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Leagues: EPL

NBC’s Premier League coverage after 9 years, a look back

England’s top-flight league recently announced a new 6-year rights deal with NBC Sports to extend NBC’s Premier League coverage in the United States. Once the new $2.7 billion deal ends in 2028, it’ll equal a grand total of 15 years of continuous coverage.

NBC Sports’ aggressive promotion of the league and use of linear platforms has brought English soccer closer to the American public. It has created a new generation of viewers and has given existing fans even more live action and shoulder programming.

We take a look back at years one through nine to see how NBC’s coverage has done.

NBC’s Premier League coverage: 2013/14 to 2015/16

Beginning in the summer of 2013 on an initial three-year deal, NBC Sports elevated the profile of the Premier League in the US. Fans were brought closer to the league than ever before in the US. For example, the broadcaster aired several introductory programs to the league before kicking off action.

The Premier League rights acquisition also gave NBCSN weekend and midweek programming that it previously lacked. This made the channel more attractive to both cable providers and viewers.

In an effort to create buzz for the Premier League, NBC Sports ran skits of the Ted Lasso character. The commercials featuring Jason Sudeikis helped stimulate conversation about the Premier League. Plus, it served as the pretense for a fictional TV show about an English soccer club. The promotional videos evolved into the TV series. One that won countless awards and acclaim. That helped further establish soccer as a mainstream American presence.

Presenter Rebecca Lowe and lead commentator Arlo White have been two mainstays, among many, on the network. Both Lowe and White developed tremendous fan followings.

In the first few seasons of NBC Sports’ coverage, they supplemented match coverage with programs. For example, there was an American version of Match of the Day. Next, there was Premier League Download. Even Gary Lineker joined NBC Sports to provide on-site analysis. Plus he provided documentaries via his production studio, Goalhanger films.

Behind the scenes at NBC Sports

The documentaries and bumper programming enhanced NBC’s coverage. It bolstered American fans’ understanding of the league, history and culture. These programs gave NBC and NBCSN a programming block for most match days that covered eight to ten hours. NBC Sports aired over 30 matches each season on free-to-air NBC network television. At the time, that was a breakthrough for soccer broadcasting and visibility in the United States.

When Men in Blazers moved from ESPN to NBCSN in 2014, the show helped engage casual fans. It emphasized offbeat and humorous takes on the Premier League. Panned by critics, the show had a major, positive impact on the growth of the sport in the United States.

Premier League on NBC: 2016/17 to 2021/22

When NBC Sports renewed its contract with the Premier League in 2015 for more seasons, expectations were high. Many of us hoped the coverage would continue to elevate discussion and attract new fans.

A high point for NBC Sports were their fan festivals. Held in outdoor venues in major American cities, they helped connect the Premier League with fans at the local level in the US. Not only were the fan fests a big hit. They also gave many American fans a sense of ownership over a league played an ocean away.

Spanish-language broadcasts were handled by NBCUniversal-owned channels Telemundo and Universo. Featuring the legendary Andres Cantor, the broadcasts have incremental growth in viewership.

From Live Extra to Gold and Peacock

Throughout the period from 2015-2018, NBC’s coverage remained consistent. However, beginning in the summer of 2017, select matches were put behind a paywall on a service called NBC Sports Gold. The response was less than positive.

NBC Sports Gold’s introduction soured the relationship the network had with US-based fans. But the service proved a harbinger of what was to come. Not only for NBC, but for soccer fans in the US in general. The late 2010’s and early 2020’s have been marked by a clear shift. Many games have shifted from linear TV to OTT paid services.

In the summer of 2020, NBC retired the Gold platform replacing it with Peacock. Currently, the streaming services airs between 40-50% of all Premier League matches in a season.

While criticisms were aplenty, it is important to put things into perspective. NBC still made more matches available on TV than other rights-holders did for their respective soccer properties.

In 2018, NBCUniversal’s parent company Comcast acquired Sky in the UK. This brought synergies between Sky Sports’ and NBC Sports’ coverage of the Premier League.

NBC’s coverage also took on other elements in the 2018-2021 time period. Overall, NBC’s coverage slumped. Fewer bumper programs were aired, documentaries were fewer and far between while the network also lost talent. Restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic also had a negative impact on coverage. Thankfully, the 2021-22 season saw NBC Sports bounce back with a stronger presence in its final season.

NBC’s lasting legacy

Certainly, NBC Sports’ coverage of the Premier League has raised the coverage of the sport in this country. The broadcaster can be criticized for focusing too much on The Big 6. But despite that, its soccer coverage has left a legacy. We now have a more visible and popular league in the United States. Combine that with smarter wraparound coverage than we had every experienced before. NBC Sports should be congratulated for renewing the Premier League rights. It has left us with nine years of memorable coverage. Hopefully the next six years can be even better.

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  1. Casey

    November 30, 2021 at 6:16 pm

    NBCSN just showed Leeds v Crystal Palace, and right now FS2 is showing a documentary on Leeds getting promoted.

  2. Sean Johansen

    November 30, 2021 at 4:10 pm

    Having all 380 games available at no extra cost as an Xfinity customer is a big bonus I actually don’t mind Peacock but hate games put on Peacock when NBCSN is showing crap filler shows.

  3. Bill Martz

    November 29, 2021 at 10:09 pm

    I love the coverage I cant complain!! Bringing in new fans every week ! This ups the prestige of Premier League!! Would also like to see Champions League games whenever that can be arranged.

  4. Rick

    November 29, 2021 at 5:21 pm

    @Mercator CLAP-CLAP

    Jumping back and forth between apps for coverage being provided by the same entity is a very consumer unfriendly contrivance that would likely have me not subscribing if my interest in the league weren’t quite as high as it is.

    I’ve mentioned this before here, but not recently, that an under reported by-product of all of this shifting is not knowing where to find the bumper programming associated with each game. Is the post game on the channel that the game just aired. Is it on the app of the next game? If I want some pregame for the 10am ET matches on NBCSN, do I need to have peacock to see it (if the 7:30 game was on Peacock)?

    Gold had classic matches on-demand, which I watched religiously because I’ve only been watching EPL for ten years. Where are the classic matches now? Don’t tell me that they are only on the EPL channel. Watching live TV is for our grandparents. lol

    Peacock does allow you rewind games in progress, which is an upgrade over the status quo of the past season and a half. They still have a long way to go.

    Are people really going to unsubscribe from a streaming provider in larges masses if NBC simulcasted all of the games on Peacock? The numbers can’t be that high and it would be a nice olive branch to that minority who wouldn’t subscribe to linear TV otherwise. I would still subscribe to linear television but at least I’d know which app ALL of the games are on.

  5. jason

    November 29, 2021 at 2:49 pm

    Funny thing is that I have lost interest in the English Premier League a ton since 2013. The year Leicester City won the championship was the exeption. I would follow the premier leauge almost religiously in the 2000’s when it was on Fox Soccer Channel. German Bundesliga has taken over my as my favorite now. But I can sometimes watch Russia (youtube), Belgium, Netherlands (when they don’t have empty stadiums), and Italy (especially Venezia now) now.

    The way the NBC folks especially Rebecca Lowe trashed the everyday people at the Old Trafford pitch invastion to protest the Glazers was disgusting. Very much reminded me of every day “news” media as well, where only the elites are right and virtuous. Meanwhile whatever just grievances the citizens have are responded back as evil. selfish, mean, etc.

    Just last week I appluaded at the people who invaded the stadiums during the Dutch Eredevise lockdown games. Lockdowns are NOT acceptable.

  6. greg

    November 29, 2021 at 1:56 pm

    @Ra – Huh, good to know…I was on Chrome on a macbook and could only go back about 90 minutes (I joined about 20 minutes into the match) so missed the 1st 25 minutes or so of the pre-game show. I should try the Roku or Infiity flex set-up next time I guess. Still, there should either be DVR or “start from the beginning” option.

  7. Ra

    November 29, 2021 at 1:50 pm

    @JP No, just the Porsche cup. Yes, it is way to expensive. I looked into it once and thought that they were smoking something. You can get many types races using the motorsport app, I believe they have some other bike races also. Not the same though. I stick with the highlights and tape the occasional MotoGP race on OTA.

  8. JP

    November 29, 2021 at 1:47 pm

    @Ra, thanks for the info. Does F1TV also show MotoGP? Online I’ve found MotoGP Video Pass, their Black Friday “deal” is about 150USD for the 2022 season! Wonder how expensive the normal pricing is, yikes.
    Not outrageous, but definitely too high when I’d probably only watch half the races. And still more than my combined ESPN+/Paramount+ subscriptions that I use almost daily for multiple hours at a time.

    For something so niche in this market, think they’d price it to bring in more curious/casual viewers.

  9. Ra

    November 29, 2021 at 1:45 pm

    @greg Regarding the rewind – I was able to rewind only a certain amount of minutes on the tablet android app, but was able to rewind the whole stream >4:30 hrs on the apple TV app. I believe either one is an oversight from NBC’s side, but it is working on AppleTV at the moment.

  10. greg

    November 29, 2021 at 1:36 pm

    @Ra – Especially when the Cantor/Higgenbotham feed was clearly marked as such. The generic match feed had the EPL announcers. Not hard to find it.

    I agree with most of the other issues people raised – no DVR or full-restart, needing to switch between feeds for pre-game of half-time, no specific feed for Goal Zone when it’s on.

    One odd thing that was mentioned in the pod and a bit here…the shoulder programming. The lack of Goalhanger productions recently? Well turns out if you do some research and I don’t know, look at the company’s website you’ll see that a) they haven’t done a ton of soccer films lately, and b) there’s a clear branding tie with BBC meaning that a Sky partner might not show it in the US (but that’s conjecture). www[] goalhangerfilms com

    Also, the Premier League Review show never went away, unlike what Kartik mentioned on the pod. It’s on every week in the the time-slot just before the Saturday pre-game show for the 1st match.

    As for things like the Promoted series, they did one on Brentford this year, but did they need to do one on Norwich…again? Last time around they did Villa and Leeds. COVID made it tough to do them the last couple of years, but they did do Brentford.

    Could they bring back MoTD or do a nightly or few nights/week wrap-up? Maybe, But there’s plenty of things available on their youtube page (the tactics show, for instance) and the Two Robbies pod acts in essence like a discussion show even if there’s no highlights But the youtube page has an extended highlights package for the week and for matches. And guess what – for the youtube page you don’t need to be a cable or cable-like subscriber…you just need internet access. To not mention that in this article was a major oversight. That and not putting the lack of bumper programs in context is what leads people to think (correctly or not) that Kartik just has it in for NBC.

    Oh…and Peacock does have wall-to-wall EPL content, though yes, not on match days. But still, all the shows are there.

    Obviously some things are a matter of taste – some people don’t like the studio team, some do. Some people don’t like Arlo White, some do. But on balance, compared to even the decent years of Fox coverage, we’re better off now. And especially before Fox when it was hard to get matches without an expensive satellite package.

  11. Ra

    November 29, 2021 at 12:25 pm

    On a separate note – I am in the market for a 50-55 inch TV to watch soccer+movies. I don’t need upscaling for movies or TV shows, but my soccer feeds are all 1080p. I am looking for something with great upscaling capabilities for soccer. Any recommendations on models?

  12. Ra

    November 29, 2021 at 12:22 pm

    Funny – Now that I have Peacock, realized that EPL is not my cup of tea… Ended up watching Bundesliga, Serie A, and South Am soccer this weekend. And I don’t get the complaints about Cantor – a different feed with a UK commentator was also available. Do people find it hard to navigate an app?

  13. Ra

    November 29, 2021 at 12:19 pm

    @JP Peacock shows just the MotoGP highlights. They hold the rights but never streamed full races on Peacock (neither live nor on-demand). I get my racing content through F1TV (I believe it is $3/mo 2 day replays and $10/month live)

  14. JP

    November 29, 2021 at 12:10 pm

    Since this thread is somewhat Peacock related will ask this here.

    Does Peacock show MotoGP races? Don’t see that as one of the sports listed on the website (other moto sports are (Indy, Motocross), but possible just because the season is over.
    I know they were supposedly on delay on NBCSN or NBC, but possibly live online?

    Just thinking about subscriptions may need next year. Have missed MotoGP a little since beIN lost it, and NBC didn’t really promote it so never knew when they’d air (and I generally don’t like watching things on delay anyway). Would be worth it for those handful of live races I’d watch a year, usually the summer circuit when not in competition with morning soccer.

  15. MIB Fan

    November 29, 2021 at 9:53 am

    Fixed this for you: “Men in Blazers, panned by World Soccer Talk”
    No mention at all about the 24/7 PLTV channel on Peacock. It’s as if that content does not exist for viewers.

  16. Mercator

    November 29, 2021 at 8:40 am

    This is a very generous article. As good as the studio team is, the Peacock nonsense completely ruins whatever good things they are doing while on air. Yesterday was a horror show again, impossible to find any of the commentary. I would suggest 5 obvious and simple changes that would go a long way to making Peacock actually workable. Currently, it is a joke and ruins an otherwise good NBC broadcast, yesterday being a prime example.

    1. Include a Cable Login for Access to All Matches and Commentary – It’s incredibly frustrating for viewers who have both a cable and Peacock subscription to constantly move between various apps in order to watch the same league. All matches and commentary should be available on Peacock to those with both a cable and Peacock subscription. This is the same approach used by ESPN, which allows logging in with both ESPN+ and a cable login. This would significantly improve the utility of Peacock by adding content the viewer is already paying for, and would streamline many other issues (cable matches could be made immediately available, a continuous PL Morning stream and picture quality and framerate improvements for cable matches).

    2. Make Matches Available On Demand Immediately – Every match stream should be available to play from the beginning at any point after it has started. While the introduction of pause and rewind features has been helpful, if a viewer wishes to watch a match after it has been completed, they must wait until the evening to view a replay of the match. This is not reasonable to many viewers not on Eastern Standard Time.

    3. Create a single continuous stream for PL Mornings – Dividing matches between cables channels and Peacock has ruined PL Mornings by making it difficult and cumbersome to follow the location of matches and commentary each weekend morning. For viewers with a cable and Peacock subscription, there should be a single continuous PL Morning stream available on Peacock. The need to change channels and apps (potentially to a non-NBC channels or apps) would be completely removed and PL Mornings would regain its former glory.

    4. 60fps/4k – Sports broadcasts, particularly EPL matches, are best viewed in 60 frames per second and anything less only incentivises viewers to find a higher quality broadcast. Again, Peacock should be the absolute best broadcast available to streaming viewers in the United States and that means 1080p/60fps. This should be a differentiating factor which makes Peacock essential for a committed EPL fan. 4K broadcasts should be available on Peacock as well, even if there is an additional fee. It makes no sense to have to have to go through a third-party to get 4k EPL matches.

    5. Include additional Content On Demand – Sky Sports On Demand EPL Commentary should be made available on demand on Peacock. Much of this commentary is made available on Youtube by Sky Sports itself, so there is no reason Peacock subscribers should have to go to Youtube to access this content. The content on the PL channel should also be made available on demand. Currently it is difficult to tell what is currently playing and what the future schedule will be. It’s also inconvenient for most viewers to have to tune in at a specific time to view this content. Making the various shows available on demand after they have aired on the PL Channel would solve both of these issues.

  17. rkujay

    November 29, 2021 at 5:58 am

    Just for a bit of perspective, in the 50’s My subscription to the Manchester Evening News came somewhere between two and four weeks late. Footy on tv in America? Not until 1992. Today, if you choose, you can watch footy twenty four hours a day. Let’s not get too overboard on soccer coverage. We, after all, have soccer to cover.

  18. David

    November 28, 2021 at 11:40 pm

    Until NBC give us the ability to record matches on Peacock it will remain sub-standard for those of us on the West Coast. Who wants to get up before 7am every Saturday in order to watch? And to then force us to wait until 3am the next day to watch replays is unforgivable. They’re shooting themselves in the foot.

  19. Yespage

    November 28, 2021 at 11:05 pm

    It is as if people can’t remember a decade ago. NBC was the first to put all the extra games out in the open for nothing extra… if your subscribing service provided those channels. Fox wanted $15 a month for Fox’s stream service to complete the deal or $15 for Fox Soccer Plus.

    Before that you had to sub to Setanta to get the extra games, and that was $10 to $15 a month.

    OTT (or more on top) for complete coverage isn’t new. NBA, NHL, MLB, NFL all provide options to get all the games for $150 to $300+. You can get all of EPL’s games cheaper ($ to $) today than back when Fox was splitting games with Setanta. Live Extra was always a mistake, as once consumers are used to something, they feel entitled to it for eternity. And these days, people expect the world for $5 a month.

  20. Adam

    November 28, 2021 at 11:00 pm

    I’ve been disappointed since the outset that they don’t cover the league on days there aren’t games. A daily news show covering the EPL like they had for Nascar (Premier League America anybody?) should have been happening since their deal began. I was also disappointed when they cancelled Match of the Day. Was my favorite way to catch up if i wasn’t able to watch. They should bring it back on Peacock. And I still don’t see much synergy with Sky. I like what NBC has done overall but their shoulder programming has gotten worse as their deal has done along.

  21. Eplnfl

    November 28, 2021 at 8:23 pm

    Kartik I think your being kind to the coverage. Describing recent years as a slump is a bit mild. They have gone cold and need to retool entirely. Not having a dedicated channel for their coverage is a huge mistake. What would college basketball be without everyone knowing ESPN is the home for it? Peacock is a cluster and hard to work with even if you are a Comcast subscriber.

    There never has been a nightly this side of the Atlantic produced wrap up show for the league. Rebecca Lowe and Arlene White are fan favorites and do solid work but the experts have never caught our imagination and Tim Howard can be an outright sleep inducer. The NBC over air network can easily accommodate a match Saturday and Sunday but that infrequently happens.

    Despite it all I am happy NBC kept its coverage and hoping that the security of a new contract will allow NBC to create supporting shows to enhance its coverage.

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