By David Mullen
With the airwaves about to be inundated with college and professional football, the talking heads and stuffed shirts will become highly visible on the small screen. Let’s take a look at what announcers make annually. While many are known for their work in football, some like Bob Costas, Jim Nance, Joe Buck and Mike Tirico are noted for multiple sports. Some announcers even come from traditional journalistic backgrounds.
And they may dabble or are primarily tied to radio. There are on TV and compensation figures which are based on various sources. In television sports announcing, it can pay exorbitant amounts of money to be more obnoxious than good. All figures sited are annual salaries.
Jim “What is up, clones?” Rome reportedly makes $30 million. While he has had a syndicated radio program throughout the U.S. (not available in Dallas) and Canada, Rome signed a deal with CBS Radio, which simulcasts his program on CBS Sports Network, and he appears on CBS Sports pregame shows.
ESPN will show up often on this list. Of course, they call themselves “The Worldwide Leader in Sports,” although they have shied away from traditional sports recently for more poker, E-Games, X-Games and political diatribes. The poster child for political incorrectness is ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, who earns a reported $10 million annually. It is difficult to turn on ESPN and not see him on a ridiculous rant. It is even more difficult to watch him, period.
The versatile Costas, who does baseball, Olympic Games, the Kentucky Derby and is a noted interviewer, makes $7 million. He maintains he was dropped from NFL football on NBC because of his concern about concussion issues.
Following in his father Jack’s footsteps as an announcer, Buck is Fox Sports’ go-to guy on the NFL and MLB. He started nationally at 25. He makes $6 million.
Ouch! Sports talk radio and television blowhard Colin Cowherd makes $6 million, and Skip Bayless, 67, makes $5.5 million. Bayless was paid a $4 million bonus to leave ESPN for Fox Sports 1. Good thing he doesn’t get paid only when he gets an opinion correct. He would owe Fox money. It was bad enough when Smith and Bayless were together on one show. Now they are separated and get more air time.
It only seems appropriate that both Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser, respected journalists and co-hosts of ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption,” each make $6 million. They know how to share the spotlight and consistently provide a thoughtful and entertaining half-hour of sports discussion.
Broadcasting icon Al Michaels, now part of NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” makes $6 million despite a reduced role. Virtually unknown at the time, he leveraged the call “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” in the 1980 U.S. versus USSR Winter Olympics hockey semifinals game into a small fortune. NFL broadcast partner Cris Collinsworth makes a reported $4 million.
There was a lot of head-scratching when ESPN broke up the popular team of Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic. The move has not paid off for ESPN, but Greenberg still makes $6.5 million and Golic $5 million.
“Hello friends.” From NCAA basketball to PGA tournaments to NFL broadcasts, Nance is the face of CBS Sports and makes a reported $5 million annually.
But it pays to have played. Reports are that NFL broadcast analyst and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman makes $7.5 million for FOX, and Nance’s partner Tony Romo inked a three-year, $12 million contract and is now seeking an increase closer to $10 million per year. Both are the best in the business. Jon Gruden walked away from a $6.5 million a year contract as ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” color commentator for a 10-year, $100 million contract to coach the Oakland (soon to be Las Vegas) Raiders.
Dan Patrick, who makes $5 million, went from the early days of ESPN to a host of a popular syndicated radio program gaining great guests and some television appearances on NBC Sports. As veteran announcers began to reduce their workload, the key beneficiary may have been Tirico, who left ESPN for NBC and their sports networks, and works golf and “Sunday Night Football” for $3 million.
Women announcers are relatively new to the game for a variety of reasons, like opportunities and viewer demographics. But quickly, more women are reaching top pay levels. ESPN’s Michelle Beadle is the highest-paid woman in sports media at $5 million; ESPN’S highly profitable “College GameDay” anchor Samantha Ponder makes $4.9 million; and Linda Cohn, at ESPN since 1992, and Suzy Kolber, for decades an ESPN regular, make $3 million. ESPN’s Holly Rowe and Wendi Nix each make $800,000.
Award-winning journalist Andrea Kremer, seen on various outlets including HBO, makes $4 million. Well-known sideline reporter Erin Andrews makes $2 million, and Fox sideline reporter Pam Oliver makes $1 million.
In 1839, author Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” In sports broadcasting, it seems like the pen is mightier than the sword — especially when signing a contract.