Jim Nantz’s expiring contract is the biggest sports media talent story in 2021. Nantz likely saw the $17.5 million yearly salary his football partner Tony Romo agreed to last year as a shift in the market. It may indeed be a shift, but Nantz and others can’t bring the same case to the table as Romo’s agents did a year ago.
Romo largely benefited from an unprecedented bidding war between CBS and ESPN/Disney. Should a semi-bidding war for Nantz ignite, it’d also likely be between CBS vs. ESPN since Fox has Joe Buck and NBC has Mike Tirico pinned as Al Michaels’ successor. Unlike Romo, Nantz has to negotiate a deal during a pandemic. We’ve reported numerous times at OutKick that the pandemic has hit ESPN particularly hard, affecting numerous talent negotiations.
According to the New York Post, Nantz currently makes $6.5 million per year, and he now aims for a Romo-like contact. That said, neither Nantz nor CBS would benefit by parting ways.
The sports world spent last week debating whether Aaron Rodgers would be better off away from the Packers, and the answer is no. Green Bay certainly wouldn’t be better without Rodgers. Nantz and CBS have a similar relationship.
While Nantz may have many high profile NFL assignments, that’s not where he has leverage over CBS. Ian Eagle and Romo could get the job done if Nantz were to leave. However, Nantz cannot be replaced on CBS’s Masters’ coverage. “Hello, friends” doesn’t work unless it comes from Nantz, the voice of golf.
On the other side, CBS is the best network for the industry’s top golf voice. A golf package like the one ESPN currently has — which includes the early rounds of The Masters — probably isn’t enough for Nantz.
Nantz is also the voice of the Final Four, which ESPN can’t counter either.
This isn’t to say ESPN won’t reach out to Nantz. ABC/ESPN is expected to get in on the Super Bowl rotation, and while Steve Levy, Louis Riddick, and Brian Griese have all earned another year on Monday Night Football, one question still remains: are they a Super Bowl-caliber booth?
If not, Nantz could help ESPN attract more interest from big-name analysts. ESPN has spent the past several offseasons hunting for QBs such as Romo, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees to put on Monday Night Football.
Sources around the industry expect Nantz to re-sign with CBS, but in these times, expectations don’t mean as much. For Nantz, the $10 million annual range makes sense. As OutKick reported, Mike Tirico is in that area, as is Joe Buck. While in a hypothetical sports media draft, both Buck and Tirico would go before Nantz, contracts follow patterns. Nantz could benefit from the deals Buck and Tirco already have.