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Gus Johnson Leaves CBS to Join Fox for Football, Basketball

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Announcer Gus Johnson
Big Ten Network announcer Gus Johnson calls the game between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Indiana Hoosiers during the first round of the 2011 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 10, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Photographer: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

May 10 (Bloomberg) -- Gus Johnson is taking his broadcast calls of “Cold-blooded” and “Purrrrrre” to News Corp.’s Fox Sports after becoming a prominent voice on CBS Corp.’s football and college basketball coverage, Fox Sports co-president Eric Shanks said today in a conference call with reporters.

Johnson, 43, is headed to Fox as a National Football League, college football and college basketball play-by-play announcer, Shanks said from Los Angeles.

“Gus calls a game with passion and a unique voice, that really can add a new dimension not just to Fox college sports, but to college sports in general, like he’s done with March Madness for so many years,” he said.

Johnson has become a popular television personality for his boisterous calls, such as the “Cold-blooded!” pronouncement when University of Washington guard Isaiah Thomas made a last-second shot to win the 2011 Pac-10 tournament.

The deal with FOX came after CBS failed to match the offer, according to e-mails from Johnson’s marketing agent, Christian Gesue. Gesue, who said a deal was reached yesterday, didn’t comment on the length or financial terms.

CBS spokeswoman Jen Sabatelle said in a telephone interview that Johnson and the network were unable to reach an agreement to keep the commentator at CBS and that “we wish him continued success.”

Johnson, who departed as radio voice of the New York Knicks in October, joined CBS Sports in 1995 as a college basketball broadcaster. In his time at the network, Johnson also covered boxing and the Olympics.

‘A New Opportunity’

“This is a new opportunity,” Johnson said on the conference call. “It is a bigger stage for me right now, having an opportunity to be a play-by-play guy at a network like Fox.”

“I can’t tell you how excited I am and how positive I feel about this opportunity,” he said.

CBS’s decision not to match the offer from Fox was influenced both by money and Johnson’s alienation of colleagues at the network, the New York Daily News reported yesterday. Other CBS commentators weren’t happy that Johnson had become the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament’s most popular voice, the newspaper said, citing an unidentified person at the network.

Sabatelle declined to comment on the Daily News report.

Fox Sports last week signed a 12-year deal along with Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN to carry college basketball and college football games from the Pac-10 conference.

Football and Basketball

Johnson will call 15 college football games this season alongside Charles Davis, whose appointment also was announced on the conference call. Johnson will do roughly 35 college basketball games and play an undetermined role in the network’s NFL coverage.

Johnson said he’s lost a lot of sleep over no longer having the opportunity to call games at the NCAA basketball tournament.

“It’s an event that gave me so many great chances, opportunities, and memories and moments,” he said. “I will miss having a chance to do the tournament, but on the other hand, I’m excited about moving forward.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Eben Novy-Williams in New York enovywilliam@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net.

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