Bob Costas has had a rough Olympics, and the soon-to-be 62-year old’s eye issues got NBC seriously thinking about a succession plan for the longtime TV host. NBC Sports chairman Mark Lazarus talked extensively to SI’s Richard Deitsch about planning for a post-Costas era, and said:
We said after Sochi we would start to think about what life after Bob might be, whether post-Rio, post-Pyeongchang, post-Tokyo, whenever he does not want to do it anymore.
Before going to the bench with the eye problems, Costas had hosted 157 consecutive Olympic prime-time broadcasts for NBC, dating back to 1992. How much longer will NBC retain Costas as host? After speaking with several industry sources, here are a few names the network may be considering:
Ernie Johnson, TNT: Lazarus was previously the President of Turner Sports. He obviously is very familiar with the work of Johnson, who is versatile enough to have hosted MLB, NBA and World Cup in the studio, as well as called some Olympic events. There’s an easy bonhomie about Johnson, which is just one reason he’s part of the most popular postgame show in sports, Inside the NBA.
Josh Elliott, ABC: From Sportscenter to Good Morning America to the Olympics? According to Page 6, he’s currently in contract negotiations with ABC, but if NBC can dangle a future role (the next Matt Lauer?) on the Today Show, and the Olympics, would that been enough to pry him away from Disney? Problem: It’s tough to see GMA letting another member of the team that got them to the top walk away (Sam Champion left for NBC/Weather Channel in December).
Chris Fowler, ESPN: If he’s not the best host ESPN has, he’s got to be right there near the top. Fowler appears to be a longshot to leave for NBC, though – especially since all indications are that he’s muscled his way into taking Brent Musburger’s job calling college football games each week with Kirk Herbstreit (and still hosting Gameday, and tennis, and, basically, whatever he wants at ESPN). Fowler hosts the best pregame show in sports, Gameday, at a time when pregame shows are passe.
Bob Ley, ESPN: Tough to see the ESPN veteran leaving Disney, but he’s capable of handling major news (see Outside the Lines) and the biggest sporting events (World Cup). Costas is brilliant, but occasionally crosses a line into braggadocio; you get the impression Ley could delineate the intricacies of Obamacare and explain Philip Seymour Hoffman’s place in cinematic history both with the absence of showiness.
NBC in-house candidates: Dan Patrick is viewed by some as too opinionated (he does host a daily radio show), but he’s also the host of the Sunday Night Football Pregame show. Liam McHugh and Willie Geist are also well-liked and considered on the rise at the network, but both are young and don’t yet have the gravitas to handle hosting the Olympics. Ryan Seacrest? Don’t laugh, the network might as well be his oyster. Want young people to tune in? Surely Seacrest has the answer. But he’s already making a rumored $50 million a year, and juggles a dozen duties (at least). Does Seacrest need the Olympics?