NBC Sports Scores A Winner With Its Unprecedented Coverage of Arsenal-Chelsea Game

NBC Sports Group gave American viewers on Monday afternoon a little taste into how comprehensive soccer coverage is in the UK. In the process, they perhaps permanently left ESPN and FOX Sports in their wake. With all of English football focused on the top of the table London derby between Chelsea and Arsenal, it was a great opportunity for NBC to showcase all of the talent and creativity they have at their disposal in a single broadcast.

An English friend described yesterday’s pre-game show to me last night as “the best hour he had seen on American television devoted to the Premier League.” I’ll go a step further. For those of us interested in tactics and match-ups, it was better than anything ESPN has produced for previous World Cups or FOX has produced in their UEFA Champions League coverage.

Understanding they were speaking to hard-core fans well versed in English football, NBC deployed Gary Lineker to the Emirates to host from the ground alongside US International and Everton keeper Tim Howard. The commentary team of Arlo White and Graeme Le Saux joined Lineker early on to break down the matchup.

Back in Stamford, CT, Rebecca Lowe held down the fort with Kyle Martino and Robbie Earle. Included in the segments from Connecticut were an outstanding tactical discussion between Martino and Earle following the squad selection – a selection that revealed that Jose Mourinho was planning on “parking the bus” to use an analogy he coined himself many years ago. This gave American viewers a sense of how Chelsea would try and crowd out the passing lanes for the Gunners while conceding the flanks. The selections of Eden Hazard and Willian also revealed that Mourinho hoped to counter-attack quickly when Arsenal committed numbers forward.

After switching back to the UK studio, Lineker and Howard continued the discussion of the starting line-ups and what impact those would have on the tactics of the game. The 5-10 minutes that were focused on hardcore match tactics was more than we’ve ever experienced before on US television.

Read: Rating NBC Sports’s coverage of the Premier League on US TV and Internet.

Meanwhile, NBC correspondent Neil Ashton (from The Daily Mail) was also stationed at the Emirates and was on-top of the rapidly developing saga a few miles down the road in Tottenham regarding Spurs’ appointment of Tim Sherwood as manager on a permanent basis.

The interaction between the Connecticut based crew and the Lineker’s on-site team was similar to what we see in American sports TV for bigger events like College Bowl games, the NFL Playoffs and the World Series.

While ESPN’s productions have traditionally been top notch, the level and detail of analysis has not approached the level that NBC provided yesterday. Even during broadcasts of World Cup or US Men’s National Team games, the strategic discussion would often be in generalities perhaps owing itself to the less sophisticated soccer audience watching the broadcasts.

As for FOX, they’ve determined long-ago that they would use big occasions like this to dumb down the broadcast ostensibly to attract new fans to the sport. But what they have ended up doing in many cases is angering core soccer fans whose intelligence may be insulted by the types of features the network runs.

NBC continues to set new high standards on how soccer should be broadcast in the United States. Let us hope with World Cup 2014 upcoming on ESPN and the slew of events and leagues that will feature on FOX over the next several years, both networks learn the lessons taught by their rival.

26 thoughts on “NBC Sports Scores A Winner With Its Unprecedented Coverage of Arsenal-Chelsea Game”

    1. Agreed. They were the soundtrack to my saturday morning.
      Cooking and eating a monster breakfast to the familiar tones of Ian and Macca.

      Its just not the same anymore.

  1. NBC’s coverage is light years ahead of FOX and ESPN(here in the states.) Every game, every weekend and top notch analysis(love the match of the day segment every Saturday & Sunday night), and they don’t dumb it down like ESPN & FOX do. I hope they renew a contract to keep the EPL on NBC for years to come. Now if only they could get UEFA and the World Cup….

    1. Agreed. You’ll have to admit that NBC is so much better than Rob Stone and or Christian Miles. Now if only the Dewars whiskey lady & Angus would go out of business. Hope you & Family have a ” Chelsea Blue ” Christmas !

  2. Oh…also NBC can you not go that extra bit a fix that god awful interactive video interface that the Robbie’s & Kyle have to use…at the very least when you use the shot without them in frame also take out the controls so we just see footage and intended telestrator marks.

    That interface is shocking lol…what sky use isn’t exclusive to them…just use the same system they use on snf….espn as you own it.

  3. If only Arlo White could tone down the constant “slippery surface” references and how it affects the game. When has a pitch in England not been wet? And enough of the monetary conversion every time a transfer fee is mentioned.
    That being said, no complaints.

  4. This could’ve been something Fox did all those years ago but chose not to. That’s the disappointing/insulting moral of the story.

    As for NBC, their coverage as the author mentions has been nothing short of amazing. Getting Lineker was the biggest coup yesterday.

  5. Take a bow NBC, take a bow…

    Wow.. Fantastic insight.. Great show.. Top notch production

    You have set the bar REALLY high



  6. “a little taste into how comprehensive soccer s in the UK”

    I find this very misleading. You don’t get anything like the coverage of soccer in the UK. You don’t get the option to watch all games live and have lengthy pregame shows for most games. You don’t get 2 hours match of the day shows that are repeated regularly. The primary difference in the UK is that soccer is part of the culture but as far as coverage goes it’s better in the US.

    1. UK doesn’t need 2 hour MOTD shows. There’s not as much demand here to watch all the games in the same way Americans etc seem to lap up watching as much of the action as possible… here we tend to just follow our own team or have an interest in the big head to heads, plus the people here can go to the games if they want… people in the states can’t. Viewing figures for the likes of Football First are tiny – and those games are repeated non-stop through Sunday & Monday on Sky Sports when you can choose any of the games other than the one that was shown by BT.

      Plus I think build-up, half time and post-match coverage is just fine over here as it is… Anywhere between 30-45 minutes is ample because there’s such a thing as overkill – but maybe that’s just because we’re so used to football we don’t really need it ramming down our throats all day. I was recently in Kissimmee, Florida for a couple of weeks and had the chance to watch the likes of NBCSN when Premier League matches were being played and have to say the coverage is far better from the likes of Sky and even BT… but of course that’s just my opinion!

      1. When I go back to the UK I really miss the game coverage we get here in the US. The news coverage on the game by newspaper and radio is obviously more immediate, but my impression is there would be considerable interest to get all the matches we do. This is underlined by the huge following PtoP pirate internet game feeds have in the UK.

        The most wall to wall coverage I’ve ever seen is in the Middle East. Al Jahzeera had two channels devoted 24/7 to the Premier League. But now they’ve gone over to the Bundesliga which is very disappointing.

        Anyway thank you NBC for doing a great job.

    2. Tony, Kartik was comparing the quality of coverage not the quantity. NBC’s coverage yesterday felt like something you’d expect to see on British television for a Super Sunday match on Sky Sports.

  7. How was Tim Howard on camera? I find him to be so boring when he’s commentating on a game and some of the stuff he’s says is almost Gus Johnson like.

        1. Tim Howard did an excellent job yesterday (I’m trying to ignore Joe’s insulting and inaccurate snide remark). His presence on camera was excellent, and he definitely added to the conversation and analysis.

  8. NBC has always been the best when they cover Professional sports in the USA and now in the EPL. I always knew the game would be in good hands with a company that always take their sports seriously.

    Wouldn’t be fantastic if NBC produced the World Cup instead of FOX in 2018 & 2022? Because Fox would just dumb down everything.

    ESPN has done a good job, but Kartik is correct NBC has blown everyone away because THEY CARE about how the coverage should be.

    Now let’s see if Don Garber is wise enough to allow NBC all the power to produce MLS Games from start to finish.

  9. The coverage by NBC has been god-send. They really take it seriously. The pre-game show, the tunnel views, the pre-game songs, etc. And they are not talking down to the audience either.

    Most importantly, the commentators do not seem to just have a bias against particular teams, at least they do not let it bleed into their commentaries. We have been waiting for this in the US for ever.
    Thank you.

  10. I think that ESPN has done a solid job with their soccer coverage. While it’s nowhere near the quality of NBC, it’s still decent. FOX is just horrendous (ahem Gus Johnson)

  11. NBC blows everybody away. This is the best coverage I have seen since my premeirship obsession started back in the mid Nineties. Fantastic.

    Merry Xmas to all

  12. Thoroughly Impressed with NBC’s coverage of the EPL. I tuned in to the World Club Cup and was horrified by the commentary by JPD on there…brought back memories of poor commentary of past World Cups on ESPN. I really do hope NBC pushes the bar and other networks follow suit when bidding for soccer leagues/tournaments.

  13. I completely agree that the NBC coverage dwarfs anything we’ve previously seen.

    I do miss Ian Darke and wish he’d become one of the team.

    Arlo does a more than decent job, though I do find he talks a little too continuously, not allowing the pictures to speak for themselves. Early on in each game he dutifully trots out all his prepared statistics, drowning us with information when we wish to concentrate on the game in front of us. Nonetheless, he does any impressive job. Just talk a little less.

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