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.
In a very eventful match between Malaga and Athletic, here’s Hudson’s call seconds after a controversial incident in the game: “[It was] a clear, blatant penalty that a blind man, on a galloping horse, in a thick Scottish fog can see.”
That’s what Hudson does best. He brings a smile to your face and puts the beautiful game into a language all his own.
I launched my DishWorld app over the weekend to watch a few La Liga games, and the quality of the stream as well as the ease-of-use of the app simply makes it the best online streaming experience for soccer fans. I’ve never once had an issue with it. It works perfectly every time. And it’s legal.
Hopefully in the future more content will be available outside of La Liga, Serie A, League Cup, Championship, Ligue Un and other leagues/tournaments.
4. NBCSN’s tactical cam
The inclusion of NBC’s tactical cam for the Manchester City-Liverpool game on NBC Sports Live Extra was a great new addition. With it, you’re able to see the entire playing field, so you can see what’s happening off-screen (from the main TV camera). However, the tactical cam would be far more powerful if the audio feed from the live commentary was integrated into the tactical cam view. By watching the tactical cam, I can only take a few minutes of it before I get bored because I feel I’m missing out on the audio commentary and the crowd noise. If the tactical cam can add the audio feed, consider me sold.
1. Don’t keep reminding us beIN
One annoying aspect of watching beIN SPORTS over the weekend was the 2nd anniversary bug placed in bottom corner of the screen (see screengrab at the top of the page). The graphic stayed on throughout the coverage of all of the games I watched on the network over the weekend. Was it necessary? Do we care that beIN SPORTS is two years old? What value does it add? No, no and none!