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Jim Rome signs with CBS/Showtime

Sports guru to have broadcast and cable presence

Sports yakker Jim Rome has signed a multiyear deal with CBS that will showcase him on Showtime and CBS Sports Network as well as the Eye itself.

Rome will contribute interviews and features to CBS Sports’ broadcast coverage of the NFL, college basketball, U.S. Open tennis and other events, while also hosting a new sports and entertainment series on Showtime set to debut in the fall.

“I don’t think there’s anybody else that could have afforded me this opportunity,” Rome told Variety. “I’m really fired up.”

The radio mainstay, who will continue to host nationally syndicated “The Jim Rome Show” on 244 stations, will also front “Rome,” a half-hour program weekdays on cabler CBS Sports Network, and contribute to CBSSports.com.

“We are looking for really high-profile, highly recognizable programming for the CBS Sports Network and obviously for Showtime and CBS Sports also,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said. “He’s got more than 2 million radio listeners every day, 600,000 followers on Twitter … to be able to bring that fanbase to CBS is a win-win for everybody.”

ESPN’s “Jim Rome Is Burning” signs off Jan. 27. Rome’s CBS debut will come March 31 during college basketball’s Final Four, with “Rome” premiering April 3 on CBS Sports Network.

Though a wider audience will see Rome on the CBS broadcast side, fulfilling a decades-old ambition of Rome’s to work for one of the major networks, his biggest impact will probably be in cable. Showtime entertainment prexy David Nevins said that the show, from Dick Clark Prods., is in initial stages of discussion but has “grand ambitions,” including an intersection of sports and popular culture. Mark Shapiro, a longtime Rome pal and CEO of DCP’s parent company, is exec producing.

“We’ve been in expansion mode on Showtime Sports,” Nevins said, “but we haven’t had the defining personality. And I felt like our scripted shows, our dramas and our comedies, are defined with particularly interesting personalities, but we’ve been looking to try to find that defining personality (in sports), and I think we’ve got a shot.I want this to be a mainstay show for us. … It’s potentially different from the way we do our series, which are a burst of 10 weeks in a row.”

CBS Sports Network, meanwhile, remains under the sports TV radar, but the aim is for Rome to be a gamechanger.

“We’ve got to figure out ways to attract an audience and build a brand without investing hundreds of millions of dollars,” McManus said. “This is an efficient and intelligent way to do that.” Said Rome: “That’s one of the reasons they brought me in. I’ve got to find away to get people to tune in to that network every single day.”

McManus said the weekday show will have similar elements as “Burning,” but that the partners will “try to make it uniquely a CBS Sports Network program” and not a knockoff. “I am an enormous fan of ESPN broadcasts,” McManus said, “but I think it’s up to us to make a different program that has his signature on it.”

Rome is represented by CAA and attorney David Feldman of Bloom Hergott.

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