Revised sports talk show adds social media comments


Show host David Kaplan

Viewers providing their comments via social media to the roundtable panelists is probably the biggest change made to SportsTalk Live presented by Smirnoff, Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s (CSN).

SportsTalk Live is the show replacing Chicago Tribune Live, whose sponsorship the Tribune canceled last week after eight years on CSN Chicago.  The new hourlong weeknight talk show debuts at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 25.

Fans’ comments and questions via Facebook and Twitter will be flashed on screen during the panel’s discussions, and also read by host David Kaplan and the panelists. 

“The only additional talking heads will be the viewers,” said CSN Chicago news director Kevin Cross, who helmed SportsTalk Live changes.

Kevin Cross, CSN Chicago news director“Viewers will have a chance to interact as close to real time as possible as we’re on topic,” he said of the Facebook-Twitter participation. “Folks are talking right along with the show. We’ve never really had a chance to kind of put those comments in the show as they’re going.”

Previously, the CTL director had to switch to an on-camera person off the main set, who read the viewers comments, somewhat disrupting the flow of the show.

Show expands panelists and resources

Without the mandated two or three Tribune writers making up the majority of the talking-heads panel, CSN Chicago’s producers can now expand the discussion group to other media athletes, athletes, team executives and coaches.

The look of the show will start off similar to the previous format. The program will originate from the same location in CSN Chicago’s River North studio.  The staff will tweak the set design as the new show progresses, Cross said.

CSN Chicago is aligning its on-air game-telecasts’ appearances, via camera shots and graphics, with that of other Comcast and NBC Sports operations throughout the country. 

In a similar vein, SportsTalk Live will use the other regional networks’ resources to access sports newsmakers throughout the country to interact with the panel.

Neither Kaplan nor Cross could explain why the Tribune pulled out of the show. Chicago Tribune Live attracted a viewership of more than 30,000 households when it led into a live sports event.

The program had no comparison in colorful, argumentative personalities — centered around the late Bill Gleason, Bill Jauss and Ben Bentley – to the old Sportswriters radio and TV shows that dated back to 1974.

At times, some CTL panelists seemed out of place, as Tribune writers had to discuss sports topics that were off their beat expertise.

But Kaplan stood up for the overall sports acumen of his Tribune participants.

“I give a lot of credit to the Chris Kucs (Blackhawks) and K.C. Johnsons (Bulls), who had beats with other teams,” he said. “Those guys did their homework. They took it seriously. They were very prepared.”

Kaplan continues his heavy daily sports-talk schedule. When he’s not hosting a CSN Cubs pre-game show, he’ll dash from CSN Chicago to WGN-Radio’s studios at Tribune Tower for his daily 7 p.m. talk show he has co-hosted most of the time since 1995.

George Castle is a longtime Chicago-based sportswriter, author and radio talk-show host.