Don Ohlmeyer, NBC Exec Who Coined ‘Must See TV,’ Dies at 72

Sports Broadcasting Hall-of-Famer is also known for firing Norm Macdonald from “SNL” over O.J. Simpson jokes

don ohlmeyer

Television executive Don Ohlmeyer, who coined the phrase “Must See TV” in the 1990s, has died, NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” play-by-play man Al Michaels announced during tonight’s telecast. Ohlmeyer was 72.

Ohlmeyer originated the enduring phrase when NBC shows like “Seinfeld” and “Friends” ruled the airwaves. He’s also known for firing Norm Macdonald from “Saturday Night Live’s” “Weekend Update” over a series of O.J. Simpson jokes the comedian made during and after the so-called “Trial of the Century.” Ohlmeyer and Simpson were old friends.

All told, Ohlmeyer won 16 Emmys, including the Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2008, he was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

The Chicago native began his career at ABC Sports, where he worked on “Monday Night Football,” “Wide World of Sports” and several Olympics. Ohlmeyer then went to NBC’s sports division, where he served as executive producer of the World Series and Super Bowl.

In 1982, Ohlmeyer branched out on his own, launching Ohlmeyer Communications Company. Eleven years later, he returned to NBC as president of the broadcaster’s west coast division, helping to take the network from third place in TV ratings to first. Some of the success was in spite of Ohlmeyer, who famously believed America wouldn’t embrace “Will & Grace” because of its gay characters.

Eventually, Ohlmeyer returned to “Monday Night Football” — though that lasted just one season. He was the guy who brought comic Dennis Miller to the booth, which resulted in little enthusiasm. Ohlmeyer also served as ESPN’s ombudsman for about a year and a half.