No one would have anticipated the impact when [Arthur Watson] succeeded Chet Simmons in 1979 as president of NBC Sports. Watson had been head of the network's radio division for two years, then boss of NBC television stations in New York, Philadelphia and Cleveland, and later overall chief of the network's local stations -- hardly a training ground for leading a sports division.
Watson's final negotiation as president of NBC Sports was in 1989 for the Summer Olympics in Barcelona next year. It was his third participation in the Summer Games. Before his arrival at NBC Sports, the Olympics had been the sole possession of ABC, and Watson had sensed that to reach a level field with ABC, it would be necessary to break that grip.
Watson predicted that would lead to more expensive contracts in other sports -- "The smoke is out of the bottle and will never be put back in," he said. He was correct, which along with the recession has forced the worst of times upon the networks. This prompted an NBC official to say Friday that when Watson left the leadership position 1989, it was at the right time.