Fans of Premier League clubs in the United States reached the promised land yesterday with the announcement that NBC Sports plans on showing every single game live, offering 600+ hours of original programming, hiring top talent such as Gary Lineker and having 20 matches shown live on free-to-air NBC in the first season.
The announcement, without a doubt, far exceeded my expectations. And certainly is a dream come true for soccer fans.
While I attended the press conference at 30 Rockefeller Center on Tuesday, I learned a great deal about NBC Sports’ commitment not only to the Premier League, but also to excellence. This is a network that’s steeped in history, but one that is continually trying to improve. Its focus on perfection was evident among the top brass at NBC Sports, who are focused on how they’ll let the game tell the story rather than having talking heads become the focus of attention. The team of presenters and commentators that they’ve hired are world-class, and shows an incredible commitment to letting soccer experts enhance the viewing experience instead of, as one example, having a basketball announcer and self-confirmed soccer novice call the games.
A key differentiator with NBC Sports is that they continually listen for feedback, both from viewers and pundits. They may not always agree with what we say but they assured me that they digest the feedback and, if appropriate, will seek to make improvements if and when necessary. As an example, I overheard a conversation within the corridors of NBC on Tuesday about how much influence the readers and views expressed on this very blog had helped NBC determine how to bring the Premier League to US audiences.
The path they’re taking is to deliver a quality product with a strong technical analysis of matches compared to the levity and talking heads that we see on FOX Soccer. While NBC’s approach should thrill hardcore EPL fans, I believe it’ll also win over the wider audience with informative analysis that will enrich the programming and keep viewers coming back for more. Unlike FOX Sports, NBC Sports will not talk down to its audience.
So far, NBC Sports hasn’t made a wrong move. Out of all of the announcements thus far in regards to talent, the one that I’m most excited about is the appointment of Graeme Le Saux. The man is incredibly gifted as an analyst, and should be a welcome addition to the commentator’s booth alongside rising star Arlo White. How Le Saux got overlooked for so long in the United Kingdom, I do not know.