SBD/August 13, 2013/Media

NBC Debuts EPL Coverage This Week With Abundance Of Games, Team Access

NBC Sports Group is having a "huge week" as it "debuts its coverage of what most soccer fans consider the best league in the world" with the EPL, according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. NBC Sports will air all 380 EPL games, which is "more tonnage than anywhere else on the globe (including the U.K.)." NBC Sports Soccer Group Coordinating Producer Pierre Moossa said, "Our coverage is going to be very simple: We are going to get out of the way and just cover the game and the league properly. It's an amazing product and it speaks for itself."  Over the first three weeks of the season, NBC and NBCSN will televise 17 EPL matches "including five over the first weekend." Each match will be "preceded and followed by pre- and post-match shows" hosted by Rebecca Lowe and analysts Robbie Earle, Kyle Martino, and Robbie Mustoe. Arlo White is NBC's lead EPL broadcaster and will be "assigned to games with either analyst Lee Dixon or Graeme Le Saux." NBC will have its own announcers for what it "deems are the best games of the weekend and will use the world feed announcers for all the other games it airs and streams." Moossa said that the EPL and its clubs have been "highly receptive to NBC regarding player access, meetings and promotional work." The clubs have "made managers and players available to NBC broadcasters and producers prior to the season for off-the-record meetings on each club." NBC's "Premier League Live" Saturday pregame show will air each week at 7:00am ET. The moment the players "come out on the pitch, about 35-40 minutes in, NBC will switch to the game site." The studio show "will air live on Sunday at 8:00 a.m. for about 25 minutes before heading to that day's kickoff" (SI.com, 8/11).

STEEL SHARPENS STEEL: In L.A., Kevin Baxter noted NBC is "wagering hundreds of millions of dollars and an unprecedented number of broadcast hours" on the EPL, whose viewers "tend to be more upscale and better educated than the general sports audience." NBC Sports Group President of Programming Jon Miller "believes soccer will give his network a leg up on traditional sports broadcasting powers ESPN and Fox." Martino, who previously covered soccer for ESPN and Fox, said that "fierce competition among the three networks has benefited the sport and its fans in the U.S." Martino: "Everyone's trying to challenge the next person to raise the bar. Fox is raising the bar, ESPN's raising the bar, and NBC's raising the bar as well." Martino, who is also NBC's lead MLS analyst, added, "The idea is to give the audience everything. Don't try to pick what we think they're going to be interested in. Give them the option to follow any team that they want. Give them an introduction to a lot of these teams" (L.A. TIMES, 8/11).

IF IT AIN'T BROKE: Martino said, "What NBC has been really smart about is to not try and change what has been done, whether they are familiar with watching it on Sky Sports (in the United Kingdom) or different networks. That is to not change what has been done before, and re-write the book on how to cover the Premier League, but to stay true to the authenticity and history there. And add some of these little aspects that NBC is known for when it comes to storytelling. That's the familiarity the American fan has when they watch the NFL, or Major League Baseball, or the NBA. Some of those little nuances and ways to cover the game, and to bring (EPL coverage) to the next level without dumbing things down or making it a sport it's not. I think that little dance is a delicate one that everyone has tried to do. So far NBC has done such a good job of getting that right" (PHILLY.com, 8/11).

BONUS PLAN: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Christopher Botta reports "all but one of the major TV, satellite and Internet providers have agreed to pick up the free bonus package of EPL matches" NBC will make available. NBC Sports has created Premier League Extra Time, a package of 184 EPL matches that will not be broadcast on NBCU TV nets "but instead will be available to the providers to air at no extra cost for customers" who receive NBCSN. The "only holdout, as of last week, was Charter." Miller said, "We could have charged $15 or $20 a month for a service like Fox Soccer 2Go, and we might have gotten 100,000 people who would have bought it. But we made the decision to make the additional games available at no charge, as long as you had NBCSN. This is a way to strengthen the pay-TV ecosystem so that people have a reason not to cut the cord, to not go away from their cable and satellite providers" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 8/12 issue).
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Media, NBC, English Premier League

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