Top TV executive Dick Ebersol has had decadeslong experience of the world of sports broadcasting.
With his longevity in the TV business, Ebersol told CNN’s Chris Wallace that he’s flabbergasted at the sums of money being paid out to sports broadcasters, because he believes fans watch games no matter who the announcers are.
After 14 seasons in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys and four Pro Bowl selections, Tony Romo retired from the sport in 2017 and has gone on to become an established football analyst with CBS.
His current long-term contract is reported to be worth $17 million a year, but Ebersol, who spent 22 years as chairman of NBC Sports during a 40-year period with the company, thinks Romo is failing to deliver in the broadcast booth.
“He’s an unbelievably engaging guy, he should have been a terrific, great broadcaster,” Ebersol said in an interview with CNN’s “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace?”
Ebersol added that the former quarterback appears to have “lost his passion” for calling games.
“Something’s happened since he got into that chair. And it doesn’t seem like he’s into it like he was on his way up. He does not seem to be the storyteller that he should be. … Tony has gotten further and further away from that I think.”
He said he would “love” to be Romo’s producer for six months and could soon “cure” what he sees as the 42-year-old’s shortcomings as a broadcaster.
“This is somebody who should be an announcer for the ages … and I would have him in my office often – not to kick his a**, but just to keep reminding him of what put him there in the first place,” Ebersol continued.
However, Ebersol apologized for his comments about Romo on Wednesday, saying: “Tony Romo is like a son to me. I am truly his biggest fan on and off the field. As a fan, and a producer, I have always been known to offer up unsolicited notes.
“But this time, after a long day of interviews, I went too far and frankly said things that I do not believe and are simply not true.
“No announcer is more passionate about the NFL than Tony Romo, and I personally cannot wait to hear his call this and every Sunday. He is as good as it gets.”
Romo has earned a reputation as a well-respected NFL co-commentator and proved an instant hit with his colleagues, so much so that play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz labeled him “Romostradamus” during the 2019 AFC Championship Game between the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs after Romo correctly predicted upcoming plays and strategy.
CNN has contacted Romo and CBS for a response to Ebersol’s comments.
During his time at NBC, Ebersol oversaw “Saturday Night Live,” developed the concept of Sunday night football, and secured NBC’s status as the longtime rights holder of the Olympic Games before resigning as head of NBC Sports in 2011.
Romo is not alone in commanding a multimillion-dollar contract as a sports commentator: After he retires from football, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady will reportedly make $375 million as a broadcaster with Fox Sports.
“You could go back and read all of the various stories about guys getting paid gargantuan salaries, or women getting paid gargantuan salaries by NBC – during my years – you won’t find them there,” said Ebersol.
“We didn’t pay those kinds of things because I thought that the material that we have, we had the best. We had the Olympics, we had the NFL, at some point in time we’d had the NBA, we had things that these people really wanted to do. And that was a huge attraction.”
The full interview with Ebersol is available from Friday on HBOMax and a portion will air Sunday night on CNN.