hosted a multitude of shows for ESPN over the years including First Take and appears regularly on ESPN institutions like SportsCenter and NBA Countdown. The former newspaperman weighs in on sports stories of the day, but he is famously plugged into the NBA. He is often cited alongside Skip Bayless as one of the modern-day pioneers of the one-on-one sports debate format.
10. Jim Nantz, Sports Play-By-Play for CBS, $10.5 Million
Nantz's career may, in fact, be winding down, evidenced by the fact that he is stepping down from calling men’s basketball Final Fours in the future. But his exit from March Madness doesn’t mean that the iconic play-by-play veteran is stepping away from sports altogether. Despite a career that began all the way back in early 1980s, he continues to call PGA Tour events, including the Masters, for CBS and will be partnering with Tony Romo again this fall calling NFL games.
All salary data was obtained by our veteran researcher, Dan Tracey. Sources included press releases from the networks themselves, quotes made on the record by the individuals listed above, and third-party reporting from sources including Sports Illustrated, CNBC, the New York Post, and Front Office Sports. The article itself was written by Michael Calabrese, an editor at OLBG with over 15 years of sports journalism experience.
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