Breaking Down NBC Sports' Premier League Package for the 2013-14 Season
NBC Sports' $250 million, three-year TV deal to broadcast Premier League matches in the U.S. got a big-time New York City launch at 30 Rock on Tuesday.
Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore was there for the announcement, which saw NBC Sports reiterate its intention to showcase all 380 EPL games live next season and also unveil its first round of talent hires.
Here's a breakdown of what NBC has in store and what it means for U.S. consumption of the world's richest football league.
For the first time next season, U.S.-based Premier League fans will be able to watch every single one of their team's matches live. Those games not shown on NBCUniversal channels will be available on a new package called Premier League Extra Time (free to those receiving NBC Sports Network).
NBC Sports Live Extra provides a primary and second screen experience across mobile, tablet and desktop, delivering high quality video, match/player stats and video highlights while aggregating Premier League content from social media.
On the final day of the Premier League season, 10 NBCUniversal channels will be used to simultaneously broadcast the 10 final matches of the campaign live.
Fox committed to showing nine of the 10 games on the final day last season and was duly rewarded with the most enthralling finish in Premier League history, as Sergio Aguero's goal in added time won the title for Manchester City.
NBC confirms that all 380 live Premier League matches will be accompanied by "studio pre- and postgame coverage."
On Saturday nights, there will be a two-hour highlights show called Match of the Day, borrowing much from the iconic BBC show that airs weekly in England. This will be repeated on Sunday mornings, with Match of the Day 2 on Sunday nights to showcase the best of that day's action. Premier League Goal Zone will simply roll out all of the weekend's goals as soon as Sunday's action is over.
Match of the Week will also air on Sunday nights, re-running in full the best game of the Premier League weekend.
Amongst the other shows planned (see the full list here) are Premier League 36, which will follow players in the 36 hours leading up to a game, and a teaser series called Premier League Preview.
Fans of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal will benefit from Game Cut-Downs shown on Monday and Tuesday nights. These will effectively be condensed versions of their full matches that weekend.
Englishman Arlo White, as expected, was named lead play-by-play commentator for NBC Sports' coverage of the Premier League and will cover in excess of 75 matches during the season.
Former BBC man White is a widely respected soccer voice in the U.S., having worked for the Seattle Sounders before taking on NBC's play-by-play commentator duties for Major League Soccer.
White will be joined by former Chelsea and England defender Graeme Le Saux and former Arsenal and England defender Lee Dixon in his on-location coverage. Both are intelligent and astute analysts.
NBC's studio coverage will be fronted by another English voice, that of ex-ESPN presenter and host Rebecca Lowe.
Lowe will lean on the expertise of former Jamaican international Robbie Earle and ex-Middlesborough midfielder Robbie Mustoe in the studio. Like Lowe, both are experienced media heads who should hit the ground running. NBC could have gone for bigger profiles with more punch here, but instead it has banked on confident TV personalities whose tone fits what it's trying to achieve.
Former England international Gary Lineker, the host of BBC's Match of the Day, will pitch in as a "special contributor" direct from a studio in the UK. Lineker has often been accused of being bland, but he is nothing if not a smooth TV operator and is a very safe bet for NBC.
NBC's Hopes for Its Premier League Coverage
"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.," said NBC Sports chairman Mark Lazarus last October, as per USA Today.
That sentiment was echoed in today's press event, footage of which can be viewed here.
NBC see this deal as a huge opportunity to capitalize on the burgeoning U.S. interest in the Premier League. It plans to use its existing properties—the likes of major golf tournaments and NFL coverage—to aggressively promote its EPL package and attempt to build the audience.
Jon Miller, NBC president of programming, said that the TV rights deal with the Premier League had been two years in the making.
What the Premier League Has to Gain
To put it nicely, the best platform on which to promote its global product. To put it crudely, huge pots of cash.
"We thought we'd taken this league around the world to some levels, but this is just about as good as it gets," said Scudamore in Tuesday's press event.
"Yes there might be 1.2 billion people in China, there might be 1.3 billion people in India... but nowhere, nowhere do they consume sports like they do here (in the U.S.)."
Scudamore went on to talk about how the U.S. market is a big priority for the Premier League and its 20 clubs.
Are you excited by NBC Sports' EPL coverage?
If you're a U.S.-based fan of the Premier League, there really aren't any. You're about to be served more live games than ever before and an unprecedented depth of coverage to go along with it.
The only slight bone of contention might be the lack of American voices currently signed up to front NBC Sports' coverage—zero. Is that a big deal? You decide.
If you're an MLS club or one of its owners, however, you might be very well be concerned that yet more of your potential market is about to be snaffled up by the Premier League's aggressive campaign for global domination.
Rise of prominence by English & Mexican leagues on US TV means MLS has to work even harder to increase ratings. Hoping owners take notice.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) April 16, 2013
While MLS TV ratings continue to drag, the Premier League's appeal has done enough to get NBC Sports to drop $250 million and make a foreign soccer league one of its major priorities over the next three years.
From here, the only way for the EPL in America is up.
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