Sports talk has also proliferated into television, including straight-out debate shows.
Add to that the myriad pre-game/half-time/post-game shows as well as shows that are issues-oriented and/or investigative. Regulating the pace and tenor of these programs is the job of a show host.
"First and foremost [a good sports show host] has to have the mechanics down," says NBC's Costas, who has won more than a dozen Emmy awards for his hosting. "The best make it look easy. A lot of people would be surprised at how many moving parts there are, how much the host has to juggle and the input that [the host] gets simultaneously from the producer. So there's a little bit of keeping a bunch of plates twirling in the air."
"Once you have the mechanics of it down, then the other elements are the ability to listen to what others [on the set] are saying, the ability to think on your feet because while there is a format and there is a script, you never know what might happen, so you have to be able to ad-lib. You also have to be knowledgeable about the subject matter because you want to set up [the people on the set with you] and let them shine."
Ultimately, a good host will drive a show, keep it interesting and on time. A good host does not necessarily have to dominate (although they might have to), but rather, facilitate.
As Costas alluded to, the host has to be in synch with the producer. The producer has a format to which he or she has to adhere. That format is normally divided into segments, with each one having its own specific tone, subject matter, guests, and timing. The producer has a list of elements that is designed to enhance that segment and it's up to the host, mostly in response to the producer talking in his or her ear, to help implement those elements or, in some cases, skip them because of time or other issues.
Preparing to host a show is done in concert with the producer. Sometimes the producer will take input from the host on what the format looks like while producers will be married to a concept or idea and will simply tell the host to make it happen. Whatever the case may be, the host needs to internalize the vision of the producer through a pre-show meeting so he or she has a feel for what the show needs to look and sound like. At the same time, the host has to be able to shift gears on the fly and change/add/subtract at the whim of the producer, often during the show or right before it.
The host has his or her own responsibilities independent of the producer, including research on the issues to be discussed or on the guests who are appearing. Much of this research needs to be laid out in such a way so that the host can refer to it on an as-needed basis.
Once the show begins, a lot of the host's responsibility revolves around transitioning to and from various segments. Typically, the host might voiceover a recorded open, then a live welcome to the show with a wide shot of the set. A close-up could come next, with the host introducing him or herself and either reading off of a teleprompter or ad-libbing what is coming up on the show (graphics and/or video might also be used in this segment). Then, an introduction of the guests would probably ensue.
From there, it's the host's job to get and keep the show moving by introducing topics, adding commentary to spur conversation or debate, regulating a debate between two or more guests or transitioning to a graphic, taped segment or any other element the producer may want.
"In short," says Russ Thaler, the host of NBC's coverage of Major League Soccer, "you need to be in the moment and stay in control, especially when things are threatening to get out of hand." Thaler adds, "Sometimes people come in with agendas, especially when it's a straight interview with a newsmaker. You have to be ready to ask a pointed question that gets you to the point that you're trying to get answered, as opposed to allowing someone to simply state their agenda."