Oct 23, 2020

By ViacomCBS staff
"Our vision has been, from the beginning, to put on something that we thought was authentic to an audience that loves soccer."

CBS All Access—soon to be rebranded Paramount+—continues to grow with the addition of the UEFA Champions League. The league, known as the world's most prestigious club soccer tournament, supplements the service's existing coverage of football, basketball, and golf.

ViacomCBS partnered with UEFA to be the English-language home in the U.S. of the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, and UEFA Europa Conference League through 2024 . The expanded deal, negotiated earlier this year, enabled CBS Sports and CBS All Access to broadcast the conclusion of the 2019-2020 season over the summer and the entire 2020-2021 season.

We spoke with Jeff Gerttula, evp and general manager at CBS Sports Digital, and Pete Radovich, senior creative director at CBS Sports, about how they created a premium presentation for the summer games in less than a month and their plans for the future of the partnership.


 

Can you give some background on the partnership with UEFA?

GERTTULA: As we looked at the range of rights available to us, the different properties, the different sports, we were looking for something that would reach young, engaged streaming audiences and fit the CBS Sports brand, which is synonymous with the biggest events in sports: the Masters, the Super Bowl and the Final Four. The Champions League is the biggest event in world soccer, the most prestigious club event in the world. We saw something that had the right demos for a streaming service and something that we could own in its entirety.

I think our vision has been, from the beginning, to put on something that we thought was authentic to an audience that loves soccer. Pete really has run with that and executed on it. We found out with a month's notice that we were going to have to produce games in August.

RADOVICH: In 28 days, we needed to find a studio space and figure out how to technically do this and who our announcer talent was going to be. Honestly, when I think about it now, it almost seems like that's impossible. But I know it's possible because we did it. The fact we had very little time actually helped us, because when you have a lot of time, I think you talk yourself in and out of things. When you have a couple weeks, you have to pull the trigger and go with your gut.

What are some of those successes that you took from that first Champions League that you are trying to build upon with this next season?

JG: The level of production and the quality standards that we wanted to hit were high at the outset. And Pete hit them. The way that we produced it was innovative in soccer coverage in the United States, knowing that we need to be better to convince the audience to pay. We're always thinking, "How do we make it premium? How do we make it authentic to this passionate audience? How do we make it an appropriate size for what is the biggest club tournament in the world?"

PR: We were lucky that we all happen to be huge European soccer fans. When I watched soccer before, I never really watched it with a critical producer eye, because I didn’t work in it. I just kind of enjoyed it. So when it fell in our lap, we went with what we would want to see. We're all American-born and American-raised, and we're huge fans of the sport. What do we want to see?

It was truly one of the more enjoyable, if not the most enjoyable, process that I've ever been a part of in my career, because of the adrenaline of knowing, whether we're ready or not, they're playing.

 

What are the plans moving forward when it comes to utilizing the different platforms that CBS has to air these games?

JG: The plan is for us to continue with this high standard and find opportunities to raise the bar. We're launching a new show. It's called THE GOLAZO SHOW. The word Golazo means a special goal, a super goal, and it's going to be a whip-around-style show that'll air on CBS All Access and on CBS Sports Network, where we'll take people from game to game. And we have the six simultaneous Champions League games going on. We've got a cast of characters there that we think will bring some energy and some excitement as we go around and see all the crazy stuff going on game to game.

PR: It's hard to watch six games at once, so let us do the work for you. Anything that happens in one of those six games at any time, we've got you covered. We're doing this in London with a crew that's been down this road, knows it a little, and we want to do it the best we can.

"I'm a fan, and I just want to see games. I just want to see action. "

Pete Radovich,

Senior Creative Director at CBS Sports

JG: We're also looking at launching a podcast, which will also expand our content distribution. We're investing quite a bit in our social distribution and supporting social content. We're bringing in talent, social media managers, social media production folks to really create our voice and make sure that we're reaching as many people as possible on social media, YouTube, Instagram, all the major platforms.

Also, we're going to be creating soccer content with CBS Sports HQ, focusing on the early windows and the late windows on Champions League days and giving our super-fans an opportunity to watch something before we go on the air on All Access. And if they want to keep going, there will be something that's on the air after we come off All Access too.

We're also going to have a post-game highlights show on All Access, all for people who miss the games. And on our CBS Sports digital platforms, our apps, our websites, we're investing more in our soccer infrastructure, our scoreboard schedule standings, and the editorial content that supports the sport. That'll help us reach more people, just to drive more overall consumption across the CBS Sports Digital portfolio that reaches 60 to 80 million people a month.

PR: We really think these shows have a chance to be big hits with the hardcore fans. I know it's a show I would absolutely not miss. I'm a fan, and I just want to see games. I just want to see action. I know if I were at home, these are shows I would absolutely watch.

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