SBD/January 5, 2017/Media

Chris Berman Leaving As Host Of NFL Shows, But Staying At ESPN With New Multiyear Deal

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Berman also will stop hosting events like the NFL Draft and MLB Home Run Derby
Chris Berman will step down as the host of ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown," "NFL PrimeTime" and "Monday Night Countdown" after this year’s Super Bowl, ending a 31-year run as ESPN's primary NFL studio host, during which time he became the net’s most recognizable face. Berman, who has been at ESPN since '79 and has been an instrumental part of the net’s growth over the past three decades, also will stop hosting such marquee events for the net as the NFL Draft and Home Run Derby. The moves come as part of a new multiyear deal that will keep 61-year-old Berman at ESPN in a reduced role. He will continue to appear weekly on “Monday Night Countdown,” where he will conduct taped interviews and host historical segments about the league. His new deal also calls for him to host “NFL PrimeTime” twice a year -- once after the Super Bowl and once after the conference championship games. Berman also will do play-by-play for ESPN Radio on MLB LDS games. He additionally will be part of the ESPYs. “I like to think of myself as an ESPN lifer,” said Berman. “There really wasn't any thought of doing anything else. ... We’ve had a great working relationship extending 38 years.” Berman’s longtime agent Lou Oppenheim represented the anchor through the negotiations. ESPN Senior VP/Event & Studio Production Stephanie Druley said the new deal came after months of talks. “It’s always been about finding the best fit, and Chris has had a say in every part of that,” she said. “By no means are we pushing him out the door, or even easing him out the door.”

NO REPLACEMENT CONSIDERED YET: Druley said that she has not begun to consider a replacement host yet and no names have been floated publicly for what is the highest profile on-air position at ESPN. The show went through significant changes this season, replacing mainstays like Tom Jackson and Mike Ditka with younger former players in Randy Moss, Charles Woodson and Matt Hasselbeck. Berman remained as host, and Druley remarked that he quickly developed a rapport with his younger cohorts. In an emailed statement, ESPN President John Skipper said, “Chris is one of a kind. His innovation, passion, preparation and on-air acumen have helped define ESPN. He wrote the book on delivering highlights which still serves as the standard to this day. ... We look forward to Chris’ continuing contributions while understanding that his place on our Rushmore is assured.”

AGE IS JUST A NUMBER: Berman in June spoke with THE DAILY about the possibility of retirement, saying at the time, “Retirement is a weird word. But I’ve got to say, the last few contracts have stopped on a given birthday. When it expired at 55 ... I wasn’t retiring at 55. Then 59. This is a three-year deal, so now it’s 62. There’s a reason I did it on my birthday. You still get paid on your birthday and the day after you don’t. You ought to get a cake out of it.” Steve Bornstein, who served as ESPN President through the '90s and remains one of Berman’s close friends, said, “Chris Berman, to me, represents all the positive values of ESPN. You see what you get. He’s the same person on the screen and off the screen. He really works hard. A lot of people don’t appreciate the research and time that all those guys and gals who are on the air go through to be very good. He puts in the effort. He always took the subject matter seriously. He took sports seriously. But he never took himself too seriously.”
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