Rating NBC Sports’ coverage of the Premier League on US TV and internet

Rating: B-

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Programming

The quantity and quality of Premier League shows that NBC provides its viewers is enormous, more than anything a soccer fan in the United States has ever experienced.

Pros:

1. NBC’s decision to broadcast a Match of the Day and Match Of the Day 2 show was spectacular. The late night show is a brilliant way for people to catch up on the games they missed. It’s like clockwork, and it works.

2. The Premier League Club Selection Show that NBC launched in August was informative and a joy to watch. While it was aimed at new fans to soccer and the Premier League, the show was entertaining for veteran fans too.

3. NBC’s Manchester Mondays show that’s aired late on Monday night features highlights of the two Manchester club’s matches from the weekend with the added bonus of footage from the club’s official football channel. This is a must-see for City and United fans.

Cons: 

1. I underestimated how much loyalty and impact the Premier League Review Show has had on audiences that were used to watching it on Sunday nights on FOX Soccer for years. NBCSN broadcasts the Premier League Review Show on Tuesday mornings (typically at 2am ET) that includes the weekend highlights as well as the Monday game. NBC probably thought that viewers would prefer a more comprehensive weekend review show featuring highlights of all of the games, but the resounding feedback I’ve read and listened to is that people miss their Sunday night review show. Yes, NBCSN has Match Of The Day and Match of the Day 2, but they’re not in the same “easier to digest” one hour format that soccer fans have been used to religiously watching every Sunday night for years.

2. The first episode of Premier League Download was entertaining, but the show got old real fast with the same talking heads saying nothing really of interest or value. It felt more like a pop culture show about soccer — cheap, easy and empty.

3. I’m not sure how much of a priority NBCSN’s outdoor programming or infomercials are, but there’s definitely a demand from soccer fans to have more replays of Premier League games shown on TV each week — even if it’s in the middle of the night when viewers can DVR games. Not everyone has access to Premier League Extra, so having more games shown on NBCSN would be appreciated by all soccer fans.

Rating: B+

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NBC Sports Live Extra

Watching soccer games online is more commonplace than it’s every been — whether you’re on the road, at work or at home with a laptop open while watching a different game on TV. The NBC Sports Live Extra app allows Premier League soccer fans the ability to watch any live game, which has never been available before in the States.

Pros:

1. For the live experience, the accessibility of NBC Sports Live Extra has been fantastic, offering soccer fans the ability to watch any Premier League match live on their computers, smart phones or tablets.

2. During a live game, the features of NBC Sports Live Extra are very useful. You can jump to the goals within seconds of them being scored, or you can return to ‘Go live’ with a simple click.

Cons: 

1. For the on-demand experience, NBC Sports Live Extra has been nothing short of a disaster. If you miss a live game, NBC Sports Live Extra currently doesn’t have the ability to let you watch the game on-demand via smart phones or tablets. You can however watch on-demand games online, which leads me to my next point.

2. Only select games are available to watch on-demand online via NBC Sports Live Extra. And finding those said games can be an ordeal, to say the least. In previous weeks, NBC’s Pro Soccer Talk website has posted links to the on-demand games, but there have been times when the links have pointed to team guides, not the games themselves. Even when you can find the on-demand games, the matches often buffer, making online viewing practically a nightmare to watch.

The reality is that you if miss a live match, and you want to watch it on-demand, NBC Sports Live Extra is currently not a viable or consistent solution. Your best bet is to watch the games on Premier League Extra Time (more on that later) or to just watch the highlights show instead (which is a shame if you want to see the game in its entirety).

3. For soccer fans who like to jump from game to game during live matches, the pre-roll video plays every single time a live match is selected. I’m for all monetizing NBC Sports Live Extra to help pay for rights fees and incurred costs of running a platform like NBC Sports Live Extra, but the pre-roll ads get in the way of being able to switch quickly from game to game especially during Saturday 10am-Noon ET windows. If it’s possible to show the pre-roll video just once every 24 hours, that would be better.

4. When watching live games online via NBC Sports Live Extra, I’ve experienced this issue several times throughout the season — when you click on the links to the other live games in the horizontal navbar near the top of the page, the links are sometimes not updated so clicking on the link will take you to a different game entirely than the one you chose.

5. I’ve noticed that the iOS version of the NBC Sports Live Extra app often stops playing and returns to the main menu — even when I’m watching games live via a strong WiFi connection.

6. In a moving car (while sitting in a passenger seat), trying to watch a live game via the NBC Sports Live Extra app is practically impossible. You may get a minute of the game, at best. But the iOS app (using AT&T’s 3G network) doesn’t allow you to watch live games in their entirety (not even close). In contrast, the FOX Soccer 2Go app is far more reliable in the same circumstances.

7. As the popularity of NBC Sports Live Extra has increased during the season with more soccer fans watching live games on it, the video quality has been an issue particularly on 10am ET games when some of the top teams are playing in the same window. Even with a hard-wired Internet connection, buffering happens more than it should. And when games are watched in full-screen mode, the video quality is often not good enough.

8. Android users experienced a lot of issues earlier in the season with the NBC Sports Live Extra app for Android devices being practically unusable. NBC, to their credit, upgraded the Android app to improve the viewing experience. Technically, however, it’s a difficult job to keep all Android users happy as the app works well on most of the popular Android devices, not all. It’s the nature of the beast, unfortunately.

Rating: D+

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Premier League Extra Time

NBC launched a brand-new feature for its first year of Premier League TV coverage, which is Premier League Extra Time. The feature is actually overflow channels that most TV providers offer to its subscribers, so you can watch live games that are not being shown live on NBC or NBCSN. Plus many of the games are available as video on-demand for later viewing.

Pros:

1. If your TV provider offers Premier League Extra Time, consider yourself fortunate. There are still a small number of TV providers who are not providing the service. Or, for example, Tivo users who have Xfinity Comcast are not able to access the Premier League Extra Time features via on-demand.

Cons: 

1. The only complaint is that some TV providers don’t make Premier League Extra Time available, but that’s no fault of NBC Sports. That’s a decision for each TV provider. NBC is making the overflow channels available free-of-charge.

Rating: B+

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Marketing and promotion

Production, analysts and commentary are key ingredients in making a successful launch, but the marketing and promotion to let people know that Premier League matches are now on NBC Sports is just as crucial.

Pros: 

1. NBC scored a home run hit with their Ted Lasso viral videos starring Jason Sudeikis. The NBC network gained instant credibility on both sides of the Atlantic, making sure that the words “NBC” and “EPL” were on the tips of the tongues of all US soccer fans.

2. NBC scored another hit with the advertising it did on the NBC subway cars in New York City. The subway cars were so popular that fans of some of the clubs made special pilgrimages to see them in person, and to share the photos on social media for everyone else to see.

3. Even though the decision by NBC was risky to put Gareth Bale on a giant billboard in New York’s Time Square, it was bold, caught people’s attention and made a statement that English soccer has hit mainstream.

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