Ebersol’s exit leaves golf void at NBC
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Dick Ebersol, the NBC executive who put the Ryder Cup back on network television and made Johnny Miller golf’s most prominent analyst, resigned May 19, citing a contract dispute.
When Comcast Corp. acquired NBC Universal in January, Ebersol remained as chairman of NBC Sports, which included oversight of Comcast’s cable entities, including Golf Channel. In February, Ebersol appointed one of his proteges, Mike McCarley, president of Golf Channel.
McCarley described Ebersol as “equal parts producer, promoter and partner,” adding that “partnership formed the foundation of NBC Sports, and he always taught that.”
Indeed, executives at the tours indicated that relations with Golf Channel had improved since NBC Sports took over in February, adding that they appreciated the hands-on style of Ebersol, who even sat in the production truck at The Players Championship.
Brian Carroll, the LPGA’s vice president of television, said NBC’s leadership had embraced Golf Channel initiatives that showcase his tour’s stars. Those include “building up the players through storytelling” and doing cross-promotions with the LPGA.
Ebersol, 63, loved big events. He worked on ABC’s Olympic coverage as a young researcher in the late 1960s, and after taking over NBC Sports in 1989, he secured the rights to the 1996 Summer Olympics.
Under his leadership, NBC paid $5 million to put the Ryder Cup’s weekend matches back on network TV in 1991 and ’93. Despite going up against college football, the NFL and Major League Baseball, the 1991 “War by the Shore” at Kiawah Island, S.C., ignited popular interest in the event. When the Saturday four-ball matches ran long, NBC stayed on the air commercial-free until play concluded.
Mark Lazarus, who oversaw Golf Channel as president of NBC Sports Cable Group, has replaced Ebersol as chairman of NBC Sports.