NBC Sports will be hoping that seven is their lucky number as the broadcaster enters its seventh consecutive season of Premier League coverage this weekend in the United States.
During those seven years, the American-based broadcaster has evolved its coverage every single season since the debut 2013/14 year. This upcoming season features several major changes to keep broadcasts fresh and to potentially increase viewing audience figures. A large part of the changes are a result of the Comcast acquisition of Sky TV, which has created a closer synergy between the two broadcasters who are now sister companies. This season, we can expect to see NBCSN integrating more elements from Sky Sports.
“The most visual thing will be a whole new rebrand of our soccer coverage with Sky’s graphic look,” explained NBC Sports Executive Producer Pierre Moossa, who oversees the network’s coverage of the Premier League. “That’s going to be one of the most visual representations of some of the changes, the synergies between the two companies.”
Aesthetics aside, this season marks the start of significant changes to the schedule including eight Premier League league games across the season kicking off at 2:45PM ET, which offers a big advantage to NBC Sports.
“It’s going to benefit the American audience with regards to the 2:45 PM Saturday quadruple headers,” said Moossa. “So people in the west coast get to see the late game.
“Then the Sunday kickoffs being moved back by half an hour (from 11AM ET to 11:30AM ET) helps our west coast audience, as well as helps people get to see the matches.”
Thirty minutes may not seem like much, but it makes a big difference to NBC Sports.
As a result, “We’re going to have now a two hour pre-match show,” Moossa said. “I think the biggest complaint our on-air team has is our shows are so tight; the time is limited. So to be able to have a two hour pregame show that we can dedicate to not only wrapping up Saturdays matches, but previewing Sundays and addressing all the headlines, there’ll be a little bit looser and give us an opportunity to really delve deeper into topics.
“The domestic rights holders in the UK have changed and Sky now being the host broadcaster for the 12:30PM ET NBC window is huge. They have all the first picks and all the big six matches have a better chance of being on in that NBC window. Ultimately we’re going to be able to show a broader audience on the United States the key matches.”
With so many opportunities for NBC Sports to now include programming from Sky Sports, the question remains how the American broadcaster tries to keep its identity without becoming too Sky Sports-centric.
Moossa explained, “I think it’s less about who says it, what’s… you know how it’s said as long as we cover the key topics the most effective way. That’s always what we do. We always laugh when we say, ‘we put this running order together and it gets thrown out the window within the first five minutes’ when you know, storylines change or there’s breaking news. A balancing act of making sure you’re incorporating certain things into the show isn’t really the priority, as long as you’re having the best effect and you’re communicating that you’re covering the key storylines. The most effective way is probably the best way to say it.”
Last but not least, the topic of Chelsea’s American star Christian Pulisic arose, and how NBC Sports plans on covering the former Borussia Dortmund player.
“It’s a balancing act, but I think how he’s covered is going to be dependent on him and how we perform success,” said Moossa. “You don’t want to over-hype him, but you also want to make sure you cover the topics that people are talking about.
With all of these enhancements and the potential of a bump in viewing figures involving Chelsea courtesy of Pulisic, the league will continue to grow in the United States. It’s already the most popular soccer league on domestic English-language television. And now with the integration between NBC Sports and their sister broadcaster in the United Kingdom, the sky is the limit.
Listen to the complete interview with Pierre Moossa on the latest episode of the World Soccer Talk Podcast, which is also available via Spotify, Pandora mobile app, Stitcher, Google Play, iTunes, TuneIn, Overcast, Soundcloud, Spreaker, YouTube and Audioboom.