Rebecca Lowe, the host of NBC’s Premier League coverage, recently sat down with World Soccer Talk to share her thoughts on how she sees herself as a role model for young women and what she’s doing to help aspiring females who want a future in sports broadcasting.
She also discusses the chemistry she has with Robbie Earle, Kyle Martino and Robbie Mustoe, as well as the connection that she has with the viewing audience. In our conversation, we also talk about her upcoming role as one of the hosts of NBC’s Summer Olympics coverage in Tokyo, and how that’ll impact her time on the screen in August.
Christopher: Do you think your audience has changed? And do you think your coverage has changed since the very beginning when NBC got the Premier League rights in 2013? Do you sense any differences from back then to now?
Rebecca: “My sense from living in the States and talking to people is the growth, without a shadow of a doubt. First of all, the numbers tell you that. And also, I can sense that myself when I’m out and about and I see jerseys that five years ago, I never saw and now I see them all the time. Not just the big clubs. But the big clubs I see more frequently now than I did before five years ago.
What I’ve noticed from when people talk to me is that there are so many new fans that keep coming. And I’m not sure why or how that is, but I feel like it’s growing not just within familites. It’s growing organically so that brand-new people are coming to this sport — whether they come to it from a celebrity like a basketball player or NFL player, like JJ Watt.
I think it’s one of those products that when you come to it you stay with it because it’s like a soap opera. And it’s one of the few things on TV that’s live these days. And you have to watch then because if you don’t watch it live, you’re going to find out the score somehow. That becomes appointment viewing which makes it an attractive thing to be a part of.
So, I think the growth of it and the new fans I meet all the time who say to me ‘Oh, I’ve been watching for a year and I’ve just decided on my team’ or ‘I’ve been watching for two months and I’m an Arsenal fan.’ I’m like, wow. That’s amazing to me that there are still new fans coming.
The audience has changed, but I don’t think the show has changed much. I think our personalities come out a little bit more now with the four of us because we know each other inside out. And the viewers know us inside and out now as well.”
Christopher: That’s something I’ve noticed too in terms of the chemistry that you have on the set. It seems that you all get so long really well. Did that come naturally or did it did it take a little bit of work in the beginning?
Rebecca: “From day one, [NBC Sports Executive Producer] Pierre Moossa takes the credit. He didn’t just pluck four people and hoped it worked. He obviously spoke to a lot of people about the four of us to make sure that the four different personalities would work together. And I can honestly tell you from moment one, we’ve just slotted together seamlessly like a family. We know each other’s families. We socialize outside.
We love spending time with each other. We spend a lot of hours together, so come May, we’re all like ‘Ok, see you in two months. I don’t want to see you again.’ (laughs).
And then halfway through the summer, we’re phoning each other up to ask ‘How’s your summer going?’
We’re a big part of each other’s lives and we care for each other a lot. We have each other’s back. And it’s certainly not put on.
We also push each other. We banter with each other a lot — off camera a lot, but on camera too. Off camera, it’s pure banter the whole time. And we give and we take.”
Christopher: We get to know you, your personality and your characteristics as well as your wit and some of the Britishisms that come out on-air. Do you find yourself, in a way, a role model of British people in America, and what Americans think of British people when they look at you?
Rebecca: “That’s interesting because I’ve never thought about it that way.
Obviously, I want to represent my country well. But if you work hard and you’re respectful, and you do a good job then I suppose you’re automatically representing your country well.
If I’m a role model in any way, I try to be a role model to young girls whether they’re American or British. That’s my biggest passion for me for being a role model. But other than that, no I wouldn’t see myself like that.”
Christopher: In 2013 when I interviewed you in New York City backstage at the Saturday Night Live studio, a young woman walked up to you and said ‘I’m an aspiring female broadcaster, could you give me some advice?’
Rebecca: “I remember that.”
Christopher: You gave her the one-on-one time. Is that something else that’s near and dear to your heart, to try and help fellow women who want to work in the industry?
Rebecca: “It’s really important to me. When I came through, there weren’t enough women to help. I never got that much guidance, so I want that to change.
To have the job that I have, I don’t take that for granted any day. And it’s also somewhere I never thought I would get to in lots of ways. So, I want to pass that message on to the young girls. I have some girls that I mentor to try to get to where they want to go in sports broadcasting, to show that it’s possible and to show that you don’t have to know somebody. You don’t have to look a certain way. You just have to work really hard and know what you’re talking about.
That’s my biggest passion to try and provide an example to these girls, and to give them the confidence to know that we still have a long way to go, but there is a chance — much more than when I was their age.”
Christopher: So what about Tokyo 2020, and how will that impact your role in August’s coverage of the Premier League?
Rebecca: “I’m definitely going, and I’ll be coming back [to the States] on August 10th. I’m going to have a little break when I get back. The Olympics are quite unlike anything you ever do. You don’t get a day off. It’s constant from the second you land to the second you take off to come home, so the idea of going straight back in [to do the Premier League coverage], I will need some time with my family and I will need just a little break to get the Olympics out of my system because that’s all I’ll be thinking about.”
Christopher: NBC has been with the Premier League since 2013. If there was one soccer league or competition that NBC could acquire that would be a dream complement to what we currently have today, what league or competition would that be, and why?
Rebecca: “The World Cup. I was lucky enough to work the 2006 World Cup for the BBC over there as a reporter. It’s the greatest. It’s the best of the best. It’s not a league. It’s once every four years. That, for me, would complement it because it will feature all the players that we talk about week-in week-out.
To be able to do that at NBC would be amazing. But at the moment, there’s no chance of that happening.” (laughs)
Christopher: What is it about the Premier League that makes it so interesting in this country as opposed to MLS, LaLiga or other leagues? You see people coming together from different walks of life and different ethnicities and ages.
Rebecca: “I think it’s a number of things. One, in my opinion, it’s the best. So you have the best entertainment, the best quality, the best players — bar one or two in the world right now.
Two, one of the biggest things for me is the time of the day that it’s on. I know it’s tricky the further west you go and you have to get up super early. But it’s not in competition with anything else. It’s not in competition with NFL or let alone MLS or any of it. As a Mum, weekend mornings, those are the down times before you go off and play soccer or go swimming or whatever else you do. You have a few hours where everyone’s at home from 6AM to 10AM pretty much. It’s not cartoons. It’s not something that parents feel guilty about their kid watching it. It’s sport. We can expose them to that. And they can all do it together. Mums, Dads, brothers and sisters can all sit around together.
One of the most amazing moments I’ve had in covering this for almost seven years is that I went back to my old high school in June for my 20 year reunion. And I was the keynote speaker. And afterwards, a guy came up to me who graduated 20 years before me. And he was emotional and had tears. And he said that both his boys had gone to college now so they had their new routines with their roommates in college. But for five years, he had time with his boys every Saturday and Sunday morning to bond and to be together, and to enjoy the Premier League on the sofa as a family.
Three, soccer is growing so quickly in this country and it’s so diverse when you watch the Premier League, which is what this country is all about. So little kids can watch the Premier League and feel ‘I want to be like that.’
[The Premier League on TV in the United States] is no longer that niche market. It’s no longer a cult following. We’re getting toward mainstream now. And I’m so proud. People that didn’t have any idea about the Premier League before now know it exists. They may not watch it yet but they know it exists. And that’s a big deal. That’s a long way from where we were in 2013.”