Sources: NFL Net Changes Leave Eisen “Fearful”

Today the NFL confirmed my Wednesday report that the league had hired Jay Glazer and Daryl Johnston as analysts for NFL Network studio shows.

Rich Eisen and Mark Shapiro

Additionally, the league confirmed another of my earlier reports this week - per John Ourand of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL - that it is now employing former ESPN programming chief Mark Shapiro as a “consultant” for NFL Network game broadcasts and studio shows.

The latter piece of news probably didn’t make NFL Network studio host Rich Eisen’s day.

Shapiro was captaining the ESPN programming ship in 2003 when the network made the decision to not renew Eisen’s contract. Eisen would not have been dropped had Shapiro not signed off on the move.

That said, I was told today that Eisen was offered a substantial raise by the then-fledging NFL Network in 2003 as he was negotiating a new deal with ESPN - and that Bristol elected not to match that offer. So it wasn’t like Shapiro was actively booting Eisen out the door at the time.

Seven years later, Eisen’s contract with NFL Network is now approaching expiration and guess who may be intimately involved in deciding whether he’s re-signed?

Shapiro.

Thanks to that crazy coincidence, I was told today that Eisen is fearful for his job. Very fearful.

More from SBJ’s Ourand today on the Shapiro hire:

A league spokesperson confirmed that the network is tapping into Shapiro’s programming acumen to improve the look and feel of NFL Network’s game-day presentation, including its live games and studio shows. NFL Network President & CEO STEVE BORNSTEIN is a mentor of Shapiro’s and reached out to the former ESPN Exec VP/Programming & Production.

Whether Eisen is part of the “look and feel” that needs to be “improved” remains to be seen. While not exactly a dynamic personality, he seems to fill his role with an easy enthusiasm. Hard to find fault with his performance over the years but often the future of television personalities, thanks to audience surveys and executive opinions, have little to do with a host’s actual on-air proficiency.

I’ve been told that the slick appeal of the recently-launched MLB Network has not been lost on the NFL and Bornstein. MLB’s superior on-air product is part of what prompted the league to bring Shapiro into the fold and consider sweeping on-air changes.

As for Shapiro’s approach, look for him to encourage the NFL to attempt bold strokes to try to wrest back the attention of those viewers who have strayed. In other words, go fishing for big name talent.

I’ve been told that the hiring of Glazer and Johnston and the futile pursuit of SI’s King is just the beginning. And knowing Shapiro’s track record, nothing would surprise me.

Including luring John Madden out of retirement.