There's a sense of inevitability about CBS' choice of McManus

Media Watch

November 14, 1996|By Milton Kent

You could say that Sean McManus was born for the job of network sports president and he wouldn't argue with you.

How could he? McManus, who takes over the helm of CBS Sports for David Kenin starting Dec. 16, has been all over the inside of sports television his entire life, even beyond his lineage as the son of ABC's Jim McKay, the most revered sportscaster of our time.

"Not on purpose, but probably by serendipity, I've had the opportunity to see all the different kind of functions that are involved in this business, and if you had to sort of design a resume or career path that would point toward being the president of a division, I've been fortunate enough to put that together," McManus said the other day.

McManus, 42, started out as a production assistant and associate producer at ABC, before shifting to NBC, where he rose through the ranks to become the youngest vice president in the network's history.

At NBC, McManus ran the programming and development department and helped the network get the 1988 Summer Olympics, as well as keeping Wimbledon, the Orange Bowl and the NFL.

In 1987, McManus moved to International Management Group, where he ran the television division and played the lead role in negotiating rights deals for such important properties as the Olympics, the British Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open tennis.

With those impressive credentials, McManus has been handed a pretty substantial task by Peter Lund, president of CBS, Inc.: Get the sports division back into the forefront.

CBS Sports, which in 1990 carried the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals and Final Four, was left reeling as it gradually lost all but college basketball. The final blow came three years ago when it lost the NFL to Fox, and Kenin spent much of his time applying salve to the division's wounds.

CBS Sports now appears to be back on its feet, and with a big infusion of dough from Westinghouse, the network's new owner, upper management felt it needed a higher-profile person to take the division back to the heights.

Enter McManus, though he cautions his purpose is more than just what everyone figures, which is to get the NFL back on CBS when negotiations open next year. In McManus' mind, the sky is the limit, and that includes a piece of the NBA, and maybe baseball and the Olympics down the line.

"I've been given the assurance from Peter Lund and from the people who run Westinghouse -- that there really is a long-term commitment and an understanding of the value of network sports," said McManus. "I said to the people at Westinghouse: 'I don't want to come in and just be a caretaker. I want to jTC strategically build an asset for you and that asset is going to be CBS Sports.' "

The old college try

Who knows what cruel jokester plotted to get seemingly lifeless Maryland into tonight's ESPN football game against Georgia Tech at 8?

But the Terps are there, and analyst Gary Danielson says things might not be as bad as everybody might think, so long as all the parts of the Maryland offensive machine, particularly quarterback Brian Cummings, are there.

"It'll be tough because they're missing some elements, but I think it will be a pretty competitive game if we can keep the quarterback in the game," Danielson said.

Setting the stage

Leaving the word "ESPNEWS" unspoken throughout, officials of the soon-to-launch CNN/SI yesterday made it clear that their all-sports news channel will be far different from their acknowledged competitor when it premieres Dec. 12.

Jim Walton, the CNN executive shepherding the channel, and Steve Robinson, managing editor of CNN/SI, took great pains to separate the hybrid of CNN and Sports Illustrated from ESPN's new network, which debuted earlier this month.

"What will separate us is the journalism and storytelling. We will have a compelling service that is unique and unlike anything that's out there," said Robinson, a senior editor at SI.

The pair announced CNN/SI will air original programming each day at 7 a.m., with approximately five-minute updates at the top and bottom of each hour for at least 19 hours every day. ESPNEWS does about seven hours of live shows each day, save for cut-ins to breaking news.

In addition, Walton and Robinson said CNN/SI will not necessarily be highlights-driven, but will rely on the immediacy of CNN and the reporting resources of Sports Illustrated to tell stories and analyze news throughout the day.

In an attempt to boost the new channel's visibility, Walton announced that CNN "Sports Tonight" anchors Nick Charles and Fred Hickman will be hosts of "CNN/Sports Illustrated," which will be simulcast on the two networks each weeknight at 11 p.m.

The two executives declined to give specific figures on how many cable subscribers will air the new channel at launch. ESPNEWS is seen in about 1.5 million homes. No Baltimore-area cable system has plans to carry either system in the foreseeable future.

Pub Date: 11/14/96

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