In this week’s landmark announcement of the new 24/7 soccer streaming channel CBS Sports Golazo Network, one element stands out as a major obstacle. To be exact, CBS faces the impossible task of trying to keep viewers tuned in to its morning show, and keeping everyone happy at the same time.
Morning Footy is just one feature of many included in the CBS Sports Golazo Network that’ll launch on April 11 on Paramount+, among other places. However, since the two-hour weekday morning show (from 7-9 AM ET) starts out the day’s coverage, it’s an important piece of the puzzle. In fact, it’s the marquee show on the network.
Soccer fandom in the United States is so fractured. Depending on what team you support, you may fall into one of the many camps listed at the very bottom of this article. From personal experience, we often find there is quite a lot of hostility between the rival camps.
So, trying to keep the attention of viewers tuning in to Morning Footy is going to be almost impossible. How does a new show tackle that? It’ll be interesting to see if and how they pull it off. For instance, we already have the excellent daily soccer show, ESPN FC. Will Morning Footy be able to come anywhere close to that?
How do you win over a fragmented audience?
In an exclusive interview with World Soccer Talk, Pete Radovich, vice president of production and senior creative director at CBS Sports, shared his thoughts about how to win over an audience with such diverse tastes.
“That is the toughest needle to thread. We’ve got 32+ leagues to cover from around the world. That is going to be a work in progress.”
Radovich explained that the production people behind the scenes at CBS Sports are hardcore fans, which should help.
“There is no perfect formula,” Radovich added. “Nobody’s handing me a guidebook or an instruction manual that says what you do. We’re going to find out pretty quickly if we’re hitting the right places, and if we’re not.
“Obviously, we’re going to focus as much as we can on storylines that matter to American fans. And if that’s American players playing in Europe, or MLS or NWSL, we’re going to do that. NWSL is our league, MLS isn’t, but we’re going to cover them nonetheless.”
He also gave the example of last weekend’s Liverpool-Man United game, mentioning that a story like that would undoubtedly lead off their Monday morning coverage, as an example.
CBS Morning Footy: Thoughts on talent hires
CBS Sports have selected a quartet to appear on Morning Footy. It features Susannah Collins, Charlie Davies, Nico Cantor and stand-up comedian Alexis Guerreros. Jenny Chiu will also provide updates.
On first impression, the list of talent may not please a lot of fans of European soccer. The talent is qualified, but they’re mainly MLS people.
“If you’re a MLS fan, this is without question a place for you to end when you think about how connected all four of them are to that league,” said Radovich. “Susannah Collins, for years, did podcasts and events for MLS. Alexis Guerreros, obviously, [has] close ties to MLS. Charlie Davies played in MLS and covered the league. And Nico, living in Miami, has been a fan of the league since he could walk.”
Despite this, Morning Footy plans to feature guest appearances from experts on European soccer from their other shows including Guillem Balague. But based on the MLS-heavy talent CBS Sports have selected for the show thus far, it’s a disappointing decision. In my opinion, CBS Sports is focusing too much attention on the American players in Europe. Most soccer fans support teams, not players. For example, there’s a reason why the Premier League has been getting the highest rated viewing numbers for soccer games in the United States in 2023. And it isn’t because of Americans playing there.
We love to see the Americans succeed in Europe, too, but we don’t make it the end all and be all of our being.
Social media is not a barometer of real life
Part of the issue is that CBS Sports are using Twitter as a barometer to drive their decisions, but Twitter is not an accurate representation of real life. If it was, Hillary Clinton would have become president in 2017, and Jeremy Corbyn would be British prime minister.
Going back to the subject of talent, CBS Sports could have easily picked more qualified talent that are much better analysts on world soccer particularly when CBS Sports’ bread and butter for soccer coverage is the UEFA Champions League and Serie A. Some of the Americans they could have hired even work for CBS Sports (Ian Joy and Mike Lahoud, just as two examples). CBS’ Nigel Reo-Coker, not an American, would have been a good fit too.
While their UEFA Champions League coverage has been good, the CBS Sports studio programming sometimes seems to be more focused on creating content for social media. It can be a bit much, at times. Hence, my concerns about Morning Footy, and whether they’ll follow a similar strategy where a lot of the content will end up on Twitter and Instagram.
Coverage wise, Morning Footy will certainly cover a wide variety of topics and discussion for leagues around the world, even those that CBS Sports don’t have the rights to.
Inspiration for Morning Footy?
As we saw with Soccer Morning, hosted by Jason Davis, the concept of a morning show can work. However, a lot of the success for Soccer Morning was due to the interaction with the audience (i.e. live phone calls) as well as bringing on guests from a various publications.
The sense we get about CBS Sports is that their show will likely feel more corporate where they’ll bring in guests who are affiliated with CBS Sports instead of opening it up to new voices from outside their sports network.
If Morning Footy can figure out a way to keep all of the soccer groups listed below entertained and informed, it’ll be a huge achievement.
• USMNT fans
• Fans of women’s soccer
• MLS fans
• Liga MX fans
• Fans of a Premier League team, or an English soccer club
• Bundesliga fans
• And others.
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