Rome Burns ESPN, Blazes Trail To CBS Sports Network

Jim Rome has signed a deal with CBS Sports Network, according to reports. His "Jim Rome Is Burning" TV show will be moving there from ESPN2, where it had aired for the last five months. By comparison, his first stint with ESPN2 in the 90's lasted five years.

“Jim Rome Is Burning” is getting ready to burn a hole in the Worldwide Leader.

According to Jason McIntyre at The Big Lead, “sources” inform him that Jim Rome, with his contract at ESPN expired, will be taking the video version of his nationally-syndicated radio talk show to CBS Sports Network at a time to be determined. His final ESPN show is scheduled for January 27.

“Burning,” whose title was inspired (I am guessing mostly, if not partly) by the Great Fire of Rome that occurred in the future capital of Italy in the summer of the year 64 A.D., compiles athlete interviews with a collection of Rome’s “takes” on current sports topics, roundtables with other sports journalists, and other segments. Rome had been hosting a radio show for nearly a quarter-century, and his daily radio show has been syndicated by Premiere Networks for over 15 years.

“Jim Rome Is Burning” was originally a weekly program when it debuted it 2003, before becoming a daily program in winter 2005. It enjoyed a time slot in ESPN’s late afternoon lineup – as a lead-in to their popular hour offering of “Around The Horn” followed by “Pardon The Interruption” – before moving to sister network ESPN2 in September 2011, to accommodate the expansion of “NFL Live” from a half-hour to a one-hour format.

Word on the street is that a combination of otherwise being “demoted” to ESPN2, plus “Burning” not being promoted as much as two new ESPN2 shows, including one hosted by frequent “Interruption” substitute co-host Dan LeBatard, is what likely led to Rome turning down a multi-year offer from ESPN, and instead taking his video “Jungle” to CBS Sports Network – which up until last spring, had been known as CBS College Sports – where Rome will be promised “an expanded role at the network beyond the show,” per The Big Lead’s McIntyre.

In the wake of this development, there are several interesting insights in the Twittersphere. Sports By Brooks tweeted that former ESPN executive vice president of programming and current Six Flags CEO Mark Shapiro “pitched Jim Rome TV to NBC Sports Network [then known as Versus] last fall. Passed.” And Timothy Burke notes that “Burning” leaving ESPN “means the Worldwide Leader finally has all regular programming in HD,” adding “Burning” was the “last non-ESPN-owned show.” (It’s produced by Mandt Bros. Productions in association with ESPN Original Entertainment.)

Meanwhile, SI’s Jimmy Traina speculates that with the move from ESPN to CBS, “CBS owns WFAN. Could Rome go to [WFAN]?” While it is true that their most popular host is mulling retirement, it is likely that WFAN will stay the course with its roster of hosts, all of which are local, as opposed to syndicated, like Rome’s radio program is. And New York radio listeners had already experienced Rome’s “Jungle” when it aired on ESPN’s radio station in Market No. 1 right around the time his TV show started. Problem was, it was usually relegated to tape-delay in evening or overnight time slots (which meant frequent pre-emption by live sports programming). (Footnote: Rome’s radio show had also been cleared in Chicago on the ESPN Radio station there; upon that station canceling the program, the Cubs had started a losing streak, and Rome was quick to link the Cubbies’ misfortune to the “jungle karma” of his radio show being canned in the Windy City.) But who knows if there are any radio opportunities included in Rome’s new deal with CBS. Incidentally, though, it comes one week removed from his longtime Houston radio affiliate KILT-AM – owned by CBS Radio – cancelling his radio show citing low ratings. I don’t think there are any other “Jim Rome Show” affiliates owned by CBS, but Houston is a top-10 market.

Rome also hosted a show on Fox Sports Net in the early 2000’s, “The Last Word.”

By the way, this marks Rome’s second go-round with ESPN2: One of the network’s first original programs upon its launch in 1993 was “Talk2,” which was hosted by Rome for the duration of its six-year run.

I’ll close on this note: On the heels of the Rome deal, wouldn’t you love to see CBS hire Jim Everett as a sports analyst?

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