SBJ/Aug. 12-18, 2013/Media

Carriers pick up NBC’s free package of Premier League games

Before its English Premier League telecasts debut on Saturday, NBC Sports Group has received early, good news on its three-year, $250 million investment in the league: All but one of the major TV, satellite and Internet providers have agreed to pick up the free bonus package of EPL matches the network will make available.

Instead of rolling out a monthly pay streaming service — as previous EPL rights holder Fox Sports offers with Fox Soccer 2Go — NBC Sports has created Premier League Extra Time, a package of 184 EPL matches that will not be broadcast on NBC-Universal television networks but instead will be available to the providers to air at no extra cost for customers who receive NBC Sports Network.

DirecTV, Dish Network, Time Warner Cable, Cox and Cablevision all have signed on for the package. The only holdout, as of last week, was Charter, which had signed on to offer live streaming via NBC Sports Live Extra, the network’s product for desktops, mobile devices and tablets, but had not agreed to a deal to carry Premier League Extra Time. According to an NBC Sports spokesman, negotiations were ongoing.

“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,” said Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network. “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. For those people who don’t have a cable or satellite system, this gives them a reason to sign up with their companies.”

Sales totals for Fox Soccer 2Go were not available at press time.

NBC Sports Group acquired EPL rights last fall. Of the 380 league matches set for this season, 196 will be shown live on

NBC-Universal networks, primarily NBC and NBCSN. All 380 matches will be streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra. Matches on NBCSN will be live streamed via TV Everywhere: Viewers wishing to watch those matches will have to be authenticated as NBCSN subscribers.

When NBC Sports first pitched the EPL on a rights deal a year ago, it made its intention of offering all of the matches free to subscribers clear to league officials.

“Now the providers can say to their subscribers, ‘Look at all of this extra content you’re getting,’” Miller said. “We made the pitch, and the providers who are really sports-savvy, like DirecTV and Dish, got it right away. To see the others, like Mediacom and AT&T U-verse, fall in line so quickly, has been gratifying.”

Although NBC Sports will not directly benefit financially from its decision the way it would with a pay service, in the long term, the network could generate revenue by acquiring new subscribers to NBCSN.

“We think it makes our network more valuable in the eyes of the consumer and, by extension, in the eyes of the [multichannel video programming distributors],” Miller said.

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