A big part of the success of CBS Sports’ coverage of the UEFA Champions League has been that the talent have tremendous chemistry who are a joy to watch and listen to, as well as offering insightful analysis that adds more depth and appreciation of the game.

Thus far, CBS Sports’ studio coverage has been a breath of fresh air. How it came about was organic, to say the least.

In an exclusive interview with World Soccer Talk, CBS Sports Senior Creative Director Pete Radovich explained what happened on the first day of rehearsals before the Champions League coverage on CBS kicked off.

After the talent filtered into the meeting room, one by one, “Peter Schmeichel showed up last,” said Radovich. “Him and Jamie [Carragher] started going at it right away. And then Micah [Richards] would jump in.

“And we’re supposed to be having a meeting talking about what ‘Ok this is what we’re doing.’ And we let them go for easily over an hour where they were just talking, having fun, joking and laughing. And at some point, someone turned to me — maybe it was Kate [Abdo] — and said ‘Alright, that’s enough. Do you want to get going [with the meeting]?’ I remember saying, ‘That’s the show. You guys just did it.’

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“Whenever someone brings up chemistry, it always reminds me of those two rehearsal days because that’s all it was. It was two days of hanging out and laughing, and that really set the tone for what has become the show that you see now.”

CBS’ coverage of the UEFA Champions League has received rave reviews both from critics and the majority of soccer fans. The broadcaster has raised the bar on coverage of club soccer on U.S. television to such an extent that NBC’s previously lauded Premier League coverage looks average in comparison.

“[CBS’ studio talent] are most excited about the freedom that they have to go off script,” Radovich explained. “The freedom that they have to get up out of your chair and walk over to the screen and high five Peter Schmeichel on a screen. That wasn’t scripted. That wasn’t planned. They’re really excited about how loose and free [CBS Sports] are.

“We’re not going to be perfect, and it’s OK for us to take some chances. If it’s not perfect every time, it’s okay because we really want to be entertaining. But what we think are mistakes in our business end up being entertaining.”

Radovich adds that he believes the team of Carragher, Alex Scott, Roberto Martinez, Richards, Schmeichel and others enjoy analyzing soccer for CBS Sports because it breaks away from the traditional British format which is more formal (i.e. the analyst speaks for two minutes, and then another analyst is allowed to share his or her opinions for two minutes, and then it returns to the presenter who may speak for a couple of minutes, in turn, before breaking for a commercial).

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“It’s pretty routine, and it’s [the British] style and it’s great,” explained Radovich. “It works well. But [with our plan], they have fun. The sense I get is that they really, really enjoy it. And the word ‘freedom’ is something that they use. They just love that.”

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