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.