CBS had to see this coming when they raised the stakes and gave Tony Romo $180 million earlier this year. Now that Romo’s TV partner Jim Nantz is set to be a free agent next year, he’s seeking a similar pay increase.
According to Andrew Marchand of The New York Post, Nantz wants to top Romo’s $17.5 annual salary, a number that far exceeds other network sportscasters. As their lead voice for NFL football, college basketball and the PGA, Nantz is the face of CBS Sports and one of the premier broadcasters in the industry.
Having been a prominent voice for CBS since the 1980s, Nantz currently makes $6.5 million per year, just over a third of what Romo earns. In comparison, Marchand reports the lead play-by-play voice for FOX, Joe Buck makes $10.5 million per year.
One of the best negotiating ploys for CBS is having Ian Eagle on their roster, an elite announcer who could fill the void if Nantz departs. CBS could have tried pairing Eagle and Romo last weekend while Nantz was working The Masters. Instead, CBS chose to give Romo the week off, reportedly under the influence of Nantz who preferred the former quarterback didn’t work with another partner.
If Romo was able to spin a three-year $10 million rookie contract into the unprecedented $17.5 million per year he makes now, Nantz understandably feels deserving of a substantial pay increase. As good as Romo is as an analyst, he works around 20 NFL games each season, while Nantz is an essential voice for multiple major sporting events throughout the calendar year.
Romo’s negotiation earlier this year was helped by ESPN eagerly chasing his services to join their Monday Night Football booth. Disney’s ESPN ultimately landed on a trio of Steve Levy, Louis Riddick and Brian Griese, but Nantz could prove to be an attractive addition as they negotiate with the NFL in hopes of increasing their TV rights. As part of their negotiations, Disney has sought to return the NFL to ABC and enter the network Super Bowl rotation.
Just last week, the 61-year old Nantz expressed a desire to work into his 80s, with plans of anchoring The Masters coverage beyond 2035. Golf’s most prestigious tournament is synonymous with CBS, but The Masters has signed one-year contracts with the network since 1956. Nantz is similarly synonymous with The Masters and if he signed a deal with Disney, it could open the door for ABC to acquire the tournament.
ESPN believed they had a real chance at plucking Romo from CBS. But after 30 years with CBS, it’s difficult to imagine Nantz working for any other network. If Nantz wants to create a bidding war like Romo’s, his hardest challenge will be convincing networks he’s willing to leave CBS, a place he’s so strongly associated with.