What Is a Color Commentator?

by Tom Gresham

A color commentator serves to enliven television and radio broadcasts with analysis of sporting events. Color commentators work with play-by-play broadcasters, who provide a running summary of the action. Together, they form a broadcast team designed to give viewers or listeners a deeper understanding of the sport being contested and to make the experience more fun. Covering events from middle school track meets to international competitions, color commentators can earn an extremely wide range of salaries.


The chief role of color commentators is to provide insight about the contest. They deliver this in different formats. Often, it means using their knowledge of a sport to offer opinions on the action on the field, such as questioning or applauding a decision a coach has made. Color commentators frequently use statistics, anecdotal evidence, experience and information learned through interviews with players, coaches and front office personnel to attempt to give their audience a unique view on the contest. This analysis involves planning, research and an ability to think quickly during high-energy contests.


A color commentator's insight often is delivered in the form of a conversation with the play-by-play announcer, so camaraderie and chemistry between the pair is critical for fans to engage with the broadcast. Color commentators often are better known for their on-air personality than for their cogent breakdowns of the sport. Therefore, color commentators with a sense of humor and pleasing on-air style are prized by broadcasters. They must present their opinions in an accessible, lively fashion. Some color commentators attract attention for famous catchphrases that they use routinely when commenting on the action.


Color commentators often are former athletes or coaches who can bring an experienced understanding of the sport to their analysis. This type of color commentator also offers a familiar face for fans, who may already have formed a connection with the individual. An ex-player in the role can make particular sense for a local broadcast, allowing an old pro already embraced by fans to speak about his or her old team. In more rare cases, a color commentator is a journalist who has developed an expertise about the sport being played and can offer a perspective based on that knowledge.


Color commentators work for a variety of television, radio and even Internet programming outfits. They supply coverage for both professional sports and amateur sports. In both categories, color commentators exist to spice up coverage of sports contests ranging from the most obscure, such as a local high school contest, to the most prominent, such as the Olympics or the Super Bowl. While play-by-play announcers frequently work on different sports, color commentators typically stick to the one sport where they have particular expertise.

About the Author

Tom Gresham is a freelance writer and public relations specialist who has been writing professionally since 1999. His articles have appeared in "The Washington Post," "Virginia Magazine," "Vermont Magazine," "Adirondack Life" and the "Southern Arts Journal," among other publications. He graduated from the University of Virginia.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images