Monday, May 9th, 2016

NBC Sports Group Conference Call with Mike Tirico & Sam Flood

NBC SPORTS EXECUTIVE PRODUCER SAM FLOOD: Thanks for joining us today. We’re thrilled to be able to announce that Mike Tirico is part of the NBC family. He is an elite play-by-play announcer and host. Those two skills give us the versatile talent that can do just about anything in our shop and we’re excited by that.

In the last 25 years working at ESPN and ABC, he’s worked virtually every major property for them. His work speaks for itself. It’s always a big event if Mike shows up at it.

Beginning July 1st, he’s going to work on our big events and will be part of our NFL packages, the Olympics, golf, and much more.

This summer he heads back to Rio where he spent a lot of time for the World Cup. I’m sure he’s got some favorite haunts. He can show us a good place to go for dinner at night, so we’re excited by that.

Right now we’re not going to hit any of the specific roles Mike has until he completes his duties at ESPN. On July 1st, he officially becomes a member of the NBC family. Until then, we’re just going to talk in broad strokes about him being part of the team but not the specific assignments until he’s completed his tenure at ESPN.

With that I pass it off to Mike. Welcome.

MIKE TIRICO: Thank you, Sam. It’s a great place to be. A nice ring to hear you say that. Thank you to Mark Lazarus, everyone else at NBCUniversal and the NBC Sports Group, Sam, the entire team who has helped make me in this very brief window feel so very welcomed.

It’s a thrill. This is such an outstanding team. I think all of us who are a part of the sports TV business know what NBC Sports has represented for years – the highest quality in television sports production – and the opportunity to be a part of that is really a dream come true.

It’s a great, great place for me. It’s a great place in my life for this to happen. I’m sure I’ll be able to answer some other questions and get into more specifics. But needless to say, my family and all of us are thrilled to be part of the NBC Sports Group.

Q. I know you don’t want to get into too many specifics, but it does sound, Sam, like the things that Mike will be able to do are not just domestic sports but also some international properties as well.
SAM FLOOD: Yes, there are so many opportunities, as you know, between the Olympics and some world championship events. Mike is going to be part of the events that matter most to this company. That’s why we brought an elite talent like him into the family.

Q. Mike, given your World Cup experience at ESPN, your tennis experience, knowing that NBC has tennis and soccer and so on, how much of that appeals to you?
MIKE TIRICO: It all does, to be honest. Golf has taken me during my ESPN and ABC time around the world as well. I’ve seen all corners of the sporting world because of World Golf Championship events, as you mentioned some of the tennis majors, and covering the World Cup, the last two playings of that great global tournament.

I’ve had that experience and had that feel for what an international event means back home in the U.S., having consumed them as a fan and now being part of them on television. Among many of the items that were positives for me working at NBC, that is no doubt right up there at the top of the list.

Q. Mike, how often did you go back and forth on this decision? Will you miss the NBA because NBC doesn’t have that property?


MIKE TIRICO: Yes, I will miss the NBA. I will miss college basketball. I’ve called basketball games for the last 32 years, going back to college. I’ll miss it. But I’ll be a fan.

As I said to one of the NBA officials who mentioned something to me over the weekend in Atlanta, ‘The good news is now I’ll be able to sit a few rows farther back and yell at you like everybody else does in the building.’

I’ll miss a lot of those things. And certainly ESPN I’ll miss a lot.

But going back and forth, absolutely. There was a lot of back and forth. You don’t invest a lifetime of friendships and half of my life working in one place and wake up one day and say, ‘Okay, I’m done with that.’

It’s been on my mind. It was on my mind as my contract was winding down. Then when this opportunity came up, it was something that we had really considered for our family, for everything that’s involved.

At the end of the day, not just the opportunity with the properties, but the people at NBC, gave me great comfort in knowing that if I do leave a wonderful place, and ESPN was wonderful for us, I’d be going to an even more special place.

I have that feeling in my heart. We’ll give it a whirl and hopefully it works out for everyone.

Q. Speaking of the ESPN end of it, what sort of reactions did you get, whether it be executives trying to talk you out of it, or just your friends and colleagues, their reaction in general when this news came out?
MIKE TIRICO: I’ll be really candid. Sometimes in these events, we overstate stuff. You can ask my wife, who has seen my reaction the last couple weeks after word leaked out before it was official.

It has been overwhelming to me, the number of people from the different places that I’ve worked at ESPN who have reached out. The executives have been great. John Skipper, John Wildhack, they all could not have been more first class, more professional. We’ll maintain these friendships we’ve had going for many years and hopefully will continue.

They were incredibly gracious in allowing me to pursue this opportunity. For those folks in the executive suite in Bristol, all the way to our production assistants who are working our NBA coverage, those guys gave me a great thank you and farewell. They surprised me before the game yesterday in Atlanta.

People have been beyond nice. It just lets me know that this has been a great time, and hopefully we’ve had a positive impact on the place. I’ll continue to remain an ESPN fan for life and continue to watch. This is just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, and that helped make the decision.

SAM FLOOD: The number of emails I got — once this news leaked out — from people in ESPN and around the industry saying what a wonderful human being we’re adding to the team, how great it is to work with Mike, how much we will love having him at the microphone for us. I apologize to everyone that I didn’t respond to because there were so many great statements made. I didn’t want to put anything in writing confirming this.

It was an outpouring, and the number of emails was through the roof. It just shows how deep the love and respect that comes from inside ESPN for Mike. It was really great to hear it all and an impressive legacy that Mike leaves at ESPN and brings to us.

Q. Mike, we were just talking about the NBA, which is obviously something that is not on NBC. The one thing that they have for a long time going forward is the Olympics. How much was the opportunity to be heavily involved in the Olympics part of this decision?
MIKE TIRICO: Top of the list. Watching the Olympics growing up as a kid is one of the reasons that I wanted to do this. I grew up in Queens, New York. Back in the time, and I laugh when I remind my kids of this, that 4:30 to 6:00 on weekend afternoons was the sports time on network TV. Watching Jim McKay, Al Michaels, Keith Jackson, watching that group do what they did for so many years, kind of set that template for what sports television has evolved to.

For me, when the Olympics came on, that stopped everything. It stopped everything in our house and for our family. We gathered around. It struck me as I’ve watched these other Olympic Games as we’ve become older, and our kids are now with us. If we’re on our summer vacation, here we are in the middle of summer enjoying northern Michigan, outdoors, everybody finds their way inside for the Olympic Games, night in, night out.

You get caught up in the emotion of it. The global gathering, as the world gets smaller, there’s something big about the Olympics, everyone coming together in the name of sport and in one place.

That is something that has appealed to me as a fan, as a sportscaster, the chance to know you can be a part of it going forward and bringing it back home to the U.S. for the next few Olympic Games was right at the top of the list of things that made it impossible to turn away from this opportunity for me.

Q. You said this was the right time in your life to go on to something like this. You’re one of the busiest play-by-play hosts in sports. Do you think you may be working less?
MIKE TIRICO: That’s the fear here in the house, that I’ll be around a little bit more to get in the way of a smooth-running machine at home.

I think I’ll be off the road more. To be absolutely candid, that is part of what factors into a decision here. In addition to the incredible assignments, is the opportunity to cut back a little bit in terms of the number of nights on the road.

I’ll be traveling plenty and doing lots of stuff. But it was somewhere between 150 and 175 nights a year, going back to probably ’97 when I started covering golf for ABC. I think it just takes a physical and mental toll on you. I found myself looking forward to more time at home somehow, some way.

This opportunity provided better events, great people to work with, and the opportunity to spend some more time at home. That’s why it really became an easier decision as I went back and forth and weighed the positives and negatives of it.

Q. Having observed NBC people at the Olympics, I don’t remember any of them having time to go out to dinner at night. Your restaurant list may not do you any good.

MIKE TIRICO: Thank you (laughter).

Q. As the way in which people watch sports changes a little bit, as you’re changing networks and responsibilities, how do you see the manner in which people are consuming sports these days? Does that change the way in which you think your job will change over the next few years as you start this new opportunity?
MIKE TIRICO: In some ways. Everyone is evolving. I think we watch more on our phone than ever before. But the big events still bring the most people to the big screen in your house. If you look at the Derby, the other big events that will happen over the rest of the spring and summer on all the networks, you see that.

There’s no doubt. I consumed more of the Olympics over the last couple of Olympic Games online than I ever had before. You put something on an iPad while you’re working if you’re away from wherever you have to be.

I can even specifically talk about the Premier League soccer. I have kids who are involved in sports. We’ve seen more soccer matches on our phones on Saturday mornings driving to matches that my son is playing in than we would have even dreamed of three, four, five years ago.

So, yes, it’s changing. I have seen and experienced as a consumer how NBC is changing with it, just like ESPN did, just like the other networks are. As a matter of fact, a lot of the times we would go visit teams for Monday Night Football would be on Sunday nights. I would end up watching a quarter of the game on NBC Sports Live Extra.

You see there are different ways to consume the games, different content you can place there. Every great place evolves with it. I’ve seen NBC evolve with it as a consumer. I’ve seen ESPN as somebody providing content just for online. I know both will continue to be part of my life, not just as a fan, but as someone representing NBC going forward.

Q. Have you counted the number of sports for which you’ve done play-by-play? Is there a sport that you would like now to have the opportunity to call that you haven’t had the opportunity to do so before?
MIKE TIRICO: I haven’t counted the sports. I go back. I covered lacrosse and field hockey on TV in some way, shape or form over the years. Hopefully those tapes have been lost (laughter).

There are plenty. I’ve never had the chance to do baseball or hockey. At some point in my life I hope to get the chance to check the box of calling every professional sport.

I haven’t turned 50 yet. I have plenty of opportunities and time over the next couple of decades to do these things.

Right now there’s a plate of assignments that Sam mentioned at the top of this call that are new, different and exciting for me. I can’t wait to dive in, especially starting this summer with the Olympics.

Q. Mike, in as much detail as you can, how did NBC first approach you about this opportunity?
MIKE TIRICO: The specifics I’ll leave private among our group. I’ll give you the treetops of it, which I’m comfortable sharing.

As with many contracts for on-air or not on-air folks, there’s a window when you have the opportunity to speak with other people who might be interested. Sandy Montag is my agent. Sandy was able to have that conversation with NBC, solicit other folks as well.

The ESPN representatives, when this opportunity came up, it was shared with them, they were incredibly gracious. They allowed me to pursue this opportunity. This was not in any way acrimonious. It was very professional.

This chance did come up relatively quickly, so it required some quick long-range and long-term thinking. As I said in various forms here, I weighed those opportunities and just made the decision I thought was best for all of us.

I’ve said this before. But I was overwhelmed by not just the opportunity with NBC but also the graciousness with which ESPN handled, one, my interest, and two, the ability to allow me to do this so quickly.

So it came together rather quickly, to be honest.

Q. Would you have taken a job with NBC Sports if an NFL football game calling role was not part of it at some point?

MIKE TIRICO: I try not to get into the specifics of all of that because of the uncertainty that happens down the line here.

Of course, calling the NFL is a big deal. But the Olympics is a big deal. NBC has multiple primetime NFL packages. There are opportunities that are going to be there hopefully for a very long stay at NBC.

So the entire portfolio was what helped make me decide. I looked at what I do for the other sports that I had involvement with at ESPN and absolutely loved those responsibilities. But then I looked at the level of events that NBC was offering. They were all championship-level events, the biggest events in those sports.

At the end of the day, when you weigh those, the preponderance of those events compared to what my current portfolio was at ESPN, it was not one specific thing that was a yea or nay.

Q. Mike, could you give us your thoughts on the move in regards to this. A lot of people view you jumping to NBC as the latest and biggest example of a talent drain at ESPN. Number two, can you tell us about your experience on working on Monday Night Football.

MIKE TIRICO: I’ll take the first one first.

It’s very easy to lob in other moves or different things like that. I would have stayed at ESPN for a long time if the opportunity of a lifetime didn’t come up. I can’t be more honest about it than that.

ESPN was wonderful with the offer. As I said, that’s a very special place. You don’t spend 25 years in TV at one place and not have incredible feelings. I mean, people have said negative things about ESPN [as they were] leaving. I’m not going to. I don’t have them.

I say a heartfelt thank you to the people who make that place still so special. I have an overwhelming number of incredible memories and lifelong friendships from NBA, college basketball, golf, tennis, soccer group, which I’ll get to visit with one more time, and especially Monday Night Football.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Jay Rothman, Chip Dean, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters, and the people I’ve worked with on Monday night. They were family, they were awesome. They were such a great part of my career.

This is not somebody else’s being pushed away from ESPN, at least as far as I’m concerned. I know what it looks like. I know what people have written. I’m telling you this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me. If it wasn’t at such a special place with such a special opportunity, I’d probably be at ESPN for another five or 10 years. This was just the timing of it for me.

As for your question about Monday Night Football, it was a very, very unique and special ride. That chair is a special one, made so by Al Michaels, who is the gold standard for calling football games. Before that, Cosell and Frank Gifford. Before that Keith Jackson and the contributions of Don Meredith, John Madden. You know all the names who were part of Monday night.

I’m proud that the 10 years I was there, along with Jay and Chip, the three of us were there for all 10 years, in the producer, director and play-by-play chair. I’m really proud of what we did as this program evolved to its new home, its new identity.

Was it perfect at the beginning? No. Did we find the best place for the people involved? Yes. Glad I had the Tony Kornheiser couple years of experience. Tony has become a friend. I learned a lot about me and a lot about TV during that time.

Joe Theismann was great. Jaws is a lifetime friend. Suzy Kolber, Michele Tafoya were great reporters to work with. Thrilled to be on the same team as Michele again at NBC. Lisa has done a great job since she’s hopped in there. Now Jon Gruden has been wonderful. Jon is a friend for life.

I know that 10 years made me into a primetime football broadcaster and helped change my professional career. I’m indebted to the people who made it so special.

Q. Mike, as it says in the press release, 1987 you got the first Bob Costas scholarship at Syracuse. Now it’s come full circle. What is it like to be under that same NBC umbrella with Mr. Costas?

MIKE TIRICO: It’s incredible, it really is. Bob’s run as not just the Olympic host but the lead face and voice on NBC Sports is unparalleled, it’s unprecedented, and it’s without peer.

He’s incredible. He is absolutely incredible. You want to create a template for broadcasting students to look at, observe, how to host an event, how to strike the right tone at the right moment, from humor to the right touch to gravitas to everything, Bob has done it and continues to do it every single day.

I think this is one elaborate ploy for me to somehow repay Bob for the scholarship money that I received back in 1987. So I’ll probably have to buy a dinner or two somewhere along the way.

But the joy of getting that scholarship was, for somebody who grew up watching Bob at that point in my life, it was a huge deal to meet him. It has become even better over the almost 30 years at Syracuse University, the events and endeavors regarding the Newhouse School of Communications there, we’ve been able to share a love and connection of our school, of sports, TV.

Getting to know Bob, getting to know Al, has been part of the thrill for me being in this role over the last few years. I’m just excited we’ll be able to take that to an even greater level here over the next few years.

Q. It’s anticipated here in a half hour that Sean McDonough is going to be announced as your successor. Tell me what it would mean if he does get the position, or tell me about him as a broadcaster or friend?

MIKE TIRICO: I don’t feel comfortable in taking part in speculation after being part of speculation for two weeks. I’ll wait till that’s official.

I can tell you that Sean is one of my greatest, closest friends. Any chair that Sean McDonough sits in is one that is in great hands. If that does become the case later on, you know where to find me. I’ll be happy to say wonderful things about one of my favorite people.