Partnership Looks Bright For MLS And NBC

The tide has officially turned for soccer fans in the USA who love to watch their own league. Last August, the announcement came that NBC would be a new television partner for Major League Soccer starting in 2012. Many have been anxious and curious to see what would happen as the transition was made from FOX Soccer to NBC.

Sunday, March 11th marked the debut of MLS coverage on the NBC Sports Network. Right from the start at 3PM EDT (12 PDT), you have to say that the entire production was top notch.

The graphics were bold and sharp, the theme music was energetic and the live-on-the-field studio indicates that NBC has taken this game seriously. The amount of information coming from their hosts and experts was refreshing, and they did a spectacular job in covering both teams.

I think Seattle’s loss is our gain when it comes to Arlo White calling the action in the booth. Strangely enough, Kyle Martino was down on the field between the benches delivering commentary. You could tell at times they were not playing off each other well, but as the match went on the partnership grew stronger.

Russ Thaler, the host of NBC Sports Talk on the network, was your live desk host. Alongside Thaler was former Portland Timbers/Root Sports Analyst Robbie Earle. I’m not familiar with Thaler actually being a soccer fan, but one thing is for sure – he did a good job informing the audience.

Earle was fantastic with his analysis with the replays. He was forthright in giving his own opinion of what should have been done on the field, exhibiting the energy and excitement that we long to see. It was refreshing to observe the excitement these four guys brought to the table. The best news is that we will have this every single week broadcasting the league.

The debut leaves me eager to watch their two upcoming US Men’s National Team broadcasts. NBC Sports Network will air both the match against Scotland in Jacksonville, as well as the road trip to Toronto at BMO Field against Canada. That is the real test for me, to see how they handle a National Team broadcast.

While the rights to the important international matches have been obtained by ESPN (Euro 2012, World Cup 2014, US qualifiers) and FOX Soccer (World Cups ’18 and ’22), I feel that if NBC had the chance to show these types of games, they would be equal or better than the other two. When FOX Soccer tried to improve their graphics last season to keep the MLS contract, you had the feeling it was, “too little too late.” The grumblings about switching to the European calendar serve as a distraction from the fact that FOX Soccer didn’t invest the resources to put forth a quality on-air product for MLS.

Whatever you want to say about the quality on the field, soccer in the United States needs a platform dedicated to promoting the domestic game in the right way. NBC Sports Network has delivered an impressive showcase for the league, and we should all be excited for its future.

59 thoughts on “Partnership Looks Bright For MLS And NBC”

    1. I don’t see how it’s anything but successful. More access to
      viewers than FSC, and a company that cares about the leagues
      presentation. Thinking it will be a big mistake is shortsighted and
      not thought out.

        1. My parents in Upper West Hayseedsburg, Pennsylvania don’t get FOX Soccer.

          They do get NBC Sports Network.

          There is your answer.

          1. So your parents are not soccer fans, so that means MLS did not NET
            a single new viewer by the switch from FSC to NBC at your parents
            house. ZERO POINT ZERO my friend

          2. Nice response, Earl. The implication that somebody who doesn’t
            agree with you isn’t a soccer fan? That’s kinda MLSTalk 2008. Say
            ‘Hi’ to Mom and Dad.

          3. Robert: My parents are busy people who have other things happening, like going to sit by the bedside of my Uncle who is fighting for his life. And really, if MLS and NBC are trying to win over the 65+ age bracket by going to Versus/NBCSN, then they’ve got bigger problems. But hey, there are plenty of kids who subscribe to the same cable system, here’s hoping a good batch of them watched just to make MLS stronger.

            Real Charles: I get sick of the attacks towards the American game. By no means do I think MLS is perfect, but there are positives. Certain people hate to acknowledge those, and instead only appear when they have some cynical point to make.

          4. Earl, MLS is a product and isn’t my national team. If you can’t
            take criticism about a product than maybe you shouldn’t write on
            this site. Keep things in perspective, it’s just a game with a
            bunch of grown men kicking around a plastic ball.

        2. Solely for quality. FSC is on par – production value-wise – with
          public access. NBC Sports, even if some people don’t get it, at
          least have high quality production value on the product. Add to
          that, we know 3 (I think it’s 3) games will be on the flagship
          station and that is a huge increase over the 0 games shown on Fox’s
          mothership station.

          1. This is what makes the anti-FOX crowd a little tiresome: “FSC is on
            par – production value-wise – with public access.” Your public
            access must rock! FOX has a lot of issues. Few of the critics
            supporting MLS in this debate seem capable of addressing them.
            Hyperbole, exaggeration, and inaccuracies are more common at this
            point in the debate. Though calling it a debate is hyperbole on my

    2. If you’re interested in the actual facts, Robert, 20 million more
      people get NBC Sports Net than get Fox Soccer. And the ratings
      target of 300-400k viewers would be about five times the audience.

    1. If it’s anything that is a positive for MLS, there will be certain people who poo-poo it regardless. Just accept it for what it’s worth.

    2. Very doubtful Robert watched, he is just a troll, so you better
      make that a pile of grains of salt for his reply………….Hey
      Robert, care to make any more predictions on MLS attendance falling
      or something to give us a chuckle ?

      1. You are right charles, I didn’t watch because my cable provider
        didn’t show the game. However, I did watch plenty of Mexican,
        English and Spanish soccer this weekend because… drum roll… my
        cable provider showed the games

        1. Good to know you would have passed up the Mexican, English, and Spanish games for MLS games had the coverage been available.

  1. I tought it would be on NBC National TV, In Canada I have NBC but
    not the NBC Sports network, I was pretty disapointed yesterday,
    there is nothing else to watch these days, I don’t care about that
    overhyped media most boring event ever call the march madness.

  2. NBC was perfect. They had Arlo who really is a great announcer, but
    could be a little cooler. What do the guys in the booth do ? They
    crack a joke about talking like an American………..I thought
    Martino on the field was perfect. You could barely tell once they
    got going. He had insight that only being on the field would give
    more than once………..They didn’t talk down or try to be
    something they weren’t, pre-game, post game, all made it watch like
    any first class event should be broadcast…….They didn’t make
    comments like, “Whatever you want to say about the quality on the
    field” ( come on Daniel )………MLS has to be so glad not to have
    to settle for Fox any more, because it’s customers are. What a joke
    that station was, it held MLS way back…………..ESPN is going
    to have to step up tonight after that.

    1. Arlo needs to talk less. He commentates like he’s on radio and he
      needs to know he isn’t anymore. Otherwise it’s fine with me. I bash
      NBC a lot but this broadcast was miles better than FSC’s crap and
      ESPN’s insistence on stupid time slots and lack of attention.

  3. I thought White and Earle were fine. I’m not sold on Thaler or
    convinced he’s watched the league for very long. Martino doing
    sideline reporting worked well. I was not crazy about him doing
    studio analysis on FSC. The production values, as expected, were
    much better than FSC. All in all, a good start. The match also was
    well-publicized during the Bruins-Penguins game on NBC from 12:30
    to 3:00.

    1. Actually Clampdown, NBC was advertising MLS on NBC during the Super
      Bowl & the NHL games on both National & Sports Network
      channels. There will be two to three games on the National Channel
      towards the end of the regular season & I believe the Red Bulls
      will be on those two. It’s a fantastic time.

  4. Much improved over FOX Soccer. It looked, sounded, and felt like a
    major sports broadcast. The broadcasters were professional and did
    a good job. I can only see positives coming from this.
    NBC/Universal picked up the NHL, what two-three years ago, when
    everyone was saying the NHL was not a good sport for TV, and they
    have done very well with it. I think NBC will work with MLS. like
    they have with the NHL, to make it a success.

  5. The presentation and coverage was done really well compared to FSC
    and I really hate how ESPN shows games at 10pm EST on weeknights. I
    believe NBC does so well with NHL and now with MLS because they
    have to do there best with what they can get. They aren’t going to
    be getting MLB, NBA, or more NFL games. They only really spend
    there money on the Olympics so the rest of the money they use for
    sports has to be used on NHL, Notre Dame, and now MLS.

      1. Yea, but soccer games are only half as long as gridiron games (on
        average). An 8:30 MNF game ends at 11:30 at the earliest. A 10 PM
        soccer game ends at 11:45 or so (11:48 for tonight’s). Six of one,
        half dozen of the other really.

        I like the Monday night games. Especially when Portland wins.
        Like tonight!

        1. Start the game at 9pm EST and it will be over at 11pm EST which it
          a lot better and you wont loose as many east coast views that have
          to work the next morning and the west coast people can watch the
          game while they eat dinner.

  6. “I’m not familiar with Thaler actually being a soccer fan, but one
    thing is for sure – he did a good job informing the audience. ” —
    Thaler covered local DC sports for Comcast Sports Net before the
    merger and rebrand. He spent a fair bit of time covering DC United,
    and I personally spotted him at games (as a sidenote, I saw his
    replacement in that role, Ivan Carter, at the game this weekend).
    He’s not a ‘soccer expert’, but neither is he totally new to the
    sport. I imagine he’ll grow in his role over time.

    1. Thanks for the information. Never knew Thaler was doing DC United
      games on Comcast Sportsnet Mid-Atlantic

  7. my 2 cents on NBC Pros: i get NBC sports, i didnt get Fox Soccer
    (unfortunately but i do have fox deportes so i just CC it to
    English but lose the HD broadcast) so the availability is a plus.
    also I like the fact that i have it in HD. seem to put alittle more
    effort in their coverage than Fox (alteast in MLS coverage, their
    EPL coverage is pretty good). Cons: i hate their announcers. they
    were talking like the audience were 5 year olds (probably because
    they are aiming for the soccer amateur demographic and casual
    fans), idk if it bothers anyone else but its uncomfortable to think
    that MLS is pared up with second tier sports, indy car and NHL. and
    they over hype everything. i dont care how shiny you make it look,
    if the quality on the field is sub par then no one will want to
    watch. i know this is a 2 phase plan, get the views then improve
    the quality but i watched FCD vs RBNJ and Chivas vs Dynamo and both
    games were pretty boring to watch. also they glorify the unbalanced
    schedule and other mls agenda that they’re paid to. just cover
    soccer, dont remind me that the supporter’s shield is ruined. in
    the end if we are talking audience wise then NBC is a step up from
    Fox Soccer. i like the fact i get the channel and its in HD but the
    content is quirky and no matter how many people you get to watch,
    if it doesnt match the hype it gets (ergo quality isnt good) then
    you just expose to more people how much MLS has left to work on.
    all in all id much rather have MLS on Gol TV (its in HD and i think
    its available in most basic packages and its a dedicated soccer
    channel) but NBC isnt all bad, ill put up with the lame commentary
    and at least i get the channel in HD.

      1. in that case, the 24-hour soccer channel is the 3rd division of
        soccer channels, if you count # of households who get it. and
        NBC–the network station, not the cable station–shows adds for MLS
        on NBC games. never have that on FOX or ABC. so in reading all your
        comments, you will die a happy man the minute MLS fails, right?
        some soccer fan.

      2. Interesting, I always thought relegation equaled a loss of money
        and airtime. The move to NBC Sports seems all positive to me. More
        reachable audience, more money for the league to continue to grow.
        I’m not trying to be funny here, but I really don’t see a negative
        with the NBC sports deal.

        1. NBCSN is much more prevalent in advanced cable packages. FOX Soccer is usually an add-on through the sports tier, and thus a person has to pay ~ $8-15 more per month if they want to watch FOX Soccer. I know that DirecTV only offers FOX Soccer on the most advanced package of all, or if you buy the sports tier. Either way you’re spending at least $12 more a month just for FOX Soccer.

          Now if MLS went to Universal Sports…THAT would be a relegation. But NBCSN and a couple of matches on NBC is a step up.

    1. Ryan, I like your assesment of NBC sports. The one point I have a
      comment on is the one regarding 2nd tier sports. In my opinion I
      think that is a step up for MLS. While there is no question that
      soccer/football is #1 every where in the world except the US. I
      think that you wouldn’t be crazy to say in the grand scheme of
      things (agree or disagree with the majority) soccer in the US was
      below the 2nd teir of sport choices in the US. I mean, if I poll
      the 100 people or so in my office I think 90 of them would put golf
      and hockey above soccer and some would put nascar etc.. I look at
      the move to NBC sports alongside the NHL as a step in the right
      direction and a move towards the 1st tier so to speak.

  8. Why couldn’t MLS have FSC, ESPN, and NBC do a game a week? That
    would have been awesome and made some great competition. Why can it
    only be NBC and ESPN

      1. So Robert, because MLS thought they were worth $20 million and FSC
        told them to “pack sand” which I’m sure you mean “pound sand” and
        they got that $20 million and also are able to reach over 20
        million more “potential” viewers you view this as a bad thing?
        Amazing theory….

    1. FSC was terrible. But it is not only those two. Galavison also has
      games. And they have all or 2/3rds of the games on the Canadian
      ESPN too. Plus MLS stations are only around $80 for the whole year.
      In Seattle, we get about 5 games a week. MLS is on so much that I
      am reluctant to get the Direct Kick.

  9. WEll I still dont think the telecast should be lead by a british
    sounding voice. the Champions league game from Tuesday was better
    sounding more american feeling. Also the Game should have been on
    the NBC National. as for the other stuff I dont see much difference
    from FSC. Im more disappointed , but not suprised, there is still
    the lack of Marketing from MLS, there really was no lead up news or
    commercials (outside what NBC/ or espn doing which was little as
    usual) the league still fails to work on putting out the word. How
    is Soccer gonna reach a decent mainstream creditability when the
    organizations dont want to put in the work.

  10. people are missing the point i think. mls went with nbc because nbc
    said they would promote the crap out of the league. i’ve already
    seen mls commercials on the main network, for games on nbcsn. i’ve
    NEVER seen an mls ad on abc or fox. hell i rarely ever see ads for
    it on espn, unless it’s during a soccer game. this will come in
    HUGE when nbc airs the olympics (and gives mls an olympics lead-in
    on nbcsn and also airs mls commercials during the oly games on
    nbc), and ads on nbc during their nfl and notre dame telecasts. mls
    doesn’t necessarily need fox’s extra $20million, they want the
    exposure to the casual fan. something espn and fox seemed unwilling
    to do.

  11. NBC’s broadcast was good – better than FSC. FSC’s broadcast was
    fine. This whole FSC boogieman that’s been constructed can stay in
    the past. MLS is on NBC now. Just let the FSC stuff go.

  12. Russ Thaler has been doing D.C. United games for years and know his
    stuff but I’m sure it will take him a little time to adjust to his
    new role with NBCSN! He will be a valuable asset to the broadcast
    team. I really thought they did a great job!

  13. The problem with being off For Soccer and ESPN is I don’t see
    reminders for the games. I mostly watch soccer, so it is a
    disadvantage that they are not promoted during Euro Champions
    League, CONCACAF, and English League games.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *