On Friday, NBC announced the hiring of former ESPN reporter and host Maria Taylor, which had been expected since her official departure from ESPN Wednesday. Taylor will start her role at NBC with the Olympics, and will also be a part of the network’s NFL coverage and their coverage of other sports. NBC formally made the announcement during its (tape-delayed) coverage of the Olympic opening ceremonies Friday night. Here’s host Mike Tirico introducing Taylor (who was at another NBC broadcasting location in Tokyo, the Tokyo Bay Terrace), and Taylor setting up a segment on the U.S. women’s gymnastics team:
Here's Mike Tirico introducing Maria Taylor on NBC's Olympic coverage. pic.twitter.com/sahEgUKTr9
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) July 24, 2021
Here’s more from NBC’s release:
Maria Taylor, whose work has already included many of the biggest events in sports, joins NBC Sports beginning with the Tokyo Olympics. She comes to NBC Sports after nearly a decade at ABC/ESPN, where she most recently hosted the NBA Finals earlier this week.
Highlighted by host roles for the Olympics and the NFL – including as a host and contributor for Football Night in America and Super Bowls – Taylor will work across premier NBC Sports properties. In Tokyo, her very first assignment as part of the NBC Sports team, she will join Mike Tirico as host for Prime Plus, and will also serve as a correspondent.
“Maria has excelled in a wide range of roles at marquee events, and will be a powerful addition to our team. We are always looking to improve, and Maria is going to make us better. We are very excited for her to join us right away in Tokyo,” said Pete Bevacqua, Chairman, NBC Sports.
“Incredibly excited to have the opportunity to work with Pete, Molly, Sam, Fred, and the entire NBC Sports family,” Taylor said. “Literally, hosting the Olympics, Football Night in America, and the Super Bowl is what I dreamed of when I started in television – and this would not be possible without standing on the shoulders of all of those who came before me and made this path possible. And I plan to pay it forward.”
The hiring of Taylor is undoubtedly a coup for NBC, and one that the network reportedly wanted to push over the line prior to the end of the NBA Finals. That didn’t happen, with Taylor staying at ESPN through the end of the Finals on Tuesday before the network announced her departure on Wednesday morning.
Over the last month or so, the situation regarding Taylor’s contract has spiraled. ESPN’s initial extension offer to Taylor reportedly took a significant cut this summer as the end of her deal approached with Disney in cost-cutting mode. Soon after, news of Rachel Nichols’ comments from 2020 surfaced, leading to an on-air apology from Nichols to Taylor and controversy about ESPN’s treatment of Black employees.
Taylor’s departure now leaves two significant holes: the NBA Countdown hosting position and the top college football reporter position. ESPN has some time to fill the former job, with Nichols, Malika Andrews, and Cassidy Hubbarth just three internal options, but only a matter of weeks to replace Taylor on their college football coverage. They have plenty of possibilities internally, including (but not limited to) Molly McGrath, Holly Rowe, and Allison Williams.