NEW YORK (AP) – John Madden was the first announcer Dick Ebersol thought of when NBC acquired the rights to the NFL’s Sunday night package.

In mid-May, Ebersol went to California to talk with the popular analyst and try to convince him to join NBC when the network begins broadcasting the NFL again in 2006. The work paid off.

On Wednesday, NBC announced it had signed Madden to a six-year deal to be the network’s lead analyst for their NFL coverage.

“We’re just positively giddy to have John Madden join NBC’s Sunday night football,” said Ebersol, the chairman of NBC Universal Sports & Olympics.

Madden has spent the past three seasons teamed with Al Michaels on ABC’s “Monday Night Football,” a spot he will remain in for one more season.

“The whole thing (is) an opportunity to go somewhere where we’re starting something new, something different,” Madden said of moving to NBC. “… I just think that, doggone it, this is pretty good.”

Ebersol said that NBC is waiting until after the NBA Finals are over to talk with Al Michaels about possibly teaming with Madden again.

Before joining ABC, Madden teamed with Pat Summerall to call Fox’s lead game from 1994-2001. They were the top NFL announcing team on CBS for 13 seasons before that.

Known for his folksy style and his love of football’s grit and grime, Madden has won 14 Sports Emmys.

The former Oakland Raiders coach – he led them to a win over Minnesota in the 1977 Super Bowl – has become a pop-culture phenomenon thanks in large part to the popularity of his video game “Madden NFL Football.” Since its initial release in 1989, the game has sold more than 43 million copies and become the No. 1 selling sports video game of all time.

“John Madden is the best analyst in the history of the National Football League and, in my opinion, the best analyst of any kind in sports television history,” Ebersol said.

“John is much more than a football legend, he’s an American icon.”

NBC is reportedly paying $600 million for a six-year contract that will allow the network to broadcast the NFL’s Sunday night game starting with the 2006 season.

“Being on Sunday night, coming after all the games have been played, really gives you a unique pulpit to look at the day,” Ebersol said.

NBC will also be the first network to enjoy a unique scheduling twist. Beginning in 2006, the league will be able to shift afternoon games in the final seven weeks of the season to prime time to make sure that the best games are being shown on national TV.

The Sunday night game was previously shown on ESPN, which will now televise the Monday night game. Madden said he also talked with ESPN about the possibility of working with the network on the Monday night game.

NBC also gets two first-round playoff games and the Super Bowl in 2009 and 2012 as part of the deal.

Ebersol said Madden will concentrate on football, despite NBC’s coverage plans for the next several Olympics, including 2008 in Beijing.

“At this point, unless I can find a boat that’s abnormally large, he won’t be in Beijing,” said Ebersol, referring to Madden’s well-known aversion to flying.

AP-ES-06-15-05 1658EDT

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