NEW ORLEANS — Jim Rome is still burning, it's just that the passion has moved to a different place.
The successful sports television personality has taken his game to CBS, where his new daily sports show, "Rome," debuts on the CBS Sports Network on Tuesday evening.
"The show just feels leaner and meaner, a little slicker," Rome said during an interview at the Final Four, where he's contributing to CBS' coverage. "We're going to try to keep the show moving a little faster, do things that we haven't done before."
Rome got his start in radio, and still has a syndicated show. But he rose to prominence on television, where a series of offerings on Fox and ESPN platforms — including his well-known show "Jim Rome is Burning" — made him a controversial, love him-or-hate him figure.
His new program will incorporate elements of his older shows, with guests from the worlds of sports and entertainment. There will also be panel elements and "devices I've never used," he said, refusing to give away what they might be until the debut of "Rome" airs.
Rome will also be involved in coverage of special events, such as the Final Four and the NFL, along with a show on cable network Showtime that is scheduled for the fall.
"I had an offer to keep what I was doing. It was a very generous offer, and I liked doing it," he said. "But you wake up, I'm 25 years into it, and I'm not the young guy anymore. I felt like I've got to stretch. I have to get out there and do something."
Rome said the challenge of the still-nascent CBS Sports Network appealed to him.
The network launched in 2002 and has gone through several incarnations, ultimately rebranded under its current name last year. The idea was to re-launch the network in a way that would allow it to compete against more established sports networks such as ESPN.
CBS spokesman Dan Sabreen said the marketing push behind Rome, which includes billboards from coast to coast — one of them on Canal Street in New Orleans, not far from the site of the Final Four — is the most extensive ever put together for the cable sports network.
Rome acknowledges the risk of trying something new, but moving from more established networks to one with a still-growing footprint is something that never gave him pause.
"It's the CBS family," he said. "They get behind it, they push it to be successful, and the rest of it is up to me and my team. I understand ESPN has this gigantic head start, that they're out in front, and who knows if they'll ever be run down. But we want to try."
Rome believes his move to CBS is just one more example of his evolution.
Another is the way he's embraced social meeting. Admittedly late to Twitter, Rome surpassed 750,000 followers this week, a milestone in which he took particular delight.
"Change or die, you know? We talk about this all the time. How do you continue to evolve?" he asked. "I was a little late to Twitter, but as soon as I got there, I understood the power of it."
Rome headed back to California prior to the national championship game between Kentucky and Kansas so that he'd be prepared for his debut show Tuesday night. Asked before leaving whether he believes his chance at CBS is vindication for a career well-received, Rome simply shrugged.
"I don't think there's any vindication. What I was doing was working. I'm proud of the fact that I've been in this thing for 20-plus years. There's always someone gunning for you," he said. "There's this unbelievable battle to be seen and heard, and you just hope to win that battle."
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