NBC Sports Group have bet big on English football, agreeing a three-year deal worth $250 million to become the Premier League's exclusive live broadcast partner in the United States.
Taking over coverage from Fox and ESPN, NBC have secured the English- and Spanish-language rights for all 380 Premier League matches and will begin their coverage at the start of the 2013-14 season.
Said NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus on Sunday (AP):
The Barclays Premier League is the pre-eminent soccer league in the world, and is on the cusp of exponential popularity growth here in the U.S..
...The Premier League provides NBCU with best-in-class content for 10 months of the year across our far-reaching broadcast, cable and digital platforms. This is a perfect match.
The Premier League released the news through their official website on Monday, stating that NBC's bid promised the, "biggest and broadest programming and promotion commitment ever in the United States."
Here are the key details of the deal and what it means for U.S. consumption of one of the world's richest and most popular sports leagues.
NBC Sports Group will be paying around $85 million a season for Premier League audio-visual broadcast rights in the U.S., which represents a threefold increase on the estimated $80 million Fox paid in total for the current three-year deal.
The $250 million paid by NBC is dwarfed by the £3 billion UK deal negotiated for the same period, however, which saw Sky Sports and BT win out.
The New York Times reports NBC beat out a joint bid from ESPN and Fox, along with a bid from beIN Sport, to win U.S. Premier League rights running from the 2013-14 to 2015-16 seasons.
This, as per NBC's official release:
Although specific programming details will be announced at a later date, NBC, NBC Sports Network, and NBCSports.com will all be utilized to present live Premier League coverage, as well as Telemundo and mun2 for Spanish-language coverage
We can also expect live streaming through NBC Sports Live Extra and the occasional use of other NBC channels to show Premier League matches.
AP report NBC will show six live Premier League games a week, with other matches streamed online.
Around the live games, NBC plan to roll out what they call, "comprehensive shoulder programming," set to include pre- and postgame shows, highlights and weekly roundups.
Details to follow here, but some of the talent NBC uses in its MLS and U.S. national teams coverage will surely be in equation.
These include the highly respected Arlo White and analyst Robbie Earle, who comes with Premier League experience from his playing days.
Fox Soccer's audience numbers for live Premier League games are down a little season, falling from an average of 142,000 viewers last season to 136,000 for the 2012-13 campaign so far.
According to The New York Times, Lazarus expects to eclipse those numbers.
The clearest reason to believe him is the fact NBC's channels combine to reach 95 percent of U.S. households, which is a far bigger audience than that which is available to Fox Soccer.
What it means for U.S. soccer fans
It's hard to see a downside for U.S.-based Premier League fans, who'll have easier access to more live matches than ever before.
NBC sees the deal as a long-term investment in a growing marketplace. If we are to believe their statements of intent, U.S. Premier League coverage is about to enter a bold new age.
Why spend $250 million on a product if you're not going to take it seriously and do the best job possible?