On this week’s MLSTalk podcast, we spoke of NBC Universal acquiring the US broadcast and digital rights for the English Premier League. For those of you who would like an excellent primer on what NBC envisions for this deal, Jonathan Tannenwald has published an interview with NBC Sports President Jon Miller that sheds some light.
While I don’t want to rehash too much of what they spoke about, my perspective is that Major League Soccer could very much profit from this deal. While resources will be pushed into producing the Premier League, if done properly, the sport as a whole may profit from this contract.
The NBC deal signed by MLS in the Summer of 2011 was looked upon as a positive for the league, and from a production standpoint it has been a significant upgrade. Yet this has not manifested into the ratings boost everyone had hoped.
Soccer’s main struggle in America continues to be the stigma espoused by the American sports fan. Decades of generalizations about the toughness and excitement of the sport have been instilled upon generations. Many immediately scoff at the notion of watching a game on television – to prove it, write a soccer-espousing Facebook post and see how many of your friends deride it. It’s true that everyone has their likes and dislikes, and there are going to be people who always dislike soccer. But things are changing, and the demographic is there now – if you can reach it.
And this speaks to a point Miller actually brought out as the main reason this will help MLS: “This is good for MLS because it makes the sport more important to us.” Without improvements in ratings for MLS on NBC and NBC Sports Network, I would doubt the media giant would consider putting much more weight into covering the league if that remained their only soccer offering.
The Premier League changes that. Yes, much of their resources will be devoted to the English league. But with the investment NBC Universal made into the Premier League ($83MM per season), the stakes are raised. Much has been written about the growth opportunity of soccer in America, but finally there may be a network with the backing, infrastructure, and desire to fully promote the sport in this country.
Once the Premier League coverage begins in August 2013, if NBC Sports Network uses this as an opportunity to produce a top-quality soccer review show similar to Fox Soccer Report, that would be a positive start in my opinion. It might not be daily, but perhaps this allows for the intermingling of the Premier League and MLS, as well as other leagues and international competitions that interest Americans.