Sports Director J.P. Peterson Leaving WFLA
But rumors that WFLA sports director J.P. Peterson would be leaving the NBC affiliate first surfaced Monday -- by Wednesday I had heard from four sources with different stories. WFLA finally issued a press release today confirming that the station was not renewing Peterson's contract, ending his eight-year career there on March 16.
Peterson, 44, denied talk that an argument over a recent live report sparked the departure, saying “these things don’t happen overnight. There were discussions…It’s a mutual agreement and everyone’s happy and we move forward.”
The anchor will continue to host his weekday noontime radio show for WHBO-1470 AM, finalizing negotiations to expand the show by an hour to 3 p.m. in 2008. He also has a new venture under development which he could not detail.
Recently, WFLA has removed sports updates from most weekday morning newscasts (they air Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays now), significantly shortened the Sunday Sports Extra show and cut back sports reports in the 11 p.m. newscasts. But WFLA general manager Mike Pumo insisted the station had not definitively decided to reduce its sports coverage.
“We’re looking at all options…we’re evaluating the entire spectrum of sports,” said Pumo, who downplayed the fact that WFLA was announcing Peterson’s departure with no successor designated, leaving open the question of whether Number Two guy Dave Reynolds might get the top job.
“Anchors are changed all the time and J.P.’s going to be with us until mid-March," Pumo added. "Our commitment to sports will continue to be strong.”
Born in Florida, Peterson attended Florida State University and has previously worked at Fox Sports Net and local CW affiliate WTOG-Ch. 44, where he served as top sports anchor when it was a UPN affiliate.
“I won’t offer an opinion on that,” Peterson said, chuckling. “You won’t get a quote out of me on that one.”
Here's the release WFLA posted a few hours ago:
WFLA-TV NEWS CHANNEL 8 ANNOUNCES DEPARTURE OF SPORTSCASTER
WFLA-TV News Channel 8 (NBC 8) has announced the departure of sportscaster J.P. Peterson.
Peterson has worked at News Channel 8 for more than 7 years. In addition to his television duties, he hosts a sports talk show on WHBO-AM (ESPN)1470 weekdays 12 noon- 2pm. Peterson will continue to work with WFLA-TV News Channel 8 through mid-March, 2008.
“J.P. has not been totally comfortable with the direction of our sports coverage in recent years, and so we mutually agreed now was a good time to end our relationship. JP has a popular radio sports show, and I imagine this will give him more time to focus his energy on the show,” commented News Channel 8 News Director Don North.
“J.P. has a tremendous passion for sports here in the Tampa Bay area,” said Mike Pumo, President and General Manager of WFLA-TV. “We certainly anticipate his future success in the market.”