Whenever the web and sports television try to combine, there tends to be a lot of a consternation from sports TV viewers and media critics. You always picture somebody combing through fan and athlete tweets and reading them on air. That can be absolutely brutal to watch.
NBCSN's Sportsdash (premiering Monday and airing weekdays from Noon-1 p.m. ET) is not that show, despite the perception it gave in the show's press release:
The new program will utilize a digital media wall that integrates real-time activity from multiple sources, such as Yahoo! Sports Trends, Facebook and Twitter, to identify the hottest topics in sports.
That does not mean, under any circumstances, that tweets will be read on air. The show is NBCSN's attempt, after NBC SportsTalk went on hiatus in the spring, to get back into the newsgathering business. Hosted by Dave Briggs (formerly of The Crossover) and Carolyn Manno, the show will be paired with one of the network's most consistent performers (The Dan Patrick Show) and is kind of debuting quietly in a crowded field of noisy premieres, so it'll take time to get noticed.
I spoke to the network's Senior VP of Production, Dan Steir, on Friday. He runs the network's (and NBC Sports') studio and event programming, after coming over from ESPN, where he oversaw production for ESPNU and college basketball, in 2012. He made a compelling case for why you should give the show a chance.
Steve Lepore: Where did the idea come from? I know NBC had partnered with Yahoo! a while back, had they been looking to collaborate on a show?
Dan Steir: The concept came from expanding our news gathering, and taking advantage of this great relationship with, and the asset of, Yahoo. We said let's go ahead and extend the window of Dan Patrick, play off that and do an hour at noon where a lot of people are sort of transitioning into the real time and relevant news of the day during their lunch timeframe.
To your original question, it was sort of "how do we maximize this relationship with Yahoo?" and let's start getting our feet wet in the news and information department.
SL: Was the intention with the timeslot to pony off of Dan Patrick? I was wondering why not put it on in the evening or late afternoon? Does it stand out more at 12?
DS: Well, I think it was just based on our inventory. When we get going literally from October through June, five nights a week, sometimes not on Thursday but mostly, five nights a week we have primetime programming, and we have a set of studio shows that lead in to it. We have our hunting and fishing block. It was partly a time that works with our inventory, and we think it's a time that will service viewers, and that's always a priority. Obviously, we want to cut through, but also what we think an audience will be interested in.
SL: How exactly are you going to combine what's trending on the internet and what's trending with Yahoo! analytics into sort of a typical sports talk show?
DS: I think we're going to get to that state, it may not come out at the beginning. Everyone tries to reach a zenith. We have multiple, daily meetings with all of the editorial staff at Yahoo! and we take their lead on what things are trending and what stories are popping. We get access to their analytics, so we think our linear window will be another outlet for that information, which is not commonplace on television, so that's a differentiator.
We'll apply some technology that'll show some unique, interesting ways to sort of showcase this material and trends. We're gonna really showcase the information and metrics of Yahoo!, and do it in a technical way through some monitors and through some sort of technology that shows it in a manner that's real time in relevant.
SL: So it's in no way a show where you're going to have hosts just reading tweets on air?
DS: It's not. To give you a sense, the show will open on the significant stories of that hour, and we want to hear from the front line informationalists, experts and analysts from Yahoo's amazing field of people and NBC's assets. So we're going to check with the front line people.
You know, candidly, we were doing a rehearsal [Friday] at noon. And at noon, one of our feature stories was baseball replay. Well, nothing was officially announced, but we had heard wind of it through the trends Yahoo! was following, through other social trends... so in that situation, during our rehearsal, we were ahead of the story before it was formally announced come 1-1:30. That's what we hope to do, we're going to utilize some technology and Yahoo!, take advantage of social media to direct us on what it is we should communicate.
We don't want this to necessarily be a sports talk show. We want to raise the issue, present it, deep dive with our great assets from Yahoo! and our own NBC Sports Group family. Other things are in the show, there are always these really unique Yahoo! stories that are really sort of intriguing, that don't always make a mainstream news and information shows. We want to make a deep dive into a serious topic. We want to show you a great video that we've accumulated, that Yahoo!'s accumulated, that happened the night before. I think it'll be a fast-paced broadcast, trying to be real time and relevant, and showcasing good video as well.
SL: Dave Briggs and Carolyn Manno are two people who've been with NBC Sports for a while, what went in to picking them as hosts?
DS: I think they handle and deal with news and information shows. This show will deal with breaking news, and they're experienced at doing that. We think they're both likable, we enjoy them, and I think they can choreograph and manage this particular show. We're going to be checking in on anywhere from five to 10 different remotes -- either being phoners or Skypes or glowpoint or liveshots -- and we think these two people will be the best at helping us navigate this particular traffic and navigating significant news stories.
SL: So the show will be guest-driven in that analysts will be asked to merely comment on the news, it won't be a "debate" show.
DS: I think there could be some debates that develop over a deep-dive issue, but the intent is: here's the news, let's check in with this informationalist who either broke the news, or some other reporter who got more information on the news, and finally some credible analyst and getting their take on the news.
SL: You've mentioned you want NBCSN's newsgathering to get better, do you have any more extensive plans following up with this show on doing that, or is primetime too filled up? Is there any way you can force more news into different hours of the day?
DS: I think there'll be, as we progress in the fall, there will be a little bit of growth. I believe in what we call "organization health." We want to grow from within first before we continue to grow other properties and program. So we're gonna grow it internally -- I think there'll be a couple things that will come out in the fall.
SL: Are you okay with premiering when everyone and the grandma has a show coming out? Does it annoy you that it's coming out with five or six different sports shows?
DS: It's interesting, when shows are launched, you say "is it the right time? How are we gonna get good PR?" We just want to do a good show. Just want to produce a good show. That should be the focus and objective. That's what ours is, I'm not concerned about anything else.