Halby's Morsels

Halby’s Morsels: Talent salaries; Is Kirk Herbstreit worth $3-4 million per?; Baseball voices moonlighting

MLB smartly emulating NFL, Umpires will share with listeners what they're reviewing and the verdict, No NBA yet; Cavs announcer Michael faced challenges


david halberstam round profile

Salaries in the sports broadcast business vary considerably. Some are frankly outrageous. Let’s go through this list. Is Erin Andrews much better than Lisa Salters? What did Erin contribute to Fox’ Super Bowl coverage? Nowhere near what she’s paid. 

Is Chris Fowler worth $3 million a year? I will say this for his partner Kirk Herbstreit, the garrulous college football analyst. If Kirk is being paid as much as he is, he must feel obligated to earn his keep by spewing words endlessly, whether inane or sleep inducing. 

Michelle Beadle is gone. She no longer hosts ESPN’s NBA studio programming. She obviously isn’t worth $5,000,000.

Stephen A. Smith might be one of the hardest working men at ESPN. He’s ubiquitous. But $8,000,000? Does he attract so many more ESPN subscribers or advertisers? Here’s how Peter Vecsey, the NBA’s most influential columnist ever, responded to Smitty’s salary. “I gagged on my Metamucil when I read what ESPN is supposedly paying him.”

If sportswriters are fortunate enough to have a job, they’re making a fraction of what these broadcasters earn. Is it fair? Let the professors with bow-ties debate it. It’s the American way.

It just irks me when these broadcasters and the many other on-air one-percenters complain about tax reforms that benefit the wealthy. Shush already!

Broadcaster Listed in publication Comment by expert
Troy Aikman $1,000,000 $3,000,000
Erin Andrews $2,000,000 $1,500,000
Skip Bayless $6,000,000 A tad high
Michelle Beadle $5,000,000 Accurate
Terry Bradshaw $1,000,000 $2,500,000
Linda Cohn $3,000,000 $1,000,000 max
Colin Cowherd $6,000,000 Could be right
Lindsay Czarniak $1,500,000 Too high
Chris Fowler $1,500,000 $3,000,000
Mike Golic $5,000,000 $2-3,000,000
Kirk Herbstreit $450,000 $3-4,000,000
Jenele Hill $1,000,000 Maybe at ESPN
Suzy Kolber $3,000,000 $1,000,000
Andrea Kremer $4,000,000 Seems very high
Al Michaels $6,000,000 Could be right
Wendi Nix $800,000 Seems high
Samantha Ponder $4,900,000 Way high
Holly Rowe $800,000 Too high
Lisa Salters $235,000 $500,000
Stephen A. Smith $10,000,000 $8,000,000


When John Madden was first teamed with Vin Scully for several weeks in 1981, the 5’10 Scully was seen in the booth standing near the 6’4 Madden for the broadcast open. Six inches shorter, Scully, standing erect, introduced the bulky Madden saying, “John, my posture is better already!”

John Tesh’s “Roundball Rock” is a tune that’s interchangeable with NBC’s theme during the years the network had the NBA rights. Last year, Fox bought the rights to the catchy tune and now uses it on its college basketball coverage. Each time I hear it, I think to myself, where’s Marv Albert? Marv, NBC, Michael Jordan and Roundball Rock are almost interchangeable with the NBA in the 90s.

I caught up recently with Eric Reid, the longtime television voice of the Miami Heat. He felt and I agree that John Michael, the television announcer of the Cleveland Cavaliers must have faced great pressure when first joining the Cavs. He was initially hired to do radio, succeeding the retiring and legendary Joe Tait. Then, last summer, after eight seasons on radio, Michael moved over to television replacing the beloved Fred McLeod who passed suddenly. Never easy.

Baseball is smartly adopting an NFL practice. It will have its umpires inform fans and listeners what’s being reviewed followed by the decision. It’s time for the NBA and college basketball to do the same. When I last checked with the NBA a couple months ago, Monty McCutchen said the league didn’t want to proceed at this point because it would prolong an already increasing time that it takes to play a game. So the awkwardness continues. When there’s a review or complicated call, officials do come over to the broadcast table and mumble something hurriedly in one of the announcers’ ears. Often they’re not at all clear and the talent and audience are left in the dark. I’m surprised by the NBA’s inaction. They no longer officiate but colorful officials Joey Crawford and Dick Bevetta would have had fun with the mike.

Moonlighting at ESPN

Robert Ford who does a nice job on Astros radio is doing some basketball for ESPN and Kevin Brown, an up and comer, who does Orioles on radio is calling both football and basketball for the Bristolites.

Dave Feldman, play-by-play announcer for ESPN

When I tuned in a basketball telecast a while back, Fresno State at New Mexico on ESPNU, I had no idea who was calling it. After about 15 minutes, I said to myself, this fellow is good. The broadcaster was Dave Feldman with whom I wasn’t at all familiar. He didn’t over-talk and let each trip down the floor build its own mini-paragraph which he vocally punctuated when warranted. I came to learn that Dave played high school basketball in Northern California. One of his teammates was future football coach Jim Harbaugh.

Feldman pointed out that Lobos’ head coach Paul Weir is one of four Canadians who’ve coached DI ball, the founder of the game, James Naismith (Kansas), the known big-man coach, Pete Newell (Cal) and Maurice Joseph, (George Washington).

Dave also noted that Weir suffers from allergies and that doctors in Canada suggested he move to New Mexico to benefit from the climate. All good but the doctors were apparently wrong. The allergies weren’t remedied by the move.

One story is worth ten sets of numbers!

Revisiting the origins of Monday Night Football

We had a piece recently on Roone Arledge and all the credit he was given for creating Monday Night Football on ABC in 1970.

Kevin O’Malley was a longtime network television executive with CBS and later Turner. He lived through the great years of the ABC series. He reminds me that  ABC was the poorest rated of the three networks. CBS and NBC were well ahead of ABC. Fox wasn’t born yet.

One of the challenges that ABC had then according to Kevin, was that it had quite a few affiliates on UHF channels. This was in pre-cable days and UHF (channels 14 and up) vs. VHF (channels 2 to 13) mattered considerably. Reception with those rabbit ears was often fidgety for UHF channels.

Kevin says that he heard through good sources that Roone wanted to low-ball the NFL for the rights. At the time, a non-line entity, Hughes Sports Network, made a bid for the first Monday Night package. But ABC president Jim Duffy told Arledge that if Hughes got the deal, it could pick off some of ABC’s weaker affiliates to cover the games. As it turned out, the ABC bid was lower than Hughes’ offer. But the NFL went with the established ABC anyhow.

Kevin says, “Rozelle was the real visionary there.” He apparently envisioned success and appreciated the value of growing with ABC as opposed to a non-line Hughes Sports Network.



David J. Halberstam

David is a 40-year + industry veteran who served as play-by-play announcer for St. John's University basketball in New York and as radio play-by-play voice of the Miami Heat in South Florida. He is the author of Sports on New York Radio: A Play-by-Play History and The Fundamentals of Sports Media and Sponsorship Sales: Developing New Accounts.

Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Michael Green
4 years ago

What great stuff! A favorite Scully-Madden moment, and why I thought they were a great pair. Madden referred to a primary defense, a secondary, and … uh, and … and Vin, being Vin, said, “Tertiary.” Madden paused and said, “I could get another degree working with you.” On ABC and Hughes: people forget how big the Hughes Sports Network actually was. It could have been a contender. I also welcome miking the plate umpire, though somebody already has said there’s a distinct possibility that Cowboy Joe West will sing a song instead of describing the play. He actually released an… Read more »