Barry Jackson

Another broadcast legend changes role; Heat ratings down; Marlins media change

Bob Costas is reducing his role at NBC.
Bob Costas is reducing his role at NBC. AP

A six-pack of media notes from the couch:

• Has there ever been a six-month stretch where more broadcast luminaries retired or significantly reduced their workload?

Since September, Vin Scully and Dick Enberg signed off for the final time after remarkable careers; Brent Musburger left major network television; Verne Lundquist stepped away from college football; and Chris Berman’s ESPN role was dramatically curtailed.

And unless you’re an avid viewer of MLB Network, we’ll be seeing less of Bob Costas, the most thoughtful, eloquent sportscaster of his generation. He’s reducing his NBC workload by relinquishing prime time Olympic host duties (after handling 11 of them and 12 Olympics overall) and significantly scaling back his NFL hosting.

“It just felt to me like this was the right time,” Costas said at a recent news conference in New York. “I have no misgivings about the decision. I’ll miss my colleagues and friends that I’ve worked with on so many Olympics, but I know that the position is in very good hands with Mike Tirico as my successor. That makes the decision even easier. Although the decision had been made beforehand, it still makes it even easier knowing that Mike will succeed me.

“I’m not retiring, I’m just transitioning. I’ll do more baseball for the MLB Network, and maybe if something else comes along that interests me, there will be more time on my calendar to pursue that as well.

“Baseball, specifically, and maybe something else, some kind of long-form programming that I’ve done in the past, both at NBC and elsewhere. Maybe that will come along, but there is nothing presently in the works there. But it could in the future.”

Under Costas’ deal, he said he will “be to sports roughly what Tom Brokaw is to news. I’m flattered by the comparison, where Tom no longer anchors the Nightly News, and hasn’t for many years, but where you still see Tom frequently on NBC when there is an event, be it historical or current, where his insider perspective would seem appropriate.

“And I’ll have that role at NBC for the foreseeable future as well as appearing on events like the Kentucky Derby or occasionally on our NFL Football coverage, though I’ll no longer be the regular host of Football Night.”

But Costas will host the Super Bowl next February in Minneapolis because Tirico will be in Korea preparing for the start of the Winter Olympics five days later.

Costas gave these examples of what he might do now: “I’ve already done a number of things through the years that would fall into that [Brokaw] category. For example, when Muhammad Ali died last summer, I was on virtually every NBC broadcast — The Today Show, Nightly News, it happened on a weekend, I was on Meet the Press — talking about Muhammad Ali. I did an essay about his life and career that ran between periods of a Stanley Cup Finals game.

“And somewhere along the line, some athlete of consequence will end his or her career and an appreciation or an assessment will be called for or some remarkable event will occur and there will be a controversy of some kind, and I’ll be called upon.

“Even within NBC Sports, if something out of the ordinary occurs, something that kind of jumps off the page, then I won’t be taking anyone’s place, but I could be added to the coverage of that event if I have something worthwhile to contribute. So it’s kind of on a case-by-case basis.”

What about the string of broadcast legends exiting or reducing their workloads?

“In my case it’s just a coincidence, because the circumstances are entirely different,” Costas, 64, said. “Vin Scully, whose greatness cannot be overstated, just turned 89. Dick Enberg, one of the greatest all-around play-by-play men in television history, is in his 80s as well. Brent Musburger is 77, I think, and the great Verne Lundquist is past 80. So those are different circumstances.

“I just decided that a transition, not a retirement, a transition, was in order for me. And I feel like I’ve got a whole lot of years left in broadcasting, and I want to use them as wisely as I can to do some of the things that I feel most connected to. And the Olympics, certainly, would be very high on that list as I look back over my career.

“But I’ve done a dozen of them and that seems like a good, round number. It’s always better when they leave the decision to you. A, it’s better to leave before they start to drop hints, like do you think it might be a good idea or are you getting tired yet or can we help you up the steps or do you need another cup of Ovaltine, sir? I didn’t want it to get to that point. So this was entirely on my terms, and I like it that way.”

• According to the Marlins, Fox Sports Florida dropped Carl Pavano as a Marlins studio analyst but is retaining Jeff Conine, Preston Wilson and Jeff Nelson for pre- and postgame shows.

Wilson was among four game analysts who worked a partial package of games last season and expressed shock on Twitter that the Marlins and Fox Sports Florida didn’t inform him that he wasn’t being retained for that role. The Marlins instead hired former MLB outfielder Todd Hollandsworth as its only game analyst for all 150 games, alongside Rich Waltz.

Incidentally, Fox Network on Wednesday said it will not televise any Marlins games this season but Fox Sports 1 will carry games on July 1 against the Brewers and July 29 against the Reds. The Marlins have a rare ESPN Sunday night game on April 9 against the Mets.

• Heat games are averaging a 2.3 local rating on Fox Sports Sun this season, which is down 48 percent from last season, according to Sports Business Journal. But that’s still good enough for sixth best in the league this season.

For perspective, consider that Heat games averaged a 6.8 during LeBron James’ final season with the Heat (equal to 6.8 percent of Miami-Fort Lauderdale homes with TV sets) and a 5.0 in 2014-15, the first season since James left.

Heat ratings have improved recently, but Dwyane Wade’s departure – coupled with the 11-30 start – left audiences nearly one-third the size of what they were during the fourth and final year of the Big Three era.

• This has the potential to be a creative change-of-pace or an unmitigated disaster:

For Monday night NBA games from Feb. 27 through March 27, TNT will use only former players in the booth and in studio. So instead of Marv Albert and Kevin Harlan, TNT will use Brent Barry and Greg Anthony in a pseudo host/play-by-play role, with Barry joined by Derek Fisher and Grant Hill, and Anthony working alongside Kevin McHale and Richard Hamilton.

And instead of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith in studio, TNT will use Chris Webber, Isiah Thomas and Baron Davis, with Kevin Garnett contributing.

FYI: Despite the game being unwatchable because of defensive indifference – even more egregious than past years – the NBA All-Star Game drew 7.8 million viewers on TNT, the game’s most since 2013.

• As The New York Post reported, Doug Gottlieb is leaving CBS to host a radio show for Fox and work college basketball games for the network…. Fox hired Nick Swisher as an MLB studio analyst…. President Donald Trump declined ESPN’s offer to fill out an NCAA Tournament bracket, as basketball fan Barack Obama did during his presidency…. ESPN has canceled the Sunday morning staple, The Sports Reporters, with the final episode airing in May.

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