Chris Berman out as face of ESPN's NFL coverage after this year

Chris Berman is out as the lead face and voice of ESPN's NFL studios hows after 31 years.

The 61-year-old Berman will step down as host of ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown," "Monday Night Countdown" and "NFL Primetime" after Super Bowl LI on Feb. 5, ESPN announced Thursday.

Berman, who joined ESPN in 1979, will also give up his roles anchoring ESPN's NFL Draft and MLB Home Run Derby coverage.

Berman's contract was up after this NFL season. But the six-time national sportscaster of the year has signed a new multi-year contract extension that will keep him in Bristol in an "emeritus"-type role.

Said ESPN in a statement:

Berman will make appearances on-air and will also serve in public-facing roles on behalf of the company, stepping away from his longtime position as the face of ESPN’s NFL studio coverage, NFL Draft and Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby. Berman will continue to host ESPN’s NFL PrimeTime highlights show from the field after the Super Bowl as well as the NFL Conference Championship games. He will also offer opinion and perspective on historical events in the NFL, including still appearing weekly on Monday Night Countdown. In addition, he will handle play-by-play for ESPN Radio during the MLB Divisional Playoffs and participate in ESPN’s annual ESPYS Awards.

Love him or hate him, Berman and retired partner Tom Jackson super-charged NFL highlights with their "NFL Primetime" show. For a new generation of football fans and fantasy players, they brought the league and its stars alive the way Howard Cosell did on his halftime highlights on ABC's old "Monday Night Football."

Some sports media reporters, including me, speculated that Berman might jump to another network or a tech company, such as Twitter or Amazon, entering NFL coverage. But Berman said in a statement that he was happy to finish the ride with the same team he joined 38 years ago.

"The whole experience here has been a dream come true,” Berman said. “When we started in 1979, I was just 24. Nobody knew if ESPN would make it, or, for that matter, if cable TV would make it. I certainly wasn’t sure I would make it, but I really didn’t care. We were too busy having a blast, talking sports with viewers who were just like us, even if it was during the wee hours of the morning. We got to band together here in Bristol, Connecticut, and put out a product of which we were all very proud.

"What I didn’t know I was signing up for was a lifetime of friendships and, I like to think, respect. Respect from those I have worked with and from those in sports I have covered, and respect from those viewers who welcomed us into their homes. That’s what hits me the most as I look back at these past 38 years – knowing that all of this happened while we were just having fun and trying to get it right."

ESPN chief John Skipper said in a statement that Berman helped "define" ESPN.

"He wrote the book on delivering highlights which still serves as the standard to this day. ESPN’s mission is to serve fans. No one has done that with greater resonance than Chris and his dramatic connection to fans played a significant role in establishing a successful ESPN. We look forward to Chris’s continuing contributions while understanding that his place on our Mount Rushmore is assured."

© (ESPN) Chris Berman

Chris Berman to step down as host of ESPN's NFL Countdown, Home Run Derby

Chris Berman, the voice of baseball's Home Run Derby since its inception, will no longer broadcast the midsummer staple and will also step away from significant NFL studio duties, he confirmed in an interview with Sports Business Journal.

Berman, 61, will also step aside as host of ESPN's NFL Countdown, Prime Time and Monday Night Countdown. Berman's booming baritone was synonymous with ESPN's rise as a network power, as his "back-back-back" home run calls and high-energy NFL highlight narration coincided with the Bristol, Conn.-based network's transition from a small-time operation to a broadcasting empire.

“The whole experience here has been a dream come true,” Berman said in a statement. “When we started in 1979, I was just 24. Nobody knew if ESPN would make it, or, for that matter, if cable TV would make it. I certainly wasn’t sure I would make it, but I really didn’t care. We were too busy having a blast, talking sports with viewers who were just like us, even if it was during the wee hours of the morning. We got to band together here in Bristol, Connecticut, and put out a product of which we were all very proud."

The longtime anchor was dealt a blow when ESPN negotiated a long-term deal for Monday Night Football, a process that resulted in NBC laying claim to the Sunday night package and the lead-in highlight show, Football Night in America. That exchange led to the demise of Prime Time as a Sunday night highlight staple.

Berman will work baseball's Division Series broadcasts on ESPN Radio.

ESPN President John Skipper added: “Chris is one of a kind. His innovation, passion, preparation and on-air acumen have helped define ESPN. He wrote the book on delivering highlights which still serves as the standard to this day."

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