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NBC Sports Up Bright And Early For Premier League Debut

Five minutes before air, at 6:55 am at the NBC Sports Group studios in Stamford, Conn., coordinating producer Pierre Moossa (center) and staff prepared to launch the debut of the English Premier League on NBCSN.
When Sam Flood got out of his car in the lot of the NBC Sports studios in Stamford, Conn., at 6:20 a.m. on Saturday, he made note of the abundance of filled parking spots around him.

“The lot isn’t usually this crowded so early,” said Flood, executive producer of NBC Sports. “It’s an early day for the crew.”

It was also a new era for NBC Sports, as the Premier League made its debut on Saturday on NBC and NBCSN. The network outbid incumbents Fox and ESPN (and all others) by committing $250 million for the rights to the next three seasons of what is arguably the top soccer league in the world.

It was a good first day.

“Premier League Live,” the network’s studio show with host Rebecca Lowe and analysts Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, which launched NBCSN’s EPL coverage at 7 a.m. ET, was sharp and informative throughout the long day.

NBC Sports Executive Producer Sam Flood (left) and President of Programming Jon Miller watch as “Premier League Live” goes on air at 7 a.m.
In Production Control Room 3, coordinating producer Pierre Moossa kept calm and ran a smooth ship. It’s not like Moossa, who also leads NBC’s MLS coverage, and his staffers were broadcasting their first day of soccer.

About thirty seconds before going on air live, Moossa said flatly to everyone in the room and on head-set, “It’s a tradition for me at this point to tell you guys, ‘Let’s not suck.’”

Prior to the Liverpool-Stoke City match at 7:45 a.m. ET, NBCSN carried the traditional singing at Anfield of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by the Liverpool supporters.

“That’s how you want it to be,” Flood said as he stood in front of a bank of monitors in the control room. “We weren’t going to miss that.”

The only time the staff seemed slightly harried was a few minutes before first kick of Liverpool-Stoke City, when the starting lineups for both clubs were hard to nail down. For a brief moment, workers were out of their chairs and talking above a whisper. The lineups were acquired just in time to be posted on screen.

Jon Miller, president of programing for NBC Sports, proudly held up his phone while NBC Sports Live Extra, the network’s streaming product, played the Liverpool match.

“Look at the clarity,” Miller said. “It’s no more than just a few seconds behind real time. Amazing.”

When an NBCSN commercial for its broadcast later that night of the MLS match between New York and Philadelphia was the last spot run before NBCSN went live with its EPL coverage at 7 a.m., Miller said, “Those guys at MLS will get an enormous amount of love, as they should.”

A crew of young production assistants logs every game in the Premier League so highlights can be prepared.
When the MLS spot ran again, immediately after the first half of Liverpool-Stoke City, Miller said, “As we look to 2014 [when NBC’s agreement with MLS expires] and beyond, these are some of the things we’re prepared to do.”

Miller seemed to want studio visitors to know that NBC had time for both the Premier League and Major League Soccer, but his joy over the new partnership with the EPL was evident.

“The Premier League is great for TV because they’ve adopted the NFL scheduling format,” Miller said. “They play on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. You know when they’re playing. As a programmer, you love it.”

Following Liverpool-Stoke City, NBCSN at 10 a.m. took viewers to coverage of Arensal vs. Aston Villa. Manchester United vs. Swansea City would follow at 12:30 p.m., on parent NBC. (That third match of the day ultimately would score an overnight rating of 0.8, the best overnight mark in U.S. history for an EPL opening-weekend match.)

The live portion of the EPL day for NBC/NBCSN concluded at 3 p.m., but there was a little more work to be done before the crew departed two hours later. An introduction was taped for “Match of the Day,” which ran on NBCSN at 11 p.m. ET. For this day, the match chosen to be re-broadcast was Liverpool’s victory over Stoke City.

The first day of what will be at least a three-year partnership was in the books.

Studio host Rebecca Lowe and analyst Robbie Earl take a  break as the Arsenal-Aston Villa match begins at 10 a.m.

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