SBJ/March 4-10, 2013/In Depth

NBC to use EPL coverage to tout MLS action

NBC believes that Major League Soccer’s television presence will benefit this season from the network’s deal to broadcast English Premier League games.

“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” said Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network. “We will promote our MLS games during our Premier League coverage. We’ll also look to schedule MLS games after EPL games. It will be good for everybody.”

NBC Sports Network will air 38 MLS regular-season games, while NBC will broadcast three.
Photo by: Getty Images
MLS is in the second season of its three-year deal with NBC. Last October, NBC signed a three-year deal with the EPL for $83 million per season. Miller said NBC has an aggressive plan for the EPL that the network expects to announce in the next month. The 2013 EPL season starts in August.

NBC Sports Network will air 38 MLS regular-season games, while NBC will broadcast three. Last season, NBC averaged 521,000 viewers for its three MLS telecasts, while NBC Sports Network averaged 125,000 viewers over 40 telecasts. The 125,000 figure was more than double the viewership on Fox Soccer in 2011, but Fox Soccer is available in roughly 40 million fewer homes than NBC Sports Network.

In addition to the broadcast on NBC’s networks, ESPN will air eight MLS regular-season games and ESPN2 will have 13. Last season, 13 of the 25 MLS matches shown on ESPN or ESPN2 were seen by more than 300,000 viewers.
UniMas, the Univision network formerly known as Telefutura, will broadcast 25 MLS games in Spanish this season.

While they wait for a possible bump from their EPL coverage, NBC and NBC Sports Network are placing their hopes on Rivalry Weekend, a complete day of MLS programming set for March 16. New York will face D.C. United on NBC, followed by Sporting KC-Chicago and Seattle-Portland on NBC Sports Network.

After play-by-play announcer Arlo White, analyst Kyle Martino and host Russ Thaler work the first game in New York, they will travel to NBC Sports Group studios in Stamford, Conn., to host studio shows on NBC Sports Network around the later games.

“It will be our first ‘whip-around’ programming,” said MLS President Mark Abbott. “We believe our supporters will really embrace it.”

Said NBC’s Miller: “As [NBC executive producer] Sam Flood says, ‘Hate sells.’ Rivalries sell.”

Miller said the rivalry games have been promoted in print, online and broadcast campaigns since the beginning of February.

Pierre Moossa, NBC Sports Group’s coordinating producer for soccer programming, said NBC does not plan many production changes from a year ago. “It’s a great game,” Moossa said. “We’re about executing the basics.”

Moossa said MLS clubs were very cooperative in handling NBC’s request for access and interviews. “The clubs learned the nuances of how we like to cover the game. It was a good first season, and now we’re ready to build on it.”

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