CBS Sports has a new CEO. Here’s what that means for golf
CBS Sports gets new CEOs roughly about as often as we get new Supreme Court justices, and the average job term for both gigs — life — is roughly the same. So it qualified as newsworthy Tuesday when CBS announced the retirement of CEO Sean McManus after some 27 years atop the network.
McManus, the CEO and Chairman of CBS Sports since the mid-1990s, leaves CBS after a legendary tenure that shepherded the network into the future of sports TV — its rights agreements with the NFL, SEC, Big 10, NCAA and PGA Tour, solidifying a regular weekend spot for CBS on American TVs. McManus’ tenure will be remembered for overseeing CBS’s growth and expansion as the sports TV rights business exploded from a multi-million-dollar industry into a multi-billion-dollar one. During that time, McManus helped negotiate a pair of nine-year, multi-billion-dollar rights deals with the PGA Tour, expanded the network’s coverage of the PGA Championship, and stewarded three decades’ worth of Masters TV broadcasts.
McManus will be succeeded by his longtime No. 2, David Berson, who has served as president of the network for more than a decade and has been intimately involved in all aspects of the CBS sports business. Berson, a longtime veteran of ESPN’s programming department, was hired away from the worldwide leader in 2011 to help launch CBS Sports Network and oversaw the dramatic expansion of the network’s programming surrounding CBS’s various sports properties. In the years since, he has helped CBS launch a 24-hour streaming network, CBSSportsHQ and was the mastermind behind the network’s Emmy-winning Nickelodeon NFL simulcast.
Berson’s ascension was the longtime succession plan for CBS Sports, and his hiring signifies that CBS is not planning any dramatic shifts in the way it operates its sports TV business. Berson was one of the point people on CBS’s latest round of rights agreements with all of the network’s major stakeholders (golf included), and was involved in the network’s decisions to hire many of its recent on-air voices, including Tony Romo and Trevor Immelman.
As for what it means for CBS’s golf product, the answer is: not very much. Berson now possesses the authority to make sweeping decisions about the network’s broadcast products, but considering CBS is locked into a rights agreement with the PGA Tour until 2029, and Berson was involved with the process that saw producer Sellers Shy’s ascension into the lead chair (a shift that has paid dividends for the network), it feels unlikely he’ll be looking to make any major shakeups to the broadcast product.
Still, it’s a noteworthy development for golf’s longest-running broadcaster, particularly as the PGA Tour reaches the final stages of a framework agreement with the Saudi PIF that could have far-reaching consequences for the Tour’s media rights partners.
There’s still time before we’ll learn what that all means, but this much is clear now: the times are a-changin’ atop CBS, and considering that almost never happens, it’s big news.