World Soccer Talk

Count your lucky stars you’re watching the Premier League in the US, not UK

The majesty of Jamie Vardy’s goal for Leicester against Liverpool on Tuesday night will live long in the memory of soccer fans who witnessed it. If you were fortunate to watch it live, it’s was incredulous. If you watched it on delay, it was still sublime. But if you lived in the United Kingdom, it wasn’t on TV. The best you could have hoped for on TV was a highlight at the end of Tuesday night or on Wednesday morning.

Instead, UK TV showed West Ham United versus Aston Villa live. God bless them.

Leicester against Liverpool, the most attractive game of the midweek round, was ignored because of the way the contracts are structured, while NBCSN will show every second of every match live. The US TV audience is blessed with extensive coverage from a network that cares and cherishes the ever-growing brand it has to offer. The UK audience should feel short changed.

There’s something utterly envy-filling when you look at US TV coverage of the Premier League. Over the course of a season, you get 380 live matches, every game under the successful coverage guided by Pierre Moosa and anchored by Rebecca Lowe. NBC’s coverage continues to impress.

Meanwhile, just 36% of matches will be available live to audiences across the UK.

Premier League coverage on BT Sport (since 2013) and Sky Sports (since 1992) is littered with glamorous ex-professionals. BT Sport offers the superb Steve McManaman, who plied his trade with Ian Darke at ESPN. Plus there’s Michael Owen, Glenn Hoddle, Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand, amongst others.

Sky Sports counter that line up with their own talent. The excellent Jamie Carragher and (until he took over at Valencia) Gary Neville. The signing of France and Arsenal legend Thierry Henry was subject of a huge promo campaign, which you’d expect for his reported $5,750,000 salary, hasn’t had the footballing universe singing his praises.

Niall Quinn and Jamie Redknapp are much derided by the (always hard to please) social media audience, while Graeme Souness would certainly find it hard to shake off the label of being called ‘argumentative.’

The landscape is being broken, however, by those who weren’t what you’d regard as top level players. With Neville’s departure, however temporary, a huge hole is in Sky’s billion-dollar coverage is blown open. Step forward Andy Hinchcliffe, a player known for his time at Sheffield Wednesday in the 1990’s and known to most listening the Premier League’s world feed. His commentary offers vision, awareness and adds to the coverage. In the studio, Danny Higginbotham has transferred the knowledge he also brings to the world feed and now to a UK audience.

Over on BT, their European league and UEFA Champions League coverage has seen an innovative show for British viewers, with three journalists offering their views as the night’s games progress. Despite reaching small audiences (both shows rate at around a 100,000 audience only), their knowledge is wide and deep, receiving praise for the fresh angle on match punditry.

Sky Sports and BT Sport signed a deal worth $7.3bn for three years to continue their BPL coverage. The contract is almost the same annual outlay of ESPN and TNT’s $24bn deal for the NBA, but consumers of the game through television will still miss out on the majority of matches. It’s another reason to be thankful for NBC’s coverage of the Premier League in the United States, which will continue until 2022 and hopefully beyond.

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