The reasons NBC Sports Group considered it a coup to pluck Michelle Beadle away from ESPN in May were established well before her new daily program, “The Crossover,’’ premieres on the fledgling NBC Sports Network Monday evening.
Beadle looks the part of a network host but has the sharp wit of a buddy you’d want to hang out with during the big game. Her good-natured needling of her cohost during her three years on ESPN’s “SportsNation” occasionally accomplished the seemingly impossible: It made Colin Cowherd seem like a genuine person rather than a sports-talk antagonist programmed by the most ratings-obsessed ESPN execs.
Beadle’s cohost on “The Crossover’’ is Dave Briggs, the former Channel 7 and Comcast SportsNet New England sports reporter whose most recent gig was as weekend host on “Fox and Friends.” Until recently, NBC was covert about the specifics of “The Crossover,” but in advance of Monday’s 6 p.m. debut, which will be broadcast from New Orleans, the network has elaborated on the details of a show that will be a mix of sports, pop culture, and entertainment, with an emphasis on social media.
“It’s about personality,’’ said executive producer Sam Flood. “It’s about people you want to spend time with. It’s the people you want to be at the bar and hang out with, and these are the two people that you want to do that with.”
Beadle and Briggs half-seriously lamented that they wish the show had debuted sooner, what with the Manti Te’o and Lance Armstrong melodrama over the past couple of weeks.
“It has been very difficult this last week to 10 days to not have the show airing,’’ said Briggs. “There’s certainly no shortage of stories that are perfect for us. I wish we had Manti Te’o but there’s another fake girl just around the corner.”
“Lots of them out there,” Beadle says.
The network has acknowledged all along that it is counting on “The Crossover’’ to become one of its signature shows. Banking on Beadle, whose popularity is confirmed in one way by her nearly 700,000 Twitter followers, is as close to a safe bet as NBC Sports Network can make as it tries to establish itself as a destination cable sports network.
But nothing is a guarantee, and the reality is harsh and apparent: The network, which currently receives some of its highest ratings for afternoon hunting programming, needs “The Crossover’’ to succeed if it is ever going to make the impact it covets. Beadle understands what’s at stake and said she has a pretty clear vision of what will make the show appealing.
“There’s not just one place to go anymore, and part of us coming here and doing this show is to bring a fun half-hour, not take yourself too seriously,’’ said Beadle. “No contrived arguments where it feels forced or not organic.
“I, personally, don’t watch sports through the eyes of a stats nerd or an anger monger. I truly love stories and characters and the flash and the sexiness of it all.”
The wild card is Briggs, whom Flood said he first identified as someone who might be a fit at NBC Sports while watching him on Channel 7 during his five years in Boston (2004-08).
“I’ve known him as someone who would be great to get into the NBC family, and someone who could put up with Beadle,’’ Flood said.
Briggs, who trails Beadle in Twitter followers by roughly 684,000, remembers his time in Boston fondly.
“When I got to Boston, it was clear that I would never cover a market quite like that,’’ Briggs said. “The period that I was there was arguably the greatest 4-5 years that any city ever had.
Flood chimes in: “Because you were there, or because the teams were good?”
“Well, I’m just saying that when I left was the Celtics’ last title. No one” — then Briggs catches himself — “well, the Bruins won a title, but since I left, it’s been pretty much downhill for all of the teams.”
Briggs was joking about the downhill part, and such a sense of humor will be crucial as he tries to match or surpass the easy chemistry that Cowherd had with Beadle. They’re already getting the hang of the banter.
“You just get a feel for working with each other and how the other works, and sometimes it clicks right away and sometimes it takes a little bit longer,” said Beadle. “I have no idea. I think that is kind of part of the nervous excitement of everything that’s going on over here.”
Adds Briggs, “It’s tough to have to work with someone who has to sit in the makeup chair and worry about the hair, but Beadle will get used to the fact that I need those things.”
“He does take a while,” she deadpanned.
Dell in a rotation
Jenny Dell will return for a second season as the in-game reporter during Red Sox broadcasts, but NESN plans to work other talent into the role at various times. According to industry sources, Dell could be absent for as many as 40 games. Jamie Erdahl, in particular, is expected have an expanded role. Said NESN spokesman Gary Roy in a statement: “Jamie Erdahl, Adam Pellerin, and Leah Hextall will fill in for Jenny Dell on her scheduled days off and on select other occasions, enabling Jenny to be involved with additional Red Sox-related productions. Jenny’s role has expanded the past several months, from hosting ‘NESN Daily’ to reporting from Celtics and Patriots games.”