Saturday, December 9, 2023

CBS Sports launching 24/7 soccer streaming channel with familiar faces

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If you ask CBS Sports creative director Pete Radovich where the idea for CBS Sports Golazo Network’s “Morning Footy” came from, he’ll talk about an experience that many sports consumers can relate to — one that probably transports them back to their childhood. He’ll talk about the idea of waking up, turning on ESPN’s SportsCenter and having it loop in the background while he eats his morning cereal.

Many American sports fans grew up with that soundtrack, and, as adults, many still spend their morning hours the same way — showering, drinking coffee and commuting to work, all accompanied by the background drone of sports talk radio or television.

Led by Radovich, CBS Sports is bringing that idea to soccer by launching the Golazo Network, a 24-hour soccer platform, on April 11th. The “first-of-its-kind,” direct-to-consumer digital network is “dedicated exclusively to global soccer coverage” in the U.S., according to CBS. It will be available free of charge on, Pluto TV, and Paramount+.

Radovich, and others at the company, hope the weekday morning offering, “Morning Footy,” fills a void they feel exists in American soccer media. The two-hour daily soccer news program is wide-ranging with the flexibility to discuss daily current events surrounding the sport.

Familiar American soccer faces will anchor the lead program. Susannah Collins, who has done extensive audio and video work for MLS over the years, will join forces with “The Cooligans” co-host Alexis Guerreros. Former New England Revolution and U.S. men’s national team forward Charlie Davies, who has done his share of on-air work as an analyst, and Nico Cantor, the former Univision analyst and current host of CBS Sports’ “The Golazo Show,” round out the team. Former Mexican women’s national teamer and current CBS Sports reporter Jenny Chiu — and a rotating cast of others, who have yet to be announced — will also contribute to programming.

CBS Sports certainly has plenty of its own properties to discuss — UEFA Europa League, Serie A, NWSL, CONCACAF national team competitions — but the network is driving home the fact that Golazo Network, and “Morning Footy” in particular, will truly turn their focus to the global game, media rights aside.

“The fan of this game is under-serviced outside of games,” said Radovich. “We feel that there’s a void there. We feel that we can help not only fill that void but we can help with a rising tide. This can’t just be Paramount+ leagues that we talk about. The fan wants a show that is going to cover the sport. If that’s a league that’s not on Paramount+? So be it. Not only are we going to show highlights from around the world, not only are we going to talk about storylines that aren’t leagues of ours, we’re even going to preview games and give people an idea of where games are going to be over the weekend by actually calling out competing networks, kickoff times, tune-ins. All of this is meant to be a service to the fan and not to us.”’

CBS says the new network won’t be focused solely on live broadcasts (and its accompanying pre- and postgame shows). Aside from “Morning Footy,” Golazo Network will feature “magazine shows, films from Paramount+’s ‘Stories From the Beautiful Game’ soccer documentary collection and original programming,” according to a press release.

Much of the talent behind Golazo Network is the same talent that produces CBS Sports’ coverage of the European Champions League and works on their other global properties, including the Network’s producer Mike Nastri and executive producer of CBS Sports Harold Bryant.

Radovich grew up in a soccer family — his cousin, Dragan Radovich, was a standout goalkeeper in the old North American Soccer League — and he played the game through college. The American game, then, is a key component of Golazo Network’s coverage. CBS Sports is an NWSL rightsholder but has no current presence when it comes to MLS, which just sold its broadcast rights to Apple for the next decade. Looking at the talent that Radovich selected for “Morning Footy,” though, it feels hard to imagine that the show (and the network it appears on) won’t cover American soccer extensively.

“When we get into an MLS discussion, this is going to be informed, with people that love the league, talking about it from a perspective that’s not going to be superficial,” said Radovich. “They live and die with the league. We feel that MLS fans, and we know there are millions across the country, are our core audience. Because they are Americans that love their sport, love their league, and now have a place to go in the morning to hear discussion.”

The history of American soccer is littered with failed media ventures, most of them written or online outlets. But more recently, that landscape has changed. While American soccer — MLS, the NWSL and their accompanying lower leagues — is still somewhat on the fringes, global soccer has unquestionably established a foothold in the American sporting landscape it did not have even a decade ago.

Radovich, who has worked extensively in more mainstream American sports coverage, feels the time is right for a soccer-only network. In the UK, any avid soccer consumer can simply turn on Sky Sports at any moment during the day and be bombarded with coverage. That element of coverage simply doesn’t exist in the United States.

“We want to become the go-to when you first wake up in the morning,” said Radovich, “and you want to get caught up to speed on what happened last night — whether it’s MLS or news stories around the world. We’re five, six hours behind Europe. So we frequently wake up to news stories. We’ll be all over those stories. Not only will we give you that news, but we’ll have reporters to help tell those stories. If it’s an MLS story, we’ll have an insider that can give us some color. First thing in the morning, you’re up to speed on those stories.”

(Howard Smith/ISI Photos)

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