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NBCSN’s ‘Transfer Deadline Day’ Program Failed to Live Up to Expectations

nbcsn NBCSNs Transfer Deadline Day Program Failed to Live Up to Expectations

NBCSN’s Transfer Deadline Day program that aired on the final night of the 2014 January transfer window was a poor substitute for the coverage we received from FOX Soccer in previous years when they simulcast the live feed from Sky Sports News.

FOX Soccer ended its agreement to show Sky Sports News on June 30, which meant that last August’s final day of the transfer window was the first time in recent memory when the transfer deadline day wasn’t televised live on US television. So when news broke that NBCSN was going to show a program on the final deadline day of the UK transfer window, we were excited by the decision and were looking forward to watching an informative program of the caliber we expect from NBC Sports.

Unfortunately for the first time this season, NBCSN delivered its most unimaginative 60 minutes of Premier League programming since it began covering England’s top flight league. There was nothing wrong with the talent. Steve Bower had  a sound debut as presenter in place of Rebecca Lowe who is in Russia for the Winter Olympic Games. Pundits Robbie Earle, Robbie Mustoe and Kyle Martino, meanwhile, were consistent with their solid analysis. The issue was much deeper than that.

For the first time this season, the Premier League coverage from NBCSN felt canned. And to make matters worse, it felt like the show was an experiment to try to engineer greater TV ratings instead of focusing on what the viewer wanted.

While I wasn’t expecting NBCSN to create a show that resembled Sky Sports News, I was expecting that the Transfer Deadline Day program was going to feel more live and up-to-minute that it was. Instead, NBC Sports decided to focus the show on providing analysis and opinion regarding the window while focusing less on the news, although they did update viewers on the ins and outs of the day.

The combination of placing a greater importance on the analysis than the news together with the canned segments that felt like TV’s version of Buzzfeed (top 5 best moves and top 5 worst moves) created a show that didn’t feel live. It didn’t have the excitement or tempo of a live experience. It felt like something that had been recorded to tape hours earlier, although that wasn’t the case.

Even the analysis, at times, seemed focused on generating higher TV ratings. While the signing of Juan Mata was the biggest of the transfer window, NBCSN’s decision to feature a tactical analysis of Mata’s position on the pitch was shortsighted given that Manchester United have no relevance this season on the Premier League title race. Whether we like it or not, Manchester United is still the United States’s number one most popular team among English-speakers. But that doesn’t mean that NBCSN has to pander to that crowd in one of the first segments on the show.

All in all, the show was flat, unimaginative and not up to the caliber that we expect from NBCSN. It was the type of show that will easily be forgotten, contained too much filler, not enough focus on live developing stories and a format that simply didn’t work as well as it could have done. NBCSN should be applauded for deciding to do the show in the first place, but needs to re-examine how it would do the program differently if they decide to do it again in August. Given NBCSN’s track record so far, we expect better from NBC. They’ve raised the bar this season, but this one show fell well below that.

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About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
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31 Responses to NBCSN’s ‘Transfer Deadline Day’ Program Failed to Live Up to Expectations

  1. Smokey Bacon says:

    Wow, a bit harsh isn’t it? It was hardly the most gripping hour of television but that might have been due to the lack of quality last minute transfers. To have a pop at the focus on Mata when that was by far the most significant deal done in the window is nit picking at its finest. Plus NBC probably got the idea for their top 5 transfers etc from some of the headlines on here.

    Have a moan by all means but not about stuff like this. NBC affiliates not showing the games is far more worthy of attention. NBC should really address this issue or don’t bother showing the games on the network.

    • Rick Smith says:

      Yeah, the affiliates thing not only is affecting BPL coverage but NHL also. A list should probably be compiled of what affiliates are doing this. One is KTAL.

  2. Javier says:

    Eh, although I only tuned in for a few about half if it, I give them a pass as the deadline day signings were really weak this year (I tuned out because there were no signings that effected my club). It wasn’t as if a top half of the table team picked up a player that was gonna change the landscape of the table. Unless you were expecting them to talk more about Arsenal signing an injured 35 year old midfielder on loan, I find it hard to be critical of something that didn’t really make headlines.

  3. Rick says:

    I will have to disagree. No that might be the wrong word. It is more inline with the type of programming with baseball’s winter meetings and trade deadlines, NFL combine coverage, and NBA draft coverage. In that respect it matched up well. Even ESPN would’ve gone this route and often do with other sports because it you want up to the minute transfer news you read the bottom ticker or in the ESPN case, make it breaking news instead. And with the exception of Neil Ashton, the only over people who do similar coverage work on the NFL side of things, and one of them, Peter King, doesn’t work fulltime for NBC anyway. And in the 24/7 nature of news, why not have the detailed analysis and listen for the breaking transfer news on your ESPN FC app or whatever app of choice.

  4. scott says:

    The coverage sucked because their was really nothing to cover. This January window, like most January windows was sh**.

    • Christopher Harris says:

      There was plenty of transfers to discuss. But not everything has to focus on the top four.

      • Rick Smith says:

        There may have been plenty of transfers to discuss but not all matter in the big picture; just like it is in every other sport.

      • SPUD Webb says:

        Plenty of transfers made on FRIDAY to discuss? Like who? Tom Ince!?

        I would say there were zero transfers made on Friday that an American audience (and many others) cared about.

        Would a parking lot interview with good ol ‘Arry making some ‘last minute deals’ been better TV for you?

        • Christopher Harris says:

          If NBC is going to cover the Premier League, it needs to cover the entire Premier League not just the top 6 clubs and it needs to focus on the league not what Americans “care about”. There were plenty of transfers that happened on Friday that SOCCER fans cared about.

          There were at least 18 signings by Premier League clubs on Friday. For the list, go to http://worldsoccertalk.com/2014/01/31/everything-you-need-to-know-about-january-transfer-deadline-day-final-day-open-thread/#comment-480968

          Several key signings were made including Kostas Mitroglou, Lewis Holtby, Pablo Armero, Kim Kallstrom, Marvin Emnes, Johnny Heitenga, etc. Plus there was the late drama regarding the attempt to sign Yevhen Konoplyanka.

          There is life outside the top six.

          BTW I hate the parking lot interviews with Redknapp.

          • scrumper says:

            Agree, Fox only ever concentrated on the top four or five and dumbed that down (which wasn’t hard with the shower they had in the studio, we don’t want NBC to fall in that trap.

          • SPUD Webb says:

            Actually NBC NEEDS to care about American audiences. As for the signings you mentioned…yawn.

      • nicc says:

        did we watch different NBCSN transfer shows on friday? most of their coverage regarding the transfer window dealt with the bottom 10 clubs.
        my biggest complaint was that it wasn’t live, but came on after the window actually closed..

        • Christopher Harris says:

          Yes, I watched it. The show was live and some of the coverage was focused on the lower clubs.

          I agree that the timing of the show didn’t help. THey would have been better doing it between 5-6pm like ESPN FC did.

  5. abdirahman says:

    Gaffer. why didn’t they use the pl channel’s coverage which we watched here in canada and indeed the rest of the world? It was up to minute update like sky.

    • Christopher Harris says:

      They like to include their own talent. FOX likes to do the same (Sky Sports coverage on FOX is an exception to that rule). It would have been interesting to see Premier League TV coverage though.

  6. Emmett says:

    Didn’t the show start after the deadline? ESPN had a hour long ESPN FC from 5-6 and they had a countdown timer on the screen. That might explain the lack of breaking news on NBCSN. Unless my time zone calulations are off.

    It was funny when the deadline came on ESPN. Dan Thomas said he was expecting to be able to give the viewers some breaking news at the deadline but he just said “my producer tells me in my ear ‘I’ve got nothing’.” Pretty hilarious and awkward.

  7. goatslookshifty says:

    ESPNFC did a better job. NBCSN needs a personality with an outspoken opinion, a la Craig Burley, Gary Neville etc. Robbie squared and Mr. Martino are a bit bland and predictable with their opinions and no-one seems to want to joke or laugh. ESPNFC panelists seem to have a good laugh while talking about football, whereas NBCSN do not.

    • Christopher Harris says:

      Excellent comment. Definitely many valid points there.

    • Rick says:

      No No No. No “Embrace the Debate” garbage. It’s enough with the faux debates on ESPN programming that no one else needs to emulate them. Each network as their own signature on how they cover the news with some hits or misses. Do you really want a carbon copy across networks? The answer is no. Imagine having Sunday NFL Countdown on every network; it would suck the life out you. In the modern era of media delivery, a show that narrows its focus to fewer topics is okay because of the plethora of other outlets if say I really cared about La Liga.

    • scrumper says:

      I’d like a bit of acid at NBCSN i.e. Chris Kamara or Stewart Robson. Robbie Mustoe is not bad with his critiques and works better with Robbie Earle. Kyle Martino is a bit too showbiz.

      The show is becoming a little bit formulaic and too smooth. Need to shake it up with some natural banter and opinions. Don’t care if I agree or not. I’d like to see it.

      Fox became annoying with their shallow joking, so NBC must avoid that pitfall.

      • goatslookshifty says:

        Martino will take that as a compliment that you called him “too showbiz.” Ryan Seacrest, watch your back. Martino is coming for you!

  8. Have these shows ever lived up to hype? It’s not exclusive to the transfer deadline. In Canada, the NHL trade deadline is another “Much Ado About Nothing” television experience.

    Not worth the time in front of the tube. Go out with the family and check the websites when you get home. and whatever you do, DON’T CHECK YOUR TWITTER ACCOUNT!

  9. James says:

    This is why I watch a live stream of Sky Sports, nothing can ever beat their coverage.

  10. Paul says:

    Deadline day is, more often than not, boring. Sky have very cleverly built its profile so much over the years that they have you itching to tune in all day just in case a huge move happens, even though we really know it won’t! From morning to 11pm it’s just the same things being said on 60 minute loop until a new bit of nothingness is released and that joins the same loop for the rest of the day.

    Sky’s subtle and clever ways over the years have seen Jim White & Harry Redknapp become synonymous with deadline day and loads of people end up switching SSN on just to see what they’re up to and saying because they already know from the papers that there’s no major transfers going to happen! Load of fuss over nothing.

  11. Frill Artist says:

    What a bitter article.

  12. rory says:

    The 1 area where NBC’s coverage fails is the lack of programming outside of match
    days. This has been especially evident lately as NBCSN gets into Olympic mode

  13. ianor says:

    I think sky’s deadline day coverage is just brilliant! And famous. No other company can ever beat them. We were very lucky to watch them even far away from uk hall the day.

  14. Justin says:

    I totally agree. It was very poor from nbcsn. Embarrassing actually. I listened to the sky sports news radio instead.

  15. He's Livid says:

    Agree that NBCSN’s studio programming is a tad on the clinical side – would like to see an injection of more personality and stronger opinions from the boys. And, it wouldn’t hurt for Kyle Martino to crack a smile now and then or perhaps he’s still peeved at the producers for ordering him to shave off that porn mustache he showed up with a few weeks back.

  16. Pakapala says:

    I am sure Transfer Deadline Day Live coverage format of Sky Sports News has a sizable audience; however I am not that audience they’re looking for. I find the Sky Sports News coverage to be like Draft Day live coverage in the US. I am just not that interested in following the minute-by-minute coverage of the draft or transfer frenzy. Just give me the results at the end. That’s why I tend to gravitate towards the post-transfer or post-draft shows that give me a concise review of what transpired.
    So in that context, NBC’s show would have been the perfect format for me; except that it didn’t live up to my expectation. I found myself watching the whole ESPN FC show that day, where as I changed the channel after 15 minutes of watching NBC’s Deadline recap show.

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