Bob Costas and the most infamous pink eye in broadcast TV history caused many to begin to think about NBC’s potential Olympic future without the longtime host. Costas is now 62 years old and had hosted 157 consecutive nights in Olympic primetime before his eyes turned into watermelons in Russia. In fact, NBC Sports chairman Mark Lazarus said the network would begin to think about “life after Bob” after the 2014 Winter Olympics.
We may now finally have a frontrunner for the heir to Bob Costas’ Olympic throne, and it comes from a high profile talent move that will shake up the entire industry. The New York Times reports that NBC Sports has hired ABC’s Josh Elliott.
In a move that increases the already intense competition in morning television, NBC Sports has hired Josh Elliott away from ABC’s “Good Morning America,” the show that displaced NBC’s “Today” show as the king of morning programming.
Mr. Elliott has been the news anchor and a lifestyle reporter for “G.M.A.” for the past three years, a period that corresponded with that show’s rise to the top of the morning ratings, knocking off “Today” after a run of 16 years. Executives for both companies confirmed Mr. Elliott’s move on Sunday evening.
Mr. Elliott had been seeking a new deal with a big salary increase to remain at “G.M.A.” But he also has an extensive background in sports television, having previously worked as an anchor at ESPN. NBC Sports is expected to use him across an array of its sports properties, including the Olympics, Sunday Night Football and Triple Crown horse racing.
The Times reports that Elliott was looking for a ginormous pay raise from $1 million per year to the $8-10 million per year range. With those huge salary demands, Elliott is not going to be hosting a cable show on NBCSN. That’s “face of the network” money. GMA said this morning that he would be working on the NFL and the Olympics for NBC as he wasn’t even given a tearful morning show goodbye. CNN says he’ll also contribute to soccer and horse racing coverage.
It’s interesting to note that Elliott is moving to “NBC Sports” and not NBC News. Elliott started out in sports at ESPN as the host of Classic Now and then most notably the live morning SportsCenter. Elliott was such a success at ESPN hosting SportsCenter that he got the call up to Good Morning America in 2011. All he did at GMA was lead the morning show to beat Today in the ratings for the first time in almost 20 years. If sports fans haven’t seen Elliott since he left SportsCenter a couple years ago, he’s grown into a mainstream television star.
Given Elliott’s profile, it’s impossible to envision him not doing some work for The Today Show and the NBC News division at some point down the road. He could just as easily be a longterm replacement for the embattled Matt Lauer anchoring Today as he is Bob Costas with the Olympics. However, the deal with NBC Sports leads one to believe that the peacock sees their next primetime Olympic host in Josh Elliott. He’s only 42 years old and could spend the next two decades at NBC Sports taking over the revered Costas throne.
Elliott has all the tools to succeed in that all-important Olympic role or wherever NBC may place him. He brings credibility from both the sports and news world and the ability to not just cover the games, but tell the stories that go along with them. He’s very likable and can connect with both hardcore sports fans and casual viewers. Josh Elliott has all the makings of a home run hire for the peacock.
For NBC’s sake, they can only hope the Elliott move works a little better than the last time they made a high profile hire from a competing network.