SBD/September 11, 2017/People and Pop Culture

Longtime Sports TV Producer Don Ohlmeyer Passes Away At The Age Of 72

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Veteran TV producer and a longtime NBC exec DON OHLMEYER, who "guided the network's West Coast division during its 1990s primetime heyday," passed away yesterday at the age of 72, according to Abid Rahman of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. Ohlmeyer began his career at ABC and was "among the first producers" on "Monday Night Football." He also "worked on the network's Olympic coverage." In '77, he "moved to NBC Sports and executive produced NFL and MLB games." He left NBC in '82 to "start his own production company, Ohlmeyer Communications, which focused on made-for-television movies and sports specials like golf's Skins Game." Ohlmeyer was rehired by NBC in '93, and his second run at the net "cemented his legacy as he helped it to first place in primetime" with a run of iconic shows including "Will & Grace," "Friends," "Frasier," "ER" and "Seinfeld" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 9/10). VARIETY's Cynthia Littleton noted Ohlmeyer left NBC in '99 after his "contract expired." He mostly stayed "low profile after his executive tenure came to an end," returning to "MNF" for one season in '00, as well as "serving as ombudsman for ESPN" from '09-11 (VARIETY.com, 9/10). In Ohlmeyer's second "MNF" stint, he "put comedian DENNIS MILLER in the booth" (AP, 9/10). 

TERROR AT THE GAMES: Ohlmeyer in '12 was honored as one of SBJ/SBD's Champions of sports business and discussed his role in covering the terrorism that arose at the '72 Munich Games (THE DAILY).



GETTING THE JOB DONE: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir noted Ohlmeyer was "known as a workaholic who used NFL Films footage as an inspiration, seeking low angles and tight close-ups that revealed players’ emotions." He also "effectively handled" HOWARD COSELL, a "brilliant but brittle personality who had never called football before." Ohlmeyer "dealt firmly with him, persuaded him to rerecord segments if he thought he could do better and fed him information that made him sound prescient." When Ohlmeyer left ABC, he told then-ABC Sports President ROONE ARLEDGE that he "needed to prove himself rather than stay in his outsize mentor’s orbit." With backing from RJR Nabisco, Ohlmeyer’s company acquired 20% of ESPN for $60M in '84, which "brought him onto the cable sports channel’s board and gave him a hungry outlet for his sports programming." He eventually "cashed in his stake and sold his sports programming assets to ESPN" for about $24M (NYTIMES.com, 9/10).

MAKING IT WORK: Ohlmeyer as part his Champions award in '12 also discussed working Cosell on "MNF" (THE DAILY).

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