SBD/September 30, 2013/Media

EPL Coverage Paying Dividends For NBCSN Viewership, Which Could Help MLS Deal

EPL coverage fills as many as 40 hours a week on NBC Sports Network
NBCSN’s daily viewership from Aug. 17 to Sept. 22 "swelled 67 percent, to 77,000 viewers," since the net began broadcasting EPL matches, and the "highs are getting higher," according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. Last Sunday's Manchester City-Manchester United match drew 852,000 viewers, the "biggest audience so far" on the net for its EPL coverage. NBCSN has "become the NBC Sports Group’s Premier League centerpiece, filling as many as 40 hours a week on the cable network." Gilt Edge Soccer Marketing Founder John Guppy said, “What they’ve done -- and it’s not that Fox didn’t do it, but maybe it comes across more directly to consumers -- is they’ve made the Premier League feel special and important.” Sandomir reported the EPL’s success "has helped" MLS, which also has games on NBCSN. Viewership of the eight MLS games on the network "since coverage of the Premier League began on NBCSN has jumped 60 percent, and the number of unique visitors to MLS games streamed by NBC has soared 322 percent." All of that "should help MLS in talks to extend its contract beyond next season." NBC in acquiring EPL rights wanted to "capitalize on the league’s popularity and to breathe oxygen into NBCSN." But NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus is "politic enough not to declare that NBCSN’s identity has quickly become tied inextricably to the Premier League." Lazarus: “It’s part of our definition, but you have to put it up with the NHL. This adds another pillar product to go with the NHL, and I think Nascar will be the third.” The network’s expenses for EPL "are relatively modest: it does not produce the games it televises -- paying only satellite access fees -- and sends announcers to only two of the six games it shows each week" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/28).

ONE AND DONE? Reports late last week surfaced that NBC and Michelle Beadle were parting ways after the cancellation of NBCSN's "The Crossover," and SI.com's Richard Deitsch cited sources as saying that Beadle was "unhappy with the show's inability to find an audience on NBCSN, and she wants to find an outlet where she can be seen by a wide audience on a daily basis." She also is "clearly ticked at some of her bosses." As for Beadle returning to ESPN, she "left the network on exceptionally good terms." ESPN President John Skipper is "a huge fan of her work, and she's championed both in-house and externally" by ESPN VP/Original Programming & Production Jamie Horowitz, Coordinating Producer Kevin Wildes and former "SportsNation" co-host Colin Cowherd. ESPN sources over the weekend said that Beadle "would be welcome back with open arms." Deitsch noted Beadle is still under contract with NBC, but "much of that contract was likely predicated on her hosting a daily show" (SI.com, 9/29).
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