NBC Sports Widely Lauded For Debut Coverage Of EPL As Net Seeks Casual Viewers
NBC earned a 0.8 overnight for the net's debut EPL match on Saturday afternoon, which featured Manchester United-Swansea City, with DC topping all U.S. markets with a 2.2 local rating. NBCSN on Saturday aired two games (Liverpool-Stoke City and Arsenal-Aston Villa) and the three-game average for NBC Sports Group was a 0.5 overnight. ManU-Swansea City also marked the best overnight in U.S. history for an EPL opening weekend match. Last year's opening EPL Saturday averaged a 0.3 overnight for three matches across ESPN and Fox Soccer. NBCSN also averaged a 0.3 overnight for its EPL doubleheader on Sunday, which featured Crystal Palace-Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea-Hull City. That figure is up from a 0.2 overnight for Fox Soccer's opening Sunday doubleheader last year (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor). NBCSN's "Premier League Live" studio show opened with co-host Rebecca Lowe saying, "We are coming to you live this morning from our international broadcast center in Stamford, Connecticut. It's a big day for everyone here. For the next nine months we will be your home for exclusive coverage of the Barclays Premier League. The new season has at last arrived, and we will cover every angle of the opening weekend and bring you all ten matches live" ("Premier League Live," NBCSN, 8/17). In Tampa, Tom Jones writes NBC "had a strong opening weekend" for the EPL. Ratings were "decent," but the "product and NBC's coverage were outstanding." It is "early, but NBC seems to have made the right choice" in tabbing Lowe as co-host of "Premier League Live." Jones: "She knows her stuff" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 8/19).
NBC GOES ALL IN: In DC, Steven Goff wrote "one thing is certain," and that is the EPL, "regarded as one of the most popular global sports brands, has never had an American stage like this before." NBC is "promoting Premier League coverage as if it's the NFL." Among NBC's challenges is "introducing the league to casual viewers without insulting sophisticated fans" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/17). PHILLY.com's Jonathan Tannenwald spent Saturday morning at NBC Sports' HQs to watch the production and wrote, "I came away quite impressed, as so many television viewers did." There are "certain sporting events you can broadcast with a half-measure, but NBC was committed to not doing so for this." The presentation "lived up to the hype, and to NBC's high standards." Soccer this past weekend "took another big step towards being America's sport of the present" (PHILLY.com, 8/18).
GIVE THE AUDIENCE WHAT IT WANTS: SI.com's Tom Dart wrote, "With NBC Sports emphasizing that all 380 Premier League games are live on television or the internet, it is unfortunate for MLS that its live matches are scheduled far in advance." NBCSN viewers on Saturday were "served up the goalless draw" between the Red Bulls and Union, rather than Sounders F Clint Dempsey's "first start in his home state" of Texas (SI.com, 8/18).
NEW START ACROSS THE POND: In London, Jonathan Liew notes BT Sport launched in the U.K. this month, and Liverpool-Stoke City marked the net's first time televising the EPL. Some viewers "encountered technical difficulties with the BT Sport app." BT Sport's coverage was, "admittedly, a little silly at times." But the "serious stuff was better." Signing up former Stoke City manager Tony Pulis as a pundit was a "cruel masterstroke." If there was "one area in which BT were well stocked, it was bodies" (London TELEGRAPH, 8/19).