CBS Sports signed prize football analyst Tony Romo to a new deal, a major step in parent company ViacomCBS’ efforts to strike a new rights pact with the National Football League as its current contract heads toward the end of its term.
CBS Sports said the company had signed Romo, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback whose acumen for predicting game play has given him a second celebrated career in sports TV, to a new multi-year deal. The New York Post previously broke word of the agreement via Twitter.
Romo’s new deal, said to keep him at CBS beyond its current rights contract with the NFL, is valued at around $17 million per year, according to a person familiar with the matter. At that figure, Romo would be one of the highest-paid on-air personnel in sports media. CBS Sports declined to make executives available for comment.
The NFL’s deal with CBS, NBC and Fox for Sunday football rights ends in 2022. ESPN’s pact for “Monday Night Football” ends in 2021.
Romo only had experience on the field when he joined CBS Sports in 2017 as the lead game analyst on the network’s popular “NFL on CBS.” He has worked for the past three seasons with Jim Nantz and Tracy Wolfson. In February of last year, the trio called Super Bowl LIII together for the first time. CBS will broadcast Super Bowl LV in 2021.
Behind the scenes, Romo worked with CBS football producer Jim Rikhoff to find his TV voice. “We rehearsed different games, old games, took the audio off, did a lot of trial and error, until we found his voice,” Rikhoff told Variety in 2019. “He’s experienced and talks about the games in ways that most people understand,” he said. “It really feels authentic. I try to stay out of his way and give him as much leeway as I can.” Rivals would have been eager to add Romo to their talent roster.
Wall Street has wondered whether ViacomCBS would have the stomach to pursue the NFL past its current agreement, a sentiment potentially bolstered by CBS Sports’ decision to cut ties with the Southeastern Conference after televising its games since 1996. “We made a strong and responsible bid. While we’ve had success with the SEC on CBS, we are instead choosing to aggressively focus on other important strategic priorities moving forward,” CBS Sports said in a statement last year after walking away from the chance to renew an SEC contract.
Under new CEO Bob Bakish, the newly merged ViacomCBS has taken pains to show the NFL that the company has new ways to call attention to the sport. In February, the company kicked off a year-long promotional effort behind next year’s Super Bowl broadcast, touting the girdiron classic in promos that appeared on 24 of its TV networks. Many digital players would love to wrap their broadband around a new NFL rights package ,and the league has certainly tested giving some games to Amazon and YouTube, but officials continue to indicate their interest in making certain the sport reaches the broadest possible audience with every game broadcast.
Bakish has certainly telegraphed his company’s ability to draw a crowd. “We bring broadcast reach, first-class creative capabilities, young market reach to complement the older reach and international reach,” Bakish said during a talk with investors in September. “That’s a very substantial package as we move forward.”