Kornheiser to Monday Night Football?


IMHO, this would be great. I'd actually sit through that awful Joe Theisman if I could hear Mr. Tony.

X's and a Lot of O's: Media Giants Seek Kornheiser

By Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 2, 2006; C08


All of a sudden, the hottest, most sought-after franchise player in the sports world may be a guy who describes himself as "fat, bald and old."

Tony Kornheiser, the Washington Post columnist and ESPN yakker, has become the object of a bidding war among media companies, with deals worth millions of dollars -- and the lineups of newspapers, TV and radio stations -- hanging in the balance.

The list of Kornheiser's suitors includes ESPN, XM and Sirius radio, Bonneville International Corp., The Washington Post and Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, who wants Kornheiser as a host for his newly purchased string of radio stations.

Kornheiser, suddenly the prettiest girl at the prom, says he's unsure whom he'll dance with next. "It's causing me a lot of anxiety," he said yesterday. "There aren't enough stomach pills in America to calm me. Does Pepto-Bismol make industrial-strength tablets?"

He calls the attention "incredibly flattering" and "an embarrassment of riches."

ESPN is talking with Kornheiser about taking over one of the color-commentary chairs on "Monday Night Football" next season, when the games will move from Disney-owned ABC to Disney-owned ESPN. Kornheiser is under contract to ESPN for "Pardon the Interruption," the daily sports talk show he hosts with fellow Post columnist Michael Wilbon. The "MNF" job -- which Kornheiser tried out for five years ago before ABC picked comedian Dennis Miller -- would more than double Kornheiser's reported $900,000-a-year "PTI" contract, according to sources.

The hitch: It's unclear whether Al Michaels, "MNF's" play-by-play man, will return to the booth next season. Michaels reportedly wants to join NBC, which will carry NFL games next season. If ESPN lets Michaels out of his contract, he would be replaced by ESPN's Mike Tirico, with Kornheiser and former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann as commentators, sources said. If Michaels stays, however, ESPN plans to use only Theismann for color.

Kornheiser also is being sought by the two rival satellite radio services, Sirius and XM, which want him to host a daily sports talk show. Sirius is allied with Snyder, who last month bought three small radio stations in the Washington area and plans to convert them into outlets that will broadcast Redskins games and other sports programs.

Those deliberations, in turn, affect Kornheiser's involvement with four local media outlets: WTEM-AM; the new WTWP-AM and FM; The Post; and WRC-TV.

Kornheiser hosts a weekday program on WTEM (980) and each week writes three Post sports columns (or "columnettes," as he calls the short pieces that appear on Page 2 of the Sports section).

Kornheiser said it's possible that because of time constraints, he would take a leave from his Post column if he landed the "MNF" job. His fear of flying would put him on the road (in a specially outfitted bus) five days a week, he said, leaving limited time to write for the paper, which he joined in 1979. But Kornheiser and the newspaper want to continue the relationship.

"We want Tony to be a big part of this newspaper for years to come, and we'll work with him on a new schedule to see that it happens," said Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, The Post's assistant managing editor for sports.

Bonneville, the owner of radio station WTOP, is seeking Kornheiser's services for its new station, WTWP, which it will launch next month in conjunction with The Post.

Separately, Kornheiser works intermittently for WRC-Channel 4 as a panelist (and substitute host) on "Redskins Report." It's unclear whether he could continue on the show given his other commitments.

Why all the attention now for the 57-year-old Kornheiser?

"He's got an established name, whether in The Post, on radio, or on TV with 'PTI,' " said Joel Oxley, Bonneville's senior vice president. "He's proven to be successful. The guy pulls in an audience. He has marquee value. Plus, he's local. You've got a very interesting combination of factors. If you can get someone like him, and get him at the right price, you do it."

Said John Walsh, executive editor of ESPN: "I love Tony. I love everything Tony does. I've loved him from the day I met him in 1970 when he walked into Newsday. He's the most talented guy in the history of sports media, a multimedia guy in the Dick Schaap tradition."

The biggest loser in the Kornheiser sweepstakes could be WTEM, the sports talk station. Kornheiser so thoroughly dominates the station's weekday programming that the station could almost be renamed WTK. His two-hour show at 9 a.m. is repeated at 11 a.m., giving him four consecutive hours on the air daily. In addition, he participates in the station's "Sports Reporters" program and is heard on tape at other times. The station also has rebroadcast the audio portion of "Pardon the Interruption" during the evening (XM rebroadcasts Kornheiser's WTEM show, as well).

Snyder has direct connections to Kornheiser via WTEM's former managers, Bennett Zier and Tod Castleberry. Zier, who oversaw WTEM and seven other Washington area stations owned by Clear Channel Communications, left the company last month to run Snyder's Red Zebra Broadcasting, a new company that will operate Snyder's media ventures. Zier was joined a week later by Castleberry, who was program director of WTEM and three other Clear Channel stations.

Kornheiser would be prohibited from writing for The Post if he accepted a position with a Snyder-owned company. Under the newspaper's conflict-of-interest rules, a sportswriter cannot write about a team while accepting payment from it.

Staff writer Howard Kurtz contributed to this report.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

Comments

danugh said…
Well, it's official. It's going to be Mike Tirico, Joe Thiesman, and Tony K on MNF.

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