“Get your breakfast. Get your lunch, and get comfy,” Rebecca Lowe told viewers at the beginning of NBC’s opening day of coverage of the Barclays Premier League 2013/14 season.
For the next 7.5 hours, presenter Lowe alongside analysts Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle led us through a flawless presentation of Premier League Live, the new NBC pre-match show followed by Liverpool-Stoke, Arsenal-Aston Villa and Swansea-Manchester United, with plenty of pre-match, half-time and post-match analysis and interviews to keep soccer fans glued to their TV sets.
Never before has the Premier League been presented so professionally, intelligently and with such heart and soul as it was today. The coverage was the next best thing to actually being there in England and Wales.
It wasn’t perfect. There were flubs, technical difficulties and syncing issues, as well as embarrassing On Demand screw-ups by Xfinity, who are part of the same corporate family as NBC. But overall, on their first day of broadcast, it was a positive performance by NBC Sports.
As soon as the live broadcast of Premier League Live began at seven o’clock on this Saturday morning, the difference was immediately felt. “Welcome to the new home of the Premier League,” read the voiceover as NBC Sports Network pulled us immediately into the broadcast, giving us a very newsy and real-time feel as they showed live camera shots of the English football grounds at Anfield, Emirates Stadium and Liberty Stadium.
After their opening discussion, the team of Lowe, Mustoe and Earle switched to reporter Ian Irving live from Anfield where he gave us the latest team news. This was soon followed by pre-match interviews with managers Brendan Rodgers and Mark Hughes, answering a few questions each. The anticipation and suspense for the opening game grew, and everyone involved did a superb job of making us feel like we were part of the experience — all the way to the teams lining up in the Anfield tunnel.
The next few minutes were the most poignant of the day. With the players in the tunnel, Lowe completely respected the sanctity of the time and place, and remained practically silent to let us listen in to the players preparing before they walked onto the rain-soaked Merseyside pitch. As the cameras followed the teams out of the tunnel, there was an absolutely remarkable camera shot as we saw an aerial view from high above Anfield with the rain pelting down. For me, this was a goosebumps moment as it made me feel like I was right there.
The cameras then brought us back to the Anfield pitch as the players did their customary handshakes, which was followed by the Liverpool anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone” being sung by the Liverpool faithful. The way NBC Sports respected the singing of the anthem spoke volumes of how they understand club traditions.
Instead of going to commercial, like FOX Soccer used to do when they had the Premier League rights, NBC Sports aired the entire “You’ll Never Walk Alone” anthem without talking over it for one second (unlike BT Sports who interrupted the anthem halfway through by talking about team lineups).