Hardcore soccer fans consume a lot of the sport. So much so that many of us can identify an announcer or co-commentator by hearing just a few of his words. It’s almost as if we feel we know the person considering the vast number of hours we spend listening to the talent over the days, months and years.
It’s not surprising then that many of us have a particular interest in the quality and quantity of soccer coverage available to us online and on television. As a result, here’s my continuing weekly column that looks at some of the highs and lows of soccer coverage from the weekend.
1. NBC Sports Group raises the bar once again
NBC Sport Group’s decision last season to broadcast studio shows from the stadiums of select Premier League games was a bonus. But on Monday night, as we saw in the Manchester City-Liverpool game, the network raised the bar once again by placing more of an emphasis on its UK studio team as it switched back-and-forth from the UK crew (featuring Matt Smith, Lee Dixon and Tim Howard) to the US studio crew (Rebecca Lowe, Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe). The transatlantic synergy and analysis from both teams was smooth, and allowed viewers to hear an array of different opinions and insight.
On top of that, it gave us a good introduction to Matt Smith, as the studio host of the UK crew. Presumably Gary Lineker won’t be available to do as many studio appearances this season, and Smith is more than adequate. As we saw Sunday, Lineker will be on Premier League Goal Zone and other shows, so we’re not missing his wisdom.
The fact that NBC Sports has a strong studio presence in the UK, which works seamlessly with the US studio team, is another sign of how NBC has raised the bar and elevated the coverage. The on-site presence at UK stadiums is a quantum leap forward for soccer coverage on US television. FOX Sports has a studio team on-site in the UK, but it’s typically only for the finals of the UEFA Champions League or FA Cup.
Just when we thought NBC was years ahead of FOX Sports’ soccer coverage, NBC Sports Group has left FOX in the dust, yet again.
2. The return of La Liga and Ray Hudson
Soccer fans either love or hate Ray Hudson as a co-commentator. Personally, I’m a big fan. And Saturday was a great example of this.