March 2, 2021

Mike Pearl, 77, Olympics Producer – Around the Rings

Mike Pearl, 77, Olympics Producer - Around the Rings

(ATR) Legendary Olympics producer Mike Pearl, who worked at five networks and won 17 Sports Emmy Awards, has died at age 77.

Mike Pearl, 77, Olympics Producer - Around the Rings Mike Pearl was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2015. (Sports Broadcasting HOF)

Having established himself as a well-respected and talented producer of CBS Sport’s highly rated NFL Today pre-game show, Pearl began working on network Olympic coverage while at ABC Sports in the 1980’s. He contributed to ABC’s coverage of Sarajevo 1984, Los Angeles 1984 and Calgary 1988, in addition to the acclaimed anthology series ABC’s Wide World of Sports.

Pearl returned to his roots at CBS Sports in 1988 as the Tiffany Network acquired Olympic broadcast rights from the IOC for the first time since 1960. The veteran talent would serve as coordinating producer of the network’s coverage of the 1992 Albertville and 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics.

In a post to fellow members of the CBS Sports’ Albertville 1992 Facebook page in July 2019, Pearl highlighted some of the innovation and accomplishments of the network’s coverage.

“No one did things like sending one of the junior reporters to (Alberto) Tomba’s hometown to bring back a report on folks there watching his runs and getting their reaction,” Pearl wrote.

“Or like sending a cameraman to Sarajevo to shoot through a bullet hole window showing a family watching Albertville. And (Charles) Kuralt’s piece. There are no more Charlies.

“Sure, technology has improved how we watch the Olympics and more and more host raw feeds are being used. But the business has also come down to ESPN doing some college basketball games with announcers calling the game off tube.

“No one has yet to match our content. Or hook an audience (yes, we were lucky with events before and during the competition) like we did in Lillehammer over two weeks,” Pearl wrote, referring to the drama that played out between U.S. figure skaters Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding, on and off the ice, that drew through the roof primetime ratings.

Mike Pearl, 77, Olympics Producer - Around the Rings Pearl takes a break at the Albertville ’92 Olympics.

Olympic marketing consultant Michael Payne tweeted of Pearl: “Legendary is right. The story telling CBS produced on the Lillehammer Games created absolute Olympic magic. RIP Mr. Pearl.”

Pearl also said that one of his prized career moments was working on an original script along with CBS storytelling legend Charles Kuralt paying tribute to France’s majestic Savoie Mountains and its friendly local residents.

Following the 1994 Lillehammer Games, Pearl took on his next major challenge when Turner Sports president Harvey Schiller offered the veteran producer an opportunity to revamp the cable network’s production operations.

As a senior vice president and executive producer, Pearl oversaw production of Turner’s cable coverage of the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, the Goodwill Games, the NFL, Atlanta Braves baseball, NASCAR, figure skating, golf, Wimbledon and college football.

Pearl’s crowning achievement at Turner Sports would be his revamp of the NBA on TNT and bringing aboard Charles Barkley as a high profile studio talent. The colorful and unpredictable basketball analyst would propel the innovative show to becoming a nine-time Emmy award winner.

In 2003, Pearl returned to ABC Sports. During his second stint there, he oversaw production of Monday Night Football (as well as Super Bowl XL), the BCS National Championship, the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the Open Championship, the Indianapolis 500, and the World Figure Skating Championships.

Following the merger of ESPN and ABC Sports in 2005, Pearl continued to oversee special projects for ESPN and Disney, including a bid to the IOC for the broadcast rights to the 2014 and 2016 Olympics.

In recent years Pearl was semi-retired and operated a consulting firm Michael Pearl Productions.

Pearl was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2015.

Written by Brian Pinelli

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