Chris Berman will assume a much-reduced role at ESPN after the current NFL season, the network announced on Thursday.
Berman, 61, who has been with ESPN since shortly after its launch in 1979 and been its primary NFL studio host for 31 years, will step down as host of “Sunday NFL Countdown,” “NFL PrimeTime” and “Monday Night Countdown” after Super Bowl LI.
He also will no longer host the NFL Draft and Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby.
Berman signed a new deal that will have him appear weekly on the Monday night studio show, conducting taped interviews and hosting historical segments. He also will do baseball play-by-play on ESPN radio during the playoffs and take part in the ESPYs. He still will host “NFL PrimeTime” after the NFL conference championship games and the Super Bowl.
Sports Business Daily first reported the news of Berman’s new role.
“The whole experience here has been a dream come true,” Berman said in a news release. “When we started in 1979, I was just 24. Nobody knew if ESPN would make it, or, for that matter, if cable TV would make it. I certainly wasn’t sure I would make it, but I really didn’t care. We were too busy having a blast, talking sports with viewers who were just like us, even if it was during the wee hours of the morning. We got to band together here in Bristol, Connecticut, and put out a product of which we were all very proud.
“What I didn’t know I was signing up for was a lifetime of friendships and, I like to think, respect. Respect from those I have worked with and from those in sports I have covered, and respect from those viewers who welcomed us into their homes. That’s what hits me the most as I look back at these past 38 years — knowing that all of this happened while we were just having fun and trying to get it right.
“I’ve been lucky enough to spend almost two-thirds of my life at ESPN, and I am honored to have lent a small hand in laying the cornerstone for what has truly become a beacon in sports.
“I’m thrilled that this ride will continue, albeit differently. Today’s announcement allows me to fulfill perhaps my final professional goal — knowing that I will finish with the team I came in with.”
ESPN President John Skipper added: “Chris is one of a kind. His innovation, passion, preparation and on-air acumen have helped define ESPN. He wrote the book on delivering highlights which still serves as the standard to this day. ESPN’s mission is to serve fans. No one has done that with greater resonance than Chris and his dramatic connection to fans played a significant role in establishing a successful ESPN. We look forward to Chris’s continuing contributions while understanding that his place on our Mount Rushmore is assured.”
ESPN senior vice president Stephanie Druley told Sports Business Daily, “It’s always been about finding the best fit, and Chris has had a say in every part of that. By no means are we pushing him out the door, or even easing him out the door.”
Druley said no replacements have been considered yet.