Andrew Marchand of the New York Post dropped a bombshell on the media landscape. Bob Costas, who has spent nearly four decades with NBC, becoming the face and voice of its coverage on events such as the Super Bowl, Olympics, and the NBA Playoffs, is reportedly in negotiations to end his relationship with the network.
Costas is currently signed to a multi-million dollar contract through 2021 but the negotiations would reportedly end that deal early. As it stands, Costas is exclusive to NBC except for his work with the MLB Network. The longtime broadcaster is used sparingly these days by NBC as a “host emeritus,” often only brought in to lend gravitas to important moments, such as when prominent sports figures pass away.
Marchand reached out to Costas to confirm the news but he refused to confirm or deny. He did, however, say that “sometimes you get to a point where it is not a fit anymore. It doesn’t mean that anyone is angry or upset.” He also said that because of the decision not to cover the Olympics anymore, coupled with his evolving feelings about football, signal a desire for change.
Costas told Marchand that he would like to be involved with a “journalism show that would feature interviews, commentaries and a critical look at the world of sports and perhaps other topics.”
The writing has been on the wall for some time for Costas. After hosting every Olympics for NBC since 1988, he spent the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea watching from home after passing the torch to Mike Tirico. He also cut back on his duties for Sunday Night Football, giving that to Tirico as well. At the time, he seemed at peace with the decision while also having an eye on future endeavors. Still, that didn’t stop the rumor mill from churning about how he felt constrained by NBC’s sports portfolio and how it no longer matched his interests.
That was never more evident than when Costas spoke candidly about how football could “destroy people’s brains” and that the sport could soon “collapse like a house of cards.” He skipped out on NBC’s Super Bowl coverage despite being such a prominent member of the Sunday Night Football team for so long. Costas would later backtrack slightly on his comments while noting he’s been making similar comments for years. He would go on to say his “ambivalent feelings about football” were a factor in not working the Super Bowl.
Shortly thereafter it was leaked that ESPN made a run at Costas. Although it was only one meeting and ended up going nowhere, it signaled the possibility that the longtime NBC company man could end up elsewhere.
If the breakup does become official, the big question becomes where Costas will land. Given his feelings on football, it stands to reason he wouldn’t want to do business with ESPN or Fox Sports, both of whom are cozied up to the NFL and NCAA; not to mention they probably wouldn’t want to see him continue to work with MLB Network. Though if they ponied up the money and let him focus on whatever he wanted, that could provide some room for more ambivalence. Perhaps a return to HBO (he hosted On the Record with Bob Costas and co-hosted Inside the NFL) or a deal with Showtime makes more sense given Costas’ apparent interest in a Real Sports-style program. And of course, there’s always the streaming services to consider. Netflix, Amazon, and even Facebook could throw gobs of money at Costas to let him do whatever he wanted. At this point in his career, that might be exactly what he’s looking for.