CBS’s all-female studio show is intriguing
The first way in which CBS Sports Network’s studio program “We Need To Talk” is distinctive doubles as the reason it will generate buzz well in advance of its Sept. 30 premiere.
The hour-long weekly program, announced this week with much fanfare, will feature an entirely female cast, some drawn from the network’s talent well but also including athletes and newsmakers from the sports world.
It’s not the first gender-specific sports studio show by any stretch, but it’s the first specific to this particular gender.
“It’s amazing that someone hasn’t done the show before,’’ said CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus. “I’m glad we’re the first ones to do it.”
But it’s the second distinctive attribute of this show that makes it potentially fascinating: It brings together a cast of reporters, hosts, and other personalities that is remarkably deep, diverse, and appealing across multiple demographics.
The show’s title might leave something to be desired. But the cast — which features Lesley Visser, former Raiders CEO Amy Trask, and reporter Tracy Wolfson as well as rotating contributors from outside the CBS family such as Andrea Kremer, Laila Ali, Dara Torres, and Swin Cash — could not be better chosen. The show will be produced by the widely respected Suzanne Smith.
So the obvious question: What took so long?
“I know that networks have been trying to do a show like this for a long time. It’s really getting the right talent on that show,’’ said Wolfson, who will join Jim Nantz and Phil Simms as the sideline reporter on the network’s Thursday night NFL broadcasts this season.
“A lot of times you might just pick your studio hosts from across the network and people who are available week in and week out.
“What’s different about our show is that we have hosts, we have sideline reporters, we have journalists, and of course the former athletes. You have so many different roles that you have different perspectives.”
Visser, who joined the Globe as a sportswriter in the 1970s and has been a trailblazer for women in the industry, is longtime friends with several of the women on the program.
She has known Smith and Trask for more than 30 years, and Wolfson is quick to cite her as a mentor.
Visser hasn’t just seen the evolution of women in sports media, she has lived it, and often led it. It’s no wonder this program is particularly meaningful to her.
“Oh, it means so much,’’ said Visser. “When I first started at the Globe, a woman in this business was considered such a curiosity or anomaly that the credential said, ‘No women or children allowed.’
“Forty years later, we all have enough authentic knowledge, passion, and respect for each other that we’re doing this. It’s taken a long, long time to evolve, and I’m so thrilled it has arrived at this point.”
Dennis in or out?
WEEI’s “Dennis and Callahan” program has enjoyed a summer of strong ratings, even beating the Sports Hub’s “Toucher and Rich” morning drive program in a monthly for the first time since February 2011.
The success is well-timed given that the contracts of hosts John Dennis and Gerry Callahan were set to expire at the end of August.
They signed five-year deals in September 2007 — after a brief contract-related absence that was passed off humorously as “a walk on the beach” — and then extended for two more years as part of a simulcast deal with NESN.
As the expiration nears, there’s still some mystery as to whether the show, which has also featured Kirk Minihane since February 2013, will remain in its current form.
Minihane, who has been an undeniable factor in the show’s success despite his periodic headfirst dives into hot water, isn’t going anywhere.
Neither is Callahan, who has already agreed to a new deal.
But the negotiations with Dennis have had more than a few moments of contentiousness, not surprising given the complexities of reworking a contract that is seven years old and Dennis’s mercurial personality.
While it’s difficult to imagine anyone leaving such a prominent, high-paying gig even if a pay cut is in the offing, there is real uncertainty whether Dennis will re-sign.
There is some belief at WEEI that a deal will get done by Tuesday. But there also was hope it would get done much sooner.
Will Dennis agree to a new deal or will he walk the proverbial beach alone this time?
Bob Halloran, who has served as the weekend sports anchor and in various other roles at Channel 5 for more than a decade, has been hired as a full-time sports reporter. Halloran fills the spot vacated by Mike Dowling, who left the station after 28 years in February. Halloran, respected at Channel 5 for his hard work (he also serves as a producer at times), will continue as the Saturday news anchor . . . The University of Massachusetts athletic department announced a three-year agreement with Bloomberg Radio WXKS 1200 in Boston. The agreement, which begins with the 2014-15 athletic season, means the station will air all UMass football games that do not conflict with previously scheduled Bloomberg programming as well every men’s basketball contest in the Boston area. Bloomberg will join the UMass Sports Network beginning with this Saturday’s football opener against Boston College . . . NBC Sports Network and Hockey East announced a telecast schedule of more than 25 games for the 2014-15 season. The schedule, which begins with an RPI-Notre Dame matchup Oct. 10, features BC four times — a high for any Hockey East team — and Boston University twice.