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What a Difference One Year Makes In Coverage of the Premier League On US TV

coach lasso 600x335 What a Difference One Year Makes In Coverage of the Premier League On US TV

This is by no means scientific, but it’s a few true anecdotes that have happened to me in the past several weeks that point to the rapid growth in interest of the Premier League in the United States.

For the past 12 months, I’ve been taking my daughter to soccer practices and games for her travel team. It’s a relatively busy social setting with parents speaking to one another as they wait for their children to finish up practices, and it’s easy to eavesdrop on nearby conversations.

Like you, my life is consumed by soccer. For me, it’s literally 7 days a week, 365 days a year where I’m watching, listening, reading and thinking about soccer — whether it’s in my personal or business life. So while I don’t expect mainstream America, or in this case, soccer moms and soccer dads to be discussing the sport in intimate detail, I’m always observant regarding the interest level among other parents, to see how the professional sport is penetrating their lives, if at all.

Last season, I was surprised by how so many of the parents knew little about the professional sport. These were stereotypical soccer moms and dads that enjoyed watching their kids play, but had little to no knowledge of the professional game. One of the only talking points last season was when Leo Messi was interviewed by CBS’s 60 Minutes TV show. A couple of the parents spoke about Messi, and I was shocked to hear that they didn’t know who he was, until that show.

This season has been a complete turnaround. Just this week at soccer practice, I overheard one man discussing with another soccer dad the predicament that Sunderland was in, and how they were fighting to avoid relegation. A few minutes later, I heard a completely separate conversation by another pair of dads discussing Liverpool and how they keep on “stepping off the gas” during games, as well as the plaudits they gave to Luis Suarez.

In a separate conversation a few weeks ago, I spoke to a soccer mom who got into the Premier League this season on NBCSN, and how she and her daughter make it a Saturday morning routine to sit and watch the Premier League matches together. She was incredibly excited as she told me how she loved watching the games. Plus, she enjoyed the off-the-pitch antics and “soap opera” stories that happen during the week.

And then yesterday, I went into a Walgreens pharmacy and picked up some Panini World Cup stickers for my kids and me. The cashier remarked how there’s been so much demand for the stickers, and said that she has so many people coming into the store every day asking whether they carried Panini or not. She added that she never gets so many people coming in and asking for specific products.

These are just a few of the anecdotes that I’ve encountered in recent weeks. When I arrived in the United States in the 1980′s, soccer was literally a joke. This current season, thanks in large part to NBC Sports, the sport is on the map. And in a major way.

What about you? Have you seen growing interest in the Premier League and/or soccer in your personal or business life? And if so, in what ways? Share your personal anecdotes and observations in the comments section below.

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. View all posts by Christopher Harris →
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48 Responses to What a Difference One Year Makes In Coverage of the Premier League On US TV

  1. Lennie McQueen says:

    Please stop calling it soccer…if they are to be educated, it is football. That is what the world calls it, not just us brits

  2. saf says:

    Football, bloody hell!

  3. R.O says:

    I absolutely hated the NBC commercial “An American Coach in London”.

    It was stupid and idiotic. Reminded me of the the movie Waterboy or other Adam Sandler type movies. No even close to funny or intelligent.

  4. chet says:

    I just want to say that NBCSN’s coverage of the premier league this season has been spectactular to say the least. My only dislike is Kyle Martino, but thats my opinion. Rebecca, Robbie and Robbie have been fantastic. My only wishes would be for a weeknight replay of one of the top match-ups like Match of the Day, but on a weeknight, and maybe a reporter outside the stadiums, pregame, ala Ian Darke, to give us Yanks a feel for a bit of the history surrounding the match-up. So congrats to NBCsn for their TV coverage and also for carrying EVERY OTHER GAME on the INTERWEB. I am really looking forward for what you have in store for us next year

    • chet says:

      agree with rick and especially cantona below. sky sports news would be much better than a repeat of a match!

    • soc 23 says:

      I like when they show the credentials for both Robbies, and then for Kyle all it says is like “8 international caps” haha.

    • RJ says:

      So thankful for NBC’s coverage. But I like Martino. He’s humble, keeps cliches to a minimum, and doesn’t sound like he’s always arguing with someone (unlike Twellman, Wynalda, Gus, etc.). You can tell he does his homework and I think he’ll get better.

    • jtm371 says:

      you can add A white to the dislike list to much nonsense talk.

    • tim says:

      I love Martino….You dont like him becuase hes American…Shocker

    • Remy says:

      I like Kyle Martino. If you don’t like his American accent, that is your problem. He always brings up interesting points and is very knowledgeable of the game.

  5. Rick says:

    Soccer has come a long way in America in the last 30 years. NBC has done a great job this year covering the Premier League. Only missing piece is a nightly mini “Match of the Day” that covers the daily soccer news. I have no complaints on NBC’s coverage.

  6. Cantona says:

    What missing is a real news show aka Sky sports news. I think more of the back stories and the soap opera element will help drive viewership to the matches

    Cantona—

    • Smokey Bacon says:

      NBC could have used a daily news show this week when Moyes got canned. Arguably the biggest story of the season and nowhere was it reported on television in the United States.

      • dcudiplomat says:

        All three sports channels was showing scrolls on there update boards about it. .. really the David Moyes firing wasnt really big news here in the US.

        • Cantona says:

          You just contradicted yourself…

          It appeared on the infamous crawl.. But thats hardly covering the story…

          The biggest sports franchise on the planet loses it’s manager.. Um that’s news…

          Cantona—

  7. Clampdown says:

    I have a somewhat skewed view of this because it’s been popular in NYC for a very long time (thanks to our polyglot populace). but, after the last World Cup it really picked up steam, and this past year the increase in new fans is noticeable. part of this has to be due to NBC, its fantastic production, and its promotion.

    Pierre McGuire even gave Rebecca and the studio crew a complement and a plug during the Blue Jackets-Pens game I was watching the other night.

  8. Trevor says:

    Spot on, Chris. What is so astounding is just how recent this transformation was. I have friends who used to mercilessly rip on me me for following soccer so closely. Now, a mere year or two later, I’m having casual conversation with them about the relegation battle this year. While they are certainly no connoisseurs, they have interest and basic knowledge about a sport they used to mock gleefully. It’s a beautiful transformation.

    I think you also touched on a really under noticed issue with the whole “soccer mom/dad” phenomena. For the longest time, soccer has been viewed as an ‘activity’ more than a sport. What I mean is, it was something yuppy parents had their kids do to exercise on the weekends, not a sport. Kids didn’t watch games on the weekend (sorry MLS) and tell their parents they want to “be the next Messi/Ronaldo/etc” because those heroes weren’t on TV. Now that those worlds are merging, we are seeing a new generation of soccer fans who not only go out and play on Saturday, but are students/fans/lovers of the game 24/7.

  9. goatslookshifty says:

    Those of us unlucky enough to live in the Mid-South (that’s all I’ll admit to) the population still associate David Beckham with football. I’m still inundated with ridiculous questions regarding the game and the low scores but that’s ok. I’d much prefer being an outsider, even if it is at the expense of a few jokes.

    • Guy says:

      Come over here to the east coast of NC, where soccer is what you do to your girlfriend!

      Sorry, I apologize to each and every one of you who are offended by that remark…..but it’s the truth….to a large degree.

  10. Gerry says:

    The sport is only going to grow in this country. Not only because NBC is doing a terrific job with their EPL coverage and plugging it during NBC’s Monday Night Football, but also because so many people now get their news on the internet. So people are in tune with what the big story is in the sport. Anyone who goes to the BBC website, for example, will be exposed to what’s going on in the sport.

  11. rkujay says:

    When my 38 year old son started playing footy here in Tampa, someone told me that “Soccer is the next big thing here in America”. Having followed Man United (via newspaper) since 1959, I understood how with no exposure to the game, Americans knew nothing of the laws and history of the game.
    Fast forward to this spring, watching my 9 year old grandson playing for a select team. Parents pay lots of money and spend lots of their time traveling with these kids. After three successive foul throws, a parent yells to her kid, “Drag your feet”. Little has changed.
    Football will always be the ‘next big thing’ in America.

  12. NC says:

    Coverage this season has been a dream come true. Quality picture, good studio shows, access to every game. I mean, you really cannot beat it. My one and only complaint has nothing to do with NBC. I get my cable through Comcast and they deliver the non NBCSN games via their on demand feature. This is annoying because you can’t flip back and forth between games keeping a live feed. REALLY small complaint because the workaround is just streaming. A+ across the board for NBC

  13. Mark Williamson says:

    I have been an avid fan for a couple of years now. I am a huge Arsenal fan, but the big thing for me is my brother who has been since a young kid, a huge American football fan. You know the deal. Beer, parties all that on game day. Well he tuned in to the last game a few years ago when Man City won the title and was totally taken by the excitement, the passion and everything else that goes with the sport.

    He asked me questions, did research, watched videos on YouTube and became excited with the whole dynamic of the game. He also was becoming a huge fan.

    Now he watches every Saturday and Sunday morning. At one time he could not understand the no-playoff idea, but now sees that with the other Cups going on at the same time plus the battle for relegation going on, making the top four, that there is more than enough going on all at the same time at the “expense” of an actual playoff for the EPL title is just fine.

    I agree that the chatter for the sport is starting to pick up where I work. There is much much more interest this year..hooraaayy!!

    • Mark Williamson says:

      Forgot to mention, and this is huge. My wife and I were over friends house watching the Super Bowl this past year. Sitting, eating, enjoying the chatter, my wife, who had been semi paying attention to my soccer games at home, said, “You know what? I can’t watch football anymore. I enjoy soccer much better.” Now she sits and watches with me and enjoys it-almost as much as I do.

      My brother, he has been a huge Liverpool supporter since his interest started, and mow get together with friends when the Liverpool and Arsenal big games are on.

  14. tim says:

    This sport is still not mainstream in the US. Hell I still get made fun of at work for following it. With that said NBC is definitely making it feel more important then in years past.

  15. scrumper says:

    When I first came to the US there was a weekly canned highlights show called Star Soccer on PBS hosted by Mario Machado. Mario was useless but brilliant in a colourful comedic way especially when trying to decipher terms such as “argy bargy” That fizzled out and we were left with Soccer Made in Germany (West to be precise), which I simply couldn’t watch.

    Fast forward to 2013/14 and NBC has really put on a very professional show. I’m grateful for FOX leading the way in bringing the game to mainstream TV, but where they were complacent, NBC has picked up the baton and now presents the world’s most popular game as good as I’ve seen it anywhere in the world (Ok I admit The Italian and South American shows with the smoking hot chicks are also pretty good).

    If FOX had any sense they would examine where they went wrong and attempt to understand why we all rave about the NBC show. Then plan to win the Premier League rights at the next open session and buy the NBC team of Rebecca and the two Robbies. Of course none of this would ever cross their mind, so it’s full steam ahead NBC for me.

    But I’d love to hear more from the legendary Gary Birtles in the commentary box. His comments such as “if I were a ref and a player waved for a card I’d say “you want a card? here’s one, it’s all yours” are brilliant.

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