Sean McManus, one of the most integral executives in TV history, will retire as the chairman of CBS Sports early next year, The Post has learned.
McManus will be succeeded by his longtime No. 2, David Berson, who will retain his president’s title and add CEO of the division.
McManus began as the head of CBS Sports in 1996.
Two years later, McManus defined his legacy by leading CBS’ re-acquisition of the NFL package in 1998.
In 1993, before McManus was at the helm, CBS lost its rights to NFC games to Fox.
In the aftermath of losing the NFL, CBS, as a network, plummeted in the ratings, but its fortunes changed when football returned to Sundays.
Nearly a quarter-century later, the NFL is still at the core of CBS Sports and Paramount+’s plans — which also includes March Madness, the Masters and major college football.
McManus will stay on through the Super Bowl, which is on CBS, and the Masters.
“The timing just feels right to me,” McManus, 68, told The Post. “I’m proud of the fact that George [Cheeks, CBS president] and Bob Bakish, [president of Paramount Global] are in complete agreement that this timing is perfect. So I feel really good about it, and I have total and complete faith in David.”
Sean McManus is set to retire as the chairman of CBS Sports early next year.WireImage
After a run at ESPN, Berson, 51, joined CBS in 2011 and was quickly promoted to president of the network two years later.
Over more than a decade, he has worked hand-in-hand with McManus, witnessing the moves McManus made and the environment he fostered.
“He’s a legend,” Berson told The Post. “Very few people have had as much of an impact on the sports media industry ever. He’s the epitome of class. He’s been a true friend and mentor to me.”
David Berson and Sean McManusCBS
CBS Sports has long prided itself on having a succession plan, and there is a changing of the guard in process.
Besides McManus to Berson, in March, Ian Eagle will succeed Jim Nantz as the lead play-by-play voice on the NCAA Tournament in March.
McManus made some landmark moves in the booth.
After bringing back the NFL, McManus hired the only black man, Greg Gumbel, to call a Super Bowl before replacing him with Nantz in 2004.
In one of McManus’ gutsiest decisions, he hired the just retired Tony Romo to replace Phil Simms as Nantz’s partner on the No. 1 team in 2017.
Romo skyrocketed to TV stardom.
After Romo’s initial three-year, $10 million contract concluded and with ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” in hot pursuit, McManus greenlighted a then-record 10-year contract with a total value of $180 million for Romo.
During McManus’ nearly three-decade run at CBS, he also led the network’s news division for five years.
McManus, who is the son of the late legendary sportscaster Jim McKay, said he first pined to be a producer or director of the biggest sports events, but in the 1980s he quickly shifted his ambition into running a sports division.
In 1996, when the CBS job opened, McManus happened to run into the CBS television network president, Peter Lund, at the Post House restaurant inside the Lowell Hotel.
Sean Mcmanus, the Chairman of CBS Sports, attends the The Paley Center for Media 2014 Spring Benefit Dinner.WireImage
McManus struck up a conversation with Lund and his wife, Theresa.
Before the chance encounter, McManus doesn’t believe he was on the radar for the then-vacant CBS Sports president job.
“[Peter] said to me, he went home that night, and he said to his wife, Theresa, ‘I have to figure out somebody to run CBS Sports,’ ” McManus recalled. “And, according to Peter, Theresa said, ‘How about that nice young man we met outside the restaurant tonight.’ And Peter called me the next morning.”
Two years later, McManus swiped NBC’s AFC package.
He has managed the relationship with the NFL, and CBS now has an agreement that will keep those games on its network until 2033.
CBS Corporation chairman and chief executive officer Michael H. Jordan (L) and Sean McManus, president of CBS Sports (R), congratulate each other at a news conference where they announced a four billion deal with the National Football League (NFL) to broadcast American Football Conference (AFC) games. AFP via Getty Images
CBS will continue with the NCAA Tournament through 2032, with its partnership with Turner Sports.
Next fall, CBS will fully transition from the SEC to the Big Ten in its famed 3:30 p.m. time slot.
It is also home to the Champions League, which is the top club tournament in the world.
And it is one of the longtime broadcasters of the PGA and Masters.
In retirement, McManus hopes to be on some public company boards and do some nonprofit work.
He doesn’t yet have definitive plans, except for one item.
“I’m going to be rooting for CBS Sports on a full-time basis,” McManus said.