In the next few weeks, the likes of FOX Sports, NBC Sports, and ESPN will be bidding for the rights starting from the 2016-2017 season. NBC Sports has held the rights for the past two seasons, before which FOX Sports held the rights. Currently, FOX carries the rights for the UEFA Champions League and Europa League, FA Cup, and Bundesliga games, among others. ESPN carries the rights for Euro 2016 Qualifying, select MLS games, and World 2018 Qualifying, among others. NBC, on the other hand, only really holds the rights to English Premier League coverage, so the pressure is on them to put in a serious bid for the upcoming 2016-2019 rights.
For viewers, NBC’s coverage is as close to perfection as can be. While FOX Sports has declined in quality, especially since their main channel shut down and has subsequently been replaced by Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2. As NBC have moved forward, they have tried to implement new, creative ideas to improve coverage. NBC Sports Live Extra, the app which lets you stream every single Premier League live through your TV provider at no additional cost was a great idea, allowing viewers to choose which matches to watch (if their selected match was not televised). Other innovative ideas include the Premier League Breakaway, with Rebecca Lowe guiding the program as they cut from match to match, showing the best action. Overall, it truly felt that NBC were putting in lots of effort to truly improve their Premier League coverage. The panel, the likes of Kyle Martino, Robbie Mustoe, Robbie Earle and Rebecca Lowe provided solid matchday coverage with good analysis. Furthermore, actual match commentary has been quality, with lead commentator Arlo White providing a far cry from the likes of Gus Johnson taking big matches during Fox’s Premier League run. Other commentators, such as Graeme Le Saux and Lee Dixon have provided experience to nicely compliment White. With these improvements, among others, to Premier League coverage helped NBC’s numbers across the two years they have had coverage. NBC’s coverage has been successful, as shown by the viewing numbers increasing by 9% during the 2014-2015 season as compared to the 2013-2014 season. All in all, NBC’s coverage seems so much more polished than Fox and ESPN in the past.
NBC’s coverage has played a role in the success of the Premier League in the United States. The average TV viewing audience for a Premier League game on NBC Sports is around 470,000 viewers. NBC has also helped increase viewers by showing some matches on their regular (non-sports) channel. NBC hit lots of milestones across the past season, such as the match Manchester United vs. Arsenal, which raked in over 1.4 million viewers on November 22nd. In a similar way, the Live Extra app has also been successful, showcasing just why NBC deserve Premier League rights. At the end of the day, fans do not have complete control over broadcasting rights. Fans, however, do play a key role in the success of TV channels. Just about anyone will tell you that NBC has provided a huge improvement over past Premier League coverage. The coverage has helped expand the Premier League’s name in the United States, helping more and more people appreciate and enjoy the sport of soccer. NBC Sports deserve credit for the effort they have put in, for the work they have done. For soccer fans, NBC Sports is the best option moving forward in terms of Premier League rights.