Bob Costas, who recently concluded a 40-year run at NBC, joined The Bernie Miklasz Show on 101 ESPN St. Louis on Wednesday, and you can bet that this appearance will be one that has a lot of reverberation, as he talked about the odd business dynamic between television distributors and the sports leagues — especially the NFL.
At the 5:50-mark, Costas made it clear that this had nothing to do with resentment towards former colleagues at NBC and that he has great memories of his 40-year run there, but had this to say: “In general, the relationship between television and sports is the only business I can think of where the buyer must continually flatter the seller.”
“Especially when it comes to the NFL, which not only the king of all sports, but is the king of all entertainment. It’s the biggest thing in American television, no matter what. You take a look at the top-20 programs for a season, the Academy Awards sneaks in there and maybe a couple other things, but like 16 or 17 of them are NFL games and it’s always topped by the conference championships and the Super Bowl.” “So, it’s almost a case of, ‘Hey, we’ll pull up to Park Avenue in a Brink’s armored truck, and we’ll deliver the billion dollars to you, Mr. Goodell. But, please, if it’s the wrong denominations, we’re on bended knee begging your forgiveness. We’ll be right back with the bills that you want for the billion dollars!’ That’s the way it is. So is it possible? I don’t know of it. Is it possible that some sort of signal was sent from the NFL to NBC? Yeah, maybe.”
Costas isn’t wrong about this, but the NFL does deliver the insane audience numbers that Costas referenced, and they also have the leverage of reminding everyone how CBS cratered as a network when they lost the NFL to FOX in the 1990s. It all makes for very fascinating power dynamics.
In any event, it will be quite interesting to see what Costas chooses to do for the final act of his career going forward.