SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Al Michaels moved to California from North Bellmore when he was 14, so it has been a while. He is 78 now.
But all that sun has not faded his true colors as a kid who grew up in and around New York City.
That is what makes Thursday night’s 49ers-Giants game extra special for Amazon Prime Video’s NFL play-by-play man. It is a reminder of home.
“Start spreadin’ the news!” he said in an interview with Newsday. “I’m a Brooklyn kid and lived on Long Island and was a Newsday paper boy.
“New York is my DNA. I’m a Brooklyn kid, and I feel it. I am a stickball, punchball, ringalevio guy. That’s who I am. So I love when we do a New York game.”
Michaels has worked numerous Giants games over decades, of course, but this one represents something new for him and his hometown team.
This is Prime Video’s second season as the exclusive national home of “Thursday Night Football,” but its first Giants game. They were one of three teams, along with the Lions and Vikings, not to appear in 2022.
So Michaels is ready to get into a New York state of mind, as is Prime Video as it continues to establish itself among the NFL’s media power players.
The move to exclusive coverage of an NFL package on streaming was a milestone last season, and fans seem to be getting increasingly comfortable with it.
(Per NFL policy, the game also will be seen on local broadcast channels in New York and San Francisco. It will be on Ch. 5 in New York.)
Prime Video said its opener, featuring the Vikings against the Eagles, averaged 15.1 million viewers, making it the most streamed NFL game on record.
The fact that the audience skews younger than for games on traditional TV outlets is another bonus for the NFL. Prime said the average age of its viewers for Week 1 was 47, seven years younger than the NFL average for TV games.
All of that is interesting, but it has nothing to do with the game production itself. From the start, a goal of the group first led by LIU Post alumnus Fred Gaudelli was to make the newfangled platform seem as normal for viewers as possible.
“It’s the game,” Michaels said. “It’s a football game and we’re going to do the football game. I know that last year people wanted to know if I was going to do it vastly differently, and I said no.
“What’s different is the distribution system. That’s the only thing that’s different. Otherwise, for me and to go outside the box would be a little bit crazy at this point."
Gaudelli worked with Michaels in prime time on Mondays, Sundays and Thursdays. This season he will serve as executive producer but has handed the game producing reins to Mark Teitelman.
What will be different and/or better?
Michaels said the production will have “bells and whistles at our disposal,” but, as always, he believes in keeping the focus on the basics and not overdoing it.
As for technical improvements and graphic tweaks, he added, “That’s out of my bailiwick in terms of what that means. But Amazon is a tech company. They work very hard to make it more accessible.”
Michaels said he has worked with Teitelman before and believes the new pairing will work well.
“He and I have talked about the fact that we’ll have a very good yin and yang,” Michaels said. “It will develop over time, but it takes time.
“Fred and I, we had a mind meld. We worked together over 20 years, did over 400 games together, multiple Super Bowls. Fred and I didn’t even have to say anything. We all knew where we were coming from.”
The Thursday night schedule seems stronger this year than last.
New this season is that teams can appear on a Thursday more than once, and for the first time the NFL can flex late-season games into and out of Thursdays — a controversial decision that will inconvenience ticket holders.
Also new: A Black Friday game the afternoon after Thanksgiving that is part of the Prime Video package. The Dolphins will visit the Jets that day.
Kirk Herbstreit is back as game analyst. Kaylee Hartung is the sideline reporter. The “studio” crew features host Charissa Thompson with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Richard Sherman, Andrew Whitworth and Tony Gonzalez.
Fitzpatrick, a former Jets quarterback, said he likes that Prime sends its analysts to the game site rather than work from a studio. After 17 NFL seasons for nine teams, he has a lot of friends to catch up with.
“That was the part that I enjoyed the most last year,” Fitzpatrick said, “obviously along with the camaraderie of this group, and the way that we got along and hopefully that chemistry that we built off the field, [viewers] can really feel and sense when we get on camera, because for the most part we really do like each other.”