EPL sees 150% gain in audience on NBC compared to FOX/ESPN

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The audience size for Premier League matches on US television via NBC Sports has grown by 150% on average compared to three years ago when the league’s games were on FOX Sports and ESPN, according to a report today in the Wall Street Journal.

The article, which is unfortunately behind a paywall, mentions several other compelling statistics and revelations. Namely:

• ESPN didn’t make a bid for the Premier League TV rights. NBC’s competitors in the bidding process were FOX Sports and beIN SPORTS,

• Premier League matches are just about the only major sports property in the U.S. showing any significant long-term growth in audience sizes,

• So far this season, Premier League matches on NBC Sports are averaging 563,000 viewers across all channels, a 19% increase over last year,

• Fans have streamed 139 million live minutes of NBC Sports digital coverage this season, 44% more than the same period last year, and

• The Premier League audience is about 38 years old on average, among the youngest in major televised sports and a demographic advertisers covet.

Not only are the numbers impressive, but the opinions from industry experts paint a rosy picture for the league in the United States.

The newspaper article cites:

Frank Hawkins, a founder of New York-based consulting firm Scalar Media Partners LLC and a former NFL executive, said continuing shifts in the U.S. population and its tastes have led him to believe that the Premier League may eventually become the second-most watched sport in the U.S. behind the NFL. He cited the growing immigrant and Hispanic populations, the declining participation in youth football and baseball, and soccer’s popularity among both men and women.

While avid viewers of the Premier League in the United States continue to be impressed by the level of NBC’s coverage, the growth potential for the league may surprise some. While there’s a long way to go, all of the signs are positive.

Last but not least, the WSJ article did mention that NBC Sports’ new 6-year deal with the Premier League does give the broadcaster the option to sell the matches for customers to watch online. For those hoping that NBC Sports will offer an option for cord-cutters, I wouldn’t bet on it happening anytime soon particularly as NBC Sports is owned by Comcast. There will come a day where financially speaking it makes sense to offer a package that could, for example, feature Comcast xfinity broadband coupled with access to NBC Sports Live Extra, but we could be years away from that happening in my estimation.

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