SBJ/Feb. 14-20, 2011/Media

McManus is ready for hands-on duty

After more than five years overseeing both news and sports for CBS, Sean McManus last week shed his news responsibilities to focus exclusively on sports. Last week, McManus was named chairman of CBS Sports, a role that will see him oversee all aspects of the sports division. McManus spoke last week with staff writer John Ourand, where he described his expectation to be much more hands-on in the division than he used to be.

When you were named president of both CBS Sports and CBS News in 2005, did you always know you’d come back to the sports division exclusively?
I had no timetable when I took the job. But I knew that for the company and for me personally, this wasn’t a job that I could do for the rest of my professional career. I’m very proud of what we accomplished at CBS News. But I’m also really excited about getting back to what has always been my professional love — and really is my foundation and my background — which is sports television.

Sean McManus is “really excited about getting back to what has always been my professional love.”
Over the past five years, how much of your job was devoted to news?

McMANUS: More than 50 percent was going toward news because of the 24-hour nature of the business.

Now that you’re devoting all your time to the sports division, how will your role change?
McMANUS: I delegated a lot during the last 5 1/2 years. I will be probably delegating a little bit less. And I will be focusing on growing the division.

What do you mean when you say that you’re going to be more hands-on?
McMANUS: It’s being in the studio and serving as executive producer. It’s watching every game that we do in the studio and talking to producers and talent. It means that if I’m not in the studio, I’m watching at home. I try to watch everything that we put on the air. I’m calling the studio probably many more times than our head of production, Harold Bryant, would probably like. It’s just giving thoughts and comments. It means dealing directly with everybody in the division. It means having the best relationship I possibly can with all of our rights holders at different levels. There is virtually no talent deal that’s done — even for a freelance panelist on rodeo — where I don’t have at least the knowledge of it. I try not to micromanage. That’s always a danger. But I love this business so much and I love CBS Sports so much that I want to be involved.

Where are the biggest growth opportunities?
McMANUS: CBS College Sports is a large opportunity for us. There’s growth in revenue. There’s growth in subscribers. And there’s certainly growth in the quality of the events that network is now carrying. It’s not going to be easy. There’s a lot of competition in that space.

Do you want to expand it beyond college sports?
McMANUS: Right now, we have agreements with the cable operators that limit us in some ways. That’s certainly something we will look at very carefully.

Where else do you see growth potential?
McMANUS: Further integrating CBS Sports with will be a priority also. I have great respect for what has become. I think they can be even better if the integration is more seamless.

It seems that “60 Minutes” has run more sports stories since you’ve overseen CBS News. How can you make sure that will continue?
McMANUS: That actually began before I came to CBS News. Sports stars have always been an important part of “60 Minutes.” I would love to take credit for that, but it really wasn’t my concept. It became a little bit easier. If anybody noticed, there might have been a few more promos in football for “60 Minutes” when I got involved with CBS News. If “60 Minutes” came to me again and said they’ve got a great sports profile coming out of an NFL football game or the Masters, that would be great for CBS Sports. If anything, it helps our ratings, and it’s great for CBS News and the network.

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