Chris Berman, one of ESPN’s longest tenured on-air talents, is being heavily pursued by the NFL Network, a source tells The Big Lead. According to the source, the NFL Network is putting the full court press on Berman – whose contract expires May 10, on his 55th birthday – and it isn’t a sure thing that he’ll return to Bristol. ESPN PR had no comment.
If Berman were to move to the NFL Network, it would reunite him with longtime ESPN associate Steve Bornstein, who rose in the ranks alongside Berman in the 80s. A separate source says that Berman and Bornstein – currently President of the NFL Network – are very close, having known each other for almost 30 year.
The question for Berman is simple: Will the lure of more money for less work trump Berman’s love for baseball and the significantly broader audience at ESPN? In addition to Berman’s NFL duties at ESPN, he’s been calling the Home Run Derby for over 20 years and occasionally calls baseball games for the network as well as hosts Baseball Tonight from time-to-time. Two years ago, ESPN VP of production Norby Williamson said of Berman, “He is our most important person, he is the face of ESPN.”
ESPN has lost two other significant on-air talents in recent years – Dan Patrick left for Sports Illustrated (and a radio show, and NBC) in 2007, and Peter Gammons left for the MLB Network late last year.