ESPN trades Al Michaels for "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit"

Thursday, February 9, 2006

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In an odd move, ESPN's parent company, The Walt Disney Company, traded the contract of NFL play-by-play analyst Al Michaels to NBC Universal in exchange for various sports considerations and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a cartoon character Walt Disney created 79 years ago but lost to Charles B. Mintz when he created his own studio. Oswald is generally understood to be the precursor to Mickey Mouse.

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was created in 1927 by Walt Disney for Charles B. Mintz, and distributed by Universal Studios. Disney directed 26 Oswald cartoons before a budget dispute with Mintz forced Disney to leave and create his own studio. Mintz, however, owned the rights to Oswald, and kept the character. Oswald soon was bought by Universal, who would continue to create Oswald cartoons on a regular basis until 1938. Most of the succeeding Oswald cartoons were directed by Walter Lantz, who would later become famous for Universal's most well-known cartoon character, Woody Woodpecker.

Michaels, 61, will again join John Madden in the analyst booth for NBC's Sunday Night Football coverage beginning in the 2006 season. This follows the announcement the previous day that Joe Theismann, Mike Tirico and Tony Kornheiser would be in the broadcast booth for ESPN Monday Night Football. It was previously believed that Theismann and Michaels would announce Monday Night Football for ESPN.

In consideration for releasing Micheals from his ABC contract, Disney received the rights to the early Disney-directed Oswalds, while ESPN received the following rights from NBC Sports:

  • Friday coverage for the Ryder Cup golf tournaments in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014, and the right to re-air Saturday and Sunday coverage from NBC.
  • Expanded coverage of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes from 2006 through 2011.
  • Expanded access to clips of Olympics coverage, beginning with the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino and ending with the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
  • Expanded access to clips of Notre Dame college football games from 2006 through 2011.
  • Promotion of ESPN Monday Night Football during NBC Sunday Night Football through 2011.


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