Report: ESPN May Attempt to Pry Jim Nantz Away From CBS

The 61-year-old Nantz will call the sixth Super Bowl of his career this Sunday

Report: ESPN May Attempt to Pry Jim Nantz Away From CBS
Jim Nantz speaks at a CBS Television team press conference.
David Cannon/Getty Images

If CBS isn’t able to come to an agreement with legendary broadcaster Jim Nantz, Sunday’s Super Bowl, his sixth, could be the last that he calls for the network.

According to Front Office Sports, contract negotiations between Nantz and CBS Sports have come to an impasse and it is possible that ESPN will swoop in with a bid if he hits free agency this summer.

Nantz, who reportedly wants “Tony Romo money” to stay with the network, is the face of CBS Sports and calls everything from NFL games to the Masters to the Final Four.

Romo, who only calls NFL games, makes more than $17 million annually; Nantz currently makes $6.5 million per year.

It may be worth it for ESPN to make Nantz an offer he can’t refuse as there is some thought that his relationship with the powers that be at Augusta National would be enough to convince the tournament’s organizers to award the lucrative weekend TV coverage of the event to whichever network the 61-year-old is working for. Since 1956, CBS has retained the rights to the Masters’ Saturday-Sunday coverage on recurring one-year contracts, according to The New York Post.

Adding Nantz (and potentially the Masters) to its golf coverage would be a coup for ESPN, but he would also be an asset if the network scores more NFL games during the next round of television rights negotiations with the league as the Worldwide Leader has been sorely lacking a top play-by-play man since Mike Tirico left for NBC in 2016.

“In the last 30 years, Jim Nantz has become the face and voice of CBS Sports,” Nantz’s agent Sandy Montag told The New York Post in November. “The network has become synonymous with his voice and his leadership.”

Montag was also the agent for former NFL coach John Madden, who started his TV career at CBS, but went on to take lucrative gigs at Fox, ABC and NBC.

“Nobody thought John Madden would ever go to Fox. But he did,” a source told FOS.

That same rationale certainly applies to Nantz, who has said he wants to call the Masters until he is at least 75. While it certainly seems unlikely he would depart from CBS after three decades, stranger things have happened — especially when millions of dollars are involved.

Knowing this, and to serve as leverage in negotiations as well as protect itself should Nantz leave, CBS recently re-signed No. 2 play-by-play broadcaster Ian Eagle to a long-term contract.

“We expect Jim to be at CBS Sports for many years to come,” a network spokeswoman told FOS in a statement.

The network likely expected the same of Madden before he bolted for greener pastures — and more money.

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