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).