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Volume 24 No. 135
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CBS' McManus Talks Simms' New Role, Anthem Protest Coverage, New Ad Format

Known for its stability in sports broadcasting, CBS will look and sound a lot different this NFL season. Network brass replaced its top game analyst, hiring Tony Romo and moving Phil Simms to the studio. The network also made a significant change behind the camera, with Jim Rikhoff taking over as lead producer from Lance Barrow. New faces will be all over CBS’s coverage, from Beth Mowins to Nate Burleson to James Lofton. Speaking at his network’s annual NFL media day, CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus said all the changes have made him “as excited about the NFL on CBS as I’ve ever been.” He spoke on several NFL-related topics.

* On Simms: “Anybody who has seen Phil on ‘Inside the NFL’ will understand that he’s an incredibly dynamic and entertaining studio analyst. He’s got a big personality. He’s not afraid to share his thoughts. He’s not afraid to mix it up. But he always does it in a very respectful way. ... We had a dinner with the ‘NFL Today’ crew on Monday night. Afterwards, the analysts and James Brown just sat around and told football stories for 90 minutes. If the kind of chemistry and the kind of interaction that took place on Monday night could be captured on Sunday afternoons, we’re going to have a remarkable show.”

* On Beth Mowins: “Beth was hired not because she’s a woman. Beth was hired because she’s a terrific play-by-play personality.”

* On TV ratings: “Some of the factors that hurt us last year will not be in play this year. The biggest one being the attention that was paid to the presidential election, where cable news viewing was sometimes two and three times what it was the year before because people had interest in the election. We were dealing with the retirement of Peyton Manning and the four-game suspension of Tom Brady. J.J. Watt was out for most of the season. There were some less than compelling games. Those were all factors.”

* On protests during National Anthem: “We don't tell our announcers what to say. We encourage our announcers -- more on the analyst side than the play-by-play side -- to express their opinion. If they’ve got an opinion or a thought on it, they are free to express it. I have said, however, we are there basically to broadcast a football game and not get involved in political or social issues. I don't think you’ll see a lot of commentary on the part of our commentary teams. But if they have an opinion they want to express, they are free to express it.”

* On new ad formats: “All the research shows that fans aren’t crazy about commercial breaks, but they really don't notice the length of the commercial break as much as they do the frequency of the commercial breaks. That will be helpful. We are not losing commercial inventory. We’re doing four breaks that are longer than the original five breaks. But I think that it’s going to make for a better viewing experience for the viewer at home. Most of our promos are now going to be included in the commercial breaks. I know we all love hearing Jim Nantz and Greg Gumbel say, “Tonight on ‘Madame Secretary’...” Those will be done within the commercial breaks so the actual flow of game will be a lot better.”

* On running commercials in second on-screen box: “Two or three times a game, it’s possible that you’ll see a two-box format -- whether it’s on a time out, a replay challenge, in between a kickoff and the first play. It’s not going to be every commercial spot. If it’s done the right way, advertisers can get some good value out of that.”

* On Fox starting the season with two doubleheaders: “We requested from the NFL to have single headers the first two weeks. ... We wanted two to segue more into our Thursday Night Football schedule.”