A month ago I was sad to see the MLB Network cave in to the perceived need for perceived gravitas and give Bob Costas a feature spot on its debut broadcast. At the time, however, I was comforted by the fact that it seemed to be a one-off. Apparently it’s now a forever-off:
Bob Costas, a 19-time Emmy Award winner and NBC broadcaster, has signed a multi-year contract to join the upstart* MLB Network, CNBC has learned, though he will remain at NBC Sports.
The MLB network, which debuted on Jan. 1 as the largest launch in cable history at 50 million homes, will announce the news later today.
Costas will host original programming on the channel and will serve as play-by-play commentator for a select group of regular season games broadcast by the network, which is owned by the league.
I think Costas was — and probably still is — a great play-by-play man, but his Keeper of the Game shtick wears thin in a hurry. If they send him to class-up a Thursday night tilt between the Pirates and the Rockies, wonderful. We’ll all be better for it. If they stick him in a plush armchair and allow him to wax sepia, however, it will represent a major step back for the MLB Network.
*I suppose MLB Network is an “upstart” in the most literal sense (i.e. it just started up) but describing a channel backed by a $6 billion business and owned in part by the nation’s largest cable companies as “upstart” kind of stretches the normal meaning of that word, don’t you think?