May 19, 2011
Dick Ebersol, the powerful head of NBC Sports, has stepped down from his post following a breakdown in contract negotiations. Ebersol helped shepherd through an impressive range of sports programming at NBC, from Super Bowls to Olympics. Golf was part of the package, from Ryder Cups to majors, and the Golf Channel (acquired as part of the NBC-Comcast merger) was expected to bear more of Ebersol's stamp in the coming months.
During his tenure, Ebersol helped bring in the Ryder Cup, the U.S. Open and several major Champions Tour events. He also brokered a deal that involved ESPN getting a piece of the Ryder Cup in which NBC got Al Michaels in exchange for a long-forgotten Walt Disney creation, Oswald the Rabbit. (Here's the whole bizarre story.) NBC has broadcast the Ryder Cup since 1991 and the U.S. Open since 1995.
Ebersol's departure adds uncertainty to the role of the Golf Channel in the NBC/Comcast mix, as well as NBC's plans to bid on PGA Tour tournaments and other events. Our pals over at Fourth-Place Medal have a eulogy/wake/roast for Ebersol's NBC career, focusing heavily on his Olympics legacy. Check that out for some more perspective.