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‘Most Valuable Performer’ EP Bob Horowitz on Merging Sports and Entertainment

Bob Horowitz has been producing “Super Bowl Greatest Commercials” for 17 years. The annual special follows a deceptively simple formula, rounding up the most entertaining ads in the history of television’s most prominent advertising platform.

It also is an ideal representation of the unique space that Horowitz, president of Juma Entertainment, occupies in the television landscape — the intersection of sports and entertainment. The same can be said for his new NFL-related franchise, “MVP: Most Valuable Performer,” which on Thursday tapped six finalists, NFL players who will compete in a live talent show Jan. 25 on CBS.

“We wanted to create a show that really took advantage of the huge amount of athletes that have off-the-field talent,” Horowitz said. “It shows a side of the players that is special. When we looked at the nearly 2,000 NFL players, we found that there were a large number who could sing, who could dance, who could play an instrument.”

“MVP” is an interactive show, one that saw a vast array of NFL players display their talents before a voting audience online. Six finalists were selected — Brandon Williams, Justin Tucker and Alex Collins (Baltimore Ravens); Jonathan Stewart (Carolina Panthers); Cody and Jacob Hollister (New England Patriots); and Kevin Zeitler (Cleveland Browns). Domata Peko (Denver Broncos) and Robert Nkemdiche (Arizona Cardinals) will serve as alternates should any of the finalists have to skip the special because of playoff football.

Among the talents the players are set to show off on broadcast are singing, dog tricks, and Irish step dancing. The show has received a commitment for multiple years from CBS.

“It has exceeded our expectations, which is pretty exciting,” Horowitz said.

Early in Horowitz’s television career, he saw the Lakers introduce the NBA’s first courtside seats and celebrities promptly fill those perches. It made him realize that mixing sports and entertainment could be a recipe for television success.

“For 20 years, we’ve been figuring out TV formats where you could feature a sports star known for their athletic ability, then take them outside of that and put them in
a different environment and see what happens,” Horowitz said. “What you quickly see is the same competitive juices that exist on a basketball court or on a football field definitely cross over.”

Formerly head of IMG Television, Horowitz’s production credits include “Pool Kings,” “Greatest Holiday Commercial Countdown,” “The World Dog Awards,” “Vanilla Ice Goes Amish,” and “Ochocinco: The Ultimate Catch.” For “MVP,” he had to recruit players and secure the cooperation of the NFL and the NFL Players Association. CAA brought together the NFLPA’s content arm with Horowitz to make a new entertainment franchise happen. “They knew that I have an expertise being able to create entertainment formats for sports stars.”

Horowitz fully expects his newest venture in that arena to draw the same enthusiasm as his previous efforts.

“These are sports stars that are really going to be training, then — on your mark, get set, go — they’re going to have to perform,” he said. “That’s going to be great drama for the viewers at home.”

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