Chet Simmons

Sports Executive


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his four-hour Archive interview, Chet Simmons (1928-2010) speaks about his early interest in following sports, on radio and in print. He notes his work selling time to small radio stations in the Southwest, meeting Edgar Scherick at this job. He describes working in television mentored by Scherick (who taught him the business) and Jack Loubelle (who taught him television production), for their company Sports Programs, Inc.— working as a jack-of-all-trades production assistant, at first on big ten basketball. He talks about the expansion of the company under their exclusive deal with ABC and speaks frankly about Scherick's difficult personality (and abrupt departure from the company), yet compliments his successes. He relates a story of how the company, under Scherick, was able to get the rights for college football away from NBC in the mid-60s. He also describes the working methods of Roone Arledge and his growing stature as a legendary figure in television. He outlines the concept of ABC's Wide World of Sports and describes how the show launched Jim McKay as a major sports announcer. He recounts how he came to work for NBC, speaks about his colleagues, and acknowledges how he became the first President of NBC Sports— the title created in 1977 for the first time. He speaks about his disappointment in losing college basketball to CBS due to disinterest internally and how this was the beginning of NBC's loss of dominance in sports.  He recalls hearing about a "sports-all-the-time" network that was being bandied about and the call he received to hire him to run this new Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (EPSN). He outlines the idea of the network by Bill Rasmussen (and his embracing of newly developed satellite technology) and speaks openly about how he was responsible for Rasmussen's leaving the network. He talks about the contribution of Getty Oil executive Stuart Evey to early ESPN as well as NBC veteran Scotty Connal's contribution to getting the network on the air. He describes getting the sports coverage necessary to fulfill the network's (eventual) mandate of 24-hour sports. He looks back on the first day's programming and the emotions he felt, comparing it to the birth of a child. He outlines the kinds of sports the network showed and notes their breakthrough in programming with college basketball. He comments on the network's location in Bristol, CT; describes his management style; speaks about the network's Sportscenter; and describes how he came to leave the network. Lastly, he talks about his appointment as the Commissioner of the United States Football League. Paul Leone conducted the interview in Atlanta, GA on December 16, 2008.

"When I started, there was really no sports television. We started it, Roone Arledge, myself, Edgar, Jim Spence, we started the golden age of sports on television. Nobody else did it. We did it with 'Wide World of Sports,' we did it with professional football, we did it with everything. We started all of this."

Interviewee(s)
Highlights
Chet Simmons on the creation and format of ABC's Wide World of Sports, and on host Jim McKay
Chet Simmons on philosophy regarding sports programming
Chet Simmons on his management style
Chet Simmons on his most memorable ABC's Wide World of Sports moments
Chet Simmons on career achievements and regrets, and on what makes a great sportscaster
Chet Simmons on life after his retirement from the USFL
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on his first job in television working on closed circuit boxing matches, and on joining Sports Programs, Inc.; on Sports Programs, Inc. becoming ABC Sports
On ABC executive Edgar J. Scherick; on the Sports Programs, Inc. affiliation with ABC Sports, and on the state of network sports programming in the early '60s
On how equipped arenas and stadiums were in the '60s and '70s for television; on the selling of Sports Programs Inc. to ABC, and on his role at ABC Sports; on working with Roone Arledge
On the creation and format of ABC's Wide World of Sports, and on host Jim McKay; on his most memorable ABC's Wide World of Sports moments
On the John F. Kennedy assassination and funeral, and on television's coverage of the event; on becoming director of programming for NBC Sports

Chapter 2

On how NBC Sports compared to ABC Sports at the time circa 1964, and on losing the rights to NCAA Basketball; on his duties as vice president of NBC Sports; on philosophy regarding sports programming
On the sporting events NBC covered during his tenure, the profitability of NBC Sports, and on being named president of the division in 1979; on changes he brought about as president of NBC News, and on dealing with the Olympics; on the gentlemanly competition among networks for broadcast rights of sporting events during his tenure at NBC Sports
On working with Don Ohlmeyer; on hiring ex-athletes for the broadcast booth; on Lee Leonard hosting GrandStand
On leaving NBC Sports for the newly created ESPN; on being named president of ESPN five weeks before it launched;
On ESPN founders Bill and Scott Rasmussen, and the other people at the network when it started; on ESPN's early scheduling process

Chapter 3

On the scheduling process at ESPN; on the amount of live coverage ESPN did in their early years, and on the number of viewers and cable system at its launch; on the first moments on the air at ESPN, and on the look and sponsors of the network at the time
On ESPN's schedule when they first went on the air, and the demographics of the network and early success; on ESPN's early offices, equipment, technology, and location; on the growth of ESPN during his tenure
On his management style; on the atmosphere he created at ESPN during his tenure, and on his negotiation style; on sports analysis programming at ESPN
On the beginnings of ESPN's SportsCenter, and on the format of the show; on Chris Berman as anchor of SportsCenter, and on obtaining daily sports highlights from the broadcast networks; on ESPN and SportsCenter's style of highlight presentation, and on the nick names given to athletes on ESPN

Chapter 4

On how ESPN changed over time in terms of branding; on sporting events ESPN covered that weren't previously done, and various other events ESPN covered; on ESPN being competitive with broadcast networks, and on ESPN's disadvantages and advantages in competing with the networks
On how the audience numbers for ESPN over the years; on his most memorable moments at ESPN; on ESPN's role in the creation of the sports megastar, and on the legacy of ESPN
On why he left ESPN and going to work for the USFL; on life after his retirement from the USFL; on his sports lifetime achievement Emmy Award
On career achievements and regrets, and on what makes a great sportscaster; on how sports have changed over the years, and on the then-future of sports broadcasting
On advice to an aspiring sports executive; on how he'd like to be remembered, and on being one of the fathers of sports television
Shows

ABC's Wide World of Sports

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Chet Simmons on the creation and format of ABC's Wide World of Sports, and on host Jim McKay
Chet Simmons on his most memorable ABC's Wide World of Sports moments

GrandStand

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Chet Simmons on Lee Leonard hosting GrandStand

SportsCenter

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Chet Simmons on the beginnings of ESPN's SportsCenter, and on the format of the show
Chet Simmons on Chris Berman as anchor of SportsCenter, and on obtaining daily sports highlights from the broadcast networks
Chet Simmons on ESPN and SportsCenter's style of highlight presentation, and on the nick names given to athletes on ESPN
Topics

Advice

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Chet Simmons on advice to an aspiring sports executive

Emmy Awards

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Chet Simmons on his sports lifetime achievement Emmy Award

Historic Events and Social Change

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Chet Simmons on the John F. Kennedy assassination and funeral, and on television's coverage of the event

JFK Assassination and Funeral

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Chet Simmons on the John F. Kennedy assassination and funeral, and on television's coverage of the event

John F. Kennedy

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Chet Simmons on the John F. Kennedy assassination and funeral, and on television's coverage of the event

Network Creation

View Topic
Chet Simmons on leaving NBC Sports, and on the creation of ESPN
Chet Simmonson leaving NBC Sports for the newly created ESPN
Chet Simmons on ESPN founders Bill and Scott Rasmussen, and the other people at the network when it started
Chet Simmons on ESPN's early scheduling process
Chet Simmons on ESPN's early primetime schedule
Chet Simmons on the amount of live coverage ESPN did in their early years, and on the number of viewers and cable system at its launch
Chet Simmons on the first moments on the air at ESPN, and on the look and sponsors of the network at the time
Chet Simmons on ESPN's schedule when they first went on the air, and the demographics of the network and early success
Chet Simmons on ESPN's early offices, equipment, technology, and location
Chet Simmons on the growth of ESPN during his tenure

Technological Innovation

View Topic
Chet Simmons on ESPN's early offices, equipment, technology, and location

Television Industry

View Topic
Chet Simmons on the selling of Sports Programs Inc. to ABC, and on his role at ABC Sports
Chet Simmons on leaving NBC Sports for the newly created ESPN
Chet Simmons on being named president of ESPN five weeks before it launched
Chet Simmons on ESPN founders Bill and Scott Rasmussen, and the other people at the network when it started
Chet Simmons on ESPN's early scheduling process
Chet Simmons on ESPN's early primetime schedule
Chet Simmons on the amount of live coverage ESPN did in their early years, and on the number of viewers and cable system at its launch
Chet Simmons on the first moments on the air at ESPN, and on the look and sponsors of the network at the time
Chet Simmons on ESPN's schedule when they first went on the air, and the demographics of the network and early success
Chet Simmons on ESPN's early offices, equipment, technology, and location
Chet Simmons on the growth of ESPN during his tenure
Chet Simmons on how ESPN changed over time in terms of branding
Chet Simmons on ESPN being competitive with broadcast networks, and on ESPN's disadvantages and advantages in competing with the networks
Chet Simmons on how the audience numbers for ESPN over the years
Chet Simmons on why he left ESPN
Chet Simmons on going to work for the USFL
Chet Simmons on advice to an aspiring sports executive

Television and the Presidency

View Topic
Chet Simmons on the John F. Kennedy assassination and funeral, and on television's coverage of the event
Professions

Executives

View Profession
Chet Simmons on how NBC Sports compared to ABC Sports at the time circa 1964, and on losing the rights to NCAA Basketball
Chet Simmons on his duties as vice president of NBC Sports
Chet Simmons on philosophy regarding sports programming
Chet Simmons on changes he brought about as president of NBC News, and on dealing with the Olympics
Chet Simmons on the gentlemanly competition among networks for broadcast rights of sporting events during his tenure at NBC Sports
Chet Simmons on hiring ex-athletes for the broadcast booth
Chet Simmons on his management style
Chet Simmons on the atmosphere he created at ESPN during his tenure, and on his negotiation style
Chet Simmons on sports analysis programming at ESPN
Chet Simmons on advice to an aspiring sports executive

Sports Executive

View Profession
Chet Simmons on how NBC Sports compared to ABC Sports at the time circa 1964, and on losing the rights to NCAA Basketball
Chet Simmons on his duties as vice president of NBC Sports
Chet Simmons on philosophy regarding sports programming
Chet Simmons on changes he brought about as president of NBC News, and on dealing with the Olympics
Chet Simmons on the gentlemanly competition among networks for broadcast rights of sporting events during his tenure at NBC Sports
Chet Simmons on hiring ex-athletes for the broadcast booth
Chet Simmons on his management style
Chet Simmons on the atmosphere he created at ESPN during his tenure, and on his negotiation style
Chet Simmons on sports analysis programming at ESPN
Chet Simmons on advice to an aspiring sports executive
Genres

Sports

View Genre
Chet Simmons on his first job in television working on closed circuit boxing matches, and on joining Sports Programs, Inc.
Chet Simmons on Sports Programs, Inc. becoming ABC Sports
Chet Simmons on the Sports Programs, Inc. affiliation with ABC Sports, and on the state of network sports programming in the early '60s
Chet Simmons on how equipped arenas and stadiums were in the '60s and '70s for television
Chet Simmons on becoming director of programming for NBC Sports
Chet Simmons on the creation and format of ABC's Wide World of Sports
Chet Simmons on how NBC Sports compared to ABC Sports at the time circa 1964, and on losing the rights to NCAA Basketball
Chet Simmons on the sporting events NBC covered during his tenure, the profitability of NBC Sports, and on being named president of the division in 1979
Chet Simmons on sporting events ESPN covered that weren't previously done, and various other events ESPN covered
Chet Simmons on his most memorable moments at ESPN
Chet Simmons on ESPN's role in the creation of the sports megastar, and on the legacy of ESPN
Chet Simmons on how sports have changed over the years, and on the then-future of sports broadcasting
People

Roone Arledge

View Person Page
Chet Simmons on working with Roone Arledge

Jim McKay

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Chet Simmons on the creation and format of ABC's Wide World of Sprots, and on host Jim McKay

Don Ohlmeyer

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Chet Simmons on working with Don Ohlmeyer

Edgar J. Scherick

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Chet Simmons on ABC executive Edgar J. Scherick

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