CBS Sports Caps First Season of European Soccer With Coverage of UEFA Champions League Final
CBS Sports' Pete Radovich: “This has been the highlight of my career."
In the matter of a year, CBS Sports had gone from a non-factor in soccer coverage in the U.S. to one of its celebrated leaders.
That wild ride hits another key milestone on Saturday as the network’s first full season of UEFA Champions League coverage concludes with the UEFA Champions League Final between Manchester City and Chelsea (3 p.m. ET, CBS, Paramount+).
It was just last summer that Turner Sports opted out of its final year of covering the Champions League, thrusting new rightsholder CBS into the role a year early. In a matter of 28 days, CBS got the property staffed and programmed for a season that’s been widely praised by soccer fans here in the States.
“It’s one of the great accomplishments that I can remember at CBS Sports, the way we ramped up as quickly as we did,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said in a media conference call earlier this week. “If you had asked me a year ago whether CBS Sports was going to be a major force in the world of international soccer, I probably would have said I’m not sure. But, in less than a year, we have become a must-have destination for both casual soccer fans and the hardcore fans who follow the sport every single day. It’s been a really satisfying journey for us.”
For Saturday’s Final lead producer Pete Radovich has brought A+ talent from the CBS Sports team to treat the match, as he called it, with the same attention and care that an NFL playoff game would receive at the network. Producers Jonathan Segal and Jelani Rooks, who lead many game productions on the NFL side for CBS, are involved in this weekend’s Final.
It’s clear that for Radovich, a decorated veteran of the industry that has worked everything from Super Bowls to Olympics, that the opportunity to oversee this property has been special.
“This has been the highlight of my career,” he says. “The one sport I had never worked on was this one and this was the one I grew up with. All of those things that I’ve worked on I’ve been proud of but this has been the number one most rewarding thing I’ve worked on in my career. It’s been amazing.”
While CBS’s coverage has been well received, Radovich did acknowledge that this year’s effort – between the short runway to launch and pandemic-fueled restrictions – is just the tip of the ice berg and that there are ambitions to do much more when global conditions allow for it. Most notably, he’s looking forward to getting the studio crew on-site in stadiums next season.
Radovich also noted that he hadn’t watched any other domestic Champions League studio shows in prior years and felt that was an advantage. It avoided any unnecessary comparisons to previous rightsholders like Turner Sports.
Saturday’s coverage (beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET) will feature the on-air crew of Kate Abdo, Jamie Carragher, Roberto Martinez and Micah Richards in CBS Sports’ new London-based studio. Peter Schmeichel, Guillem Balagué, Nico Cantor and Jenny Chiu, meanwhile, will be reporting on-site from Estádio do Dragão in Porto.
For viewers looking to take a deeper dive, CBS Sports will introduce a new “Star Cam” feature on Paramount+. A dedicated camera feed tracking a player from each of the clubs will look to offer a second-screen experience for viewers.