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End of an Era for ESPN & NBCSN: World Soccer Talk Podcast

In the NEW episode, number 242, Christopher Harris is joined by co-hosts Kartik Krishnaiyer and Kyle Fansler to cover a range of topics including:

• We discuss the end of an era for both ESPN and NBCSN when it comes to soccer coverage
• More details on FOX’s shocking acquisition of European Championship rights
• A popular soccer presenter calls it a day
• You the listeners share your opinions about national TV ratings for MLS
• Plus anticipation is building for the big announcement from the Premier League.

Listen to the show via the player above or via this link.

Launched in 2006, the World Soccer Talk Podcast is the longest running podcast on the planet. Every week, we share the latest news about watching soccer on television and streaming, in addition to discussing what we like and dislike, and featuring your questions and feedback in our Listener Mailbag segment.

HEAR MORE: Listen to our archive featuring hundreds of soccer interviews

Send in your questions, comments and feedback via e-mail web@worldsoccertalk.com, via Twitter (@worldsoccertalk) or Facebook. We’ll read them out on-air in the next episode.

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29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. greg

    November 15, 2021 at 1:27 pm

    To @Michael_F’s point about winters…that’s why the leagues in Sweden, Norway, & Finland run slightly off from the rest of Europe. And Denmark, even though their winters are much milder takes lots of time off from early December thru January. In the UK they definitely have milder winters than say Sweden, but it does get cold in the northern areas. Even London. But nothing like Chicago or some of the plains cities with sub-zeros fairly common thru the deep winter.

  2. Stephen

    November 15, 2021 at 10:18 am

    @Michael F

    I’m sure they have solid pragmatic reasons – the MLS has good leadership to be where they are from nothing.

    But to be a global brand they’ll need to change it eventually. It’s a national league – northern teams have brutal winter weather and southern teams brutal summer weather.

  3. Michael F

    November 15, 2021 at 10:08 am

    @Stephen Weather in a number of U.S. cities during February to April and after October is an issue. Not at all like the mild winters in the UK. Temperatures can be well below freezing and sometimes an artic freeze (single digit or below zero Fahrenheit). Only real diehard fans would attend those matches. They would have to build all stadiums with retractable dome roofs! Don’t think MLS has the revenue to justify that.

  4. Stephen

    November 15, 2021 at 9:53 am

    MLS won’t ever take off for the casual football viewer until they align their season with the major global leagues – which is also effectively the ‘school year.’ Over the summer I’ve turned off club football except for transfer rumors. When I start watching Arsenal, Juventus, etc every year I think “I’ll give MLS a try, they deserve it” and I remember that it’s the middle of the season and I’m too late. “Next year I’ll remember that the season starts shortly after the SuperBowl.” Never. Happens.

    Locally they’re doing well. Soccer specific stadia, community involvement etc. But they underestimate the casual decisions that drive a TV viewer nationally. I simply can’t remember to get invested in a lower-level product that demands a completely different timeline than every other football league on TV. September(ish) leagues start; May(ish) leagues finish and cup finals time; June-August: transfer window and international competitions. Repeat. There’s a rhythm and they’re completely off-beat.

  5. Mario Garcia

    November 10, 2021 at 12:27 pm

    Was also surprised to hear the opinion about people ok to pay 200 US$ per year for partial EPL, isn’t that what Peacock is doing right now? ( 49.99 per year for all EPL games except the ones on NBCSN.).

    Thanks for mentioning the Spanish language part on the puzzle, they indeed could combine with Amazon or CBS to get the rights.

    Looking forward to their decision! 50% revenue increase is not bad for the EPL owners!

  6. Mercator

    November 9, 2021 at 6:59 pm

    I don’t think it’s too early to say that. ESPN emphasised their EPL bid was “disciplined” which seems to indicate even ESPN seems to think they may have overpaid at this time. Even if Messi comes back, after PSG he almost certainly won’t be the draw he once was. It will get better when Perez opens his wallet but this is one team, two players … even Mickey Mouse can’t turn that into $1.5 billion+ in revenues. Marketing EPL and La Liga is also way different – imagine a La Liga fan fest, how many Celta Vigo fans do you think would show up? ESPN basically paid for 2014 La Liga and got 2021 La Liga. I know its an 8 year deal so they have time to turn it around, but if you underperform the first 2-3 years of that deal, you need to over perform on the back end and I just can’t see how we get to that point given the amount of money in the EPL and Barcelona’s situation.

  7. greg

    November 9, 2021 at 4:09 pm

    It’s way too early to say that ESPN got burned on La Liga. Yeah, Messi’s gone now, but with Xavi in as manager he may come back. But he’d leave soon anyway. But Mbappe is a lock for Real Madrid and good lord if they get Håland? The question for ESPN is are they going to put in the same kind of effort to market the league that NBC did in the early days of EPL? Are they going to try fan-fest type events? Will they throw matches on the main linears and ABC when they’re not neck-deep in NFL & college football?

    So far the presentation has been good…let’s see if/how they try and improve.

  8. Mercator

    November 9, 2021 at 3:05 pm

    The EPL also knows the market has peaked in some places (UK), so they will want to get cash out of the growth markets (USA) while they still can. I also think this is a sign for CBS taking at least part of the EPL rights – they have shown a willingness to aggressively spend on football content. Fox has not for club competitions, NBC has not for sport period, and ESPN has but seems like they got burned on La Liga. CBS seems like the only one ready to throw in a 9 year $3 billion bid or something.

  9. Hans

    November 8, 2021 at 4:31 pm

    The EPL didn’t want to renew the deal as they wanted it open to bids from other networks as they anticipated new max profits because of the increased interest in the EPL. This was certainly the case as they went that route in Scandinavia and other international areas. The only offer for renewal was in the UK and then only for 3 years. The EPL knows it has a product on hand that is in demand so they are welcoming competition.

  10. locofooty

    November 8, 2021 at 1:05 pm

    I think it is a sign. At this point it’s looking like a shared situation, no? We had an early sign of where things were going when Comcast didn’t go ahead and cuff the rights during the exclusive window before the bidding opened.

  11. Jasinho

    November 8, 2021 at 12:41 pm

    Sign of things to come?

    Sportbusiness (paywall) reported that CBS obtained rights to the FA Womens Super League previously held by NBC…..

    The plot thickens….

  12. Jasinho

    November 7, 2021 at 9:56 pm

    As the clock strikes midnight somewhere in England, the eerie anticipation begins on the advent of a new Premier League TV contract for their distant cousins across the Atlantic. Seeking to continue the English influence on American culture that began with the Fab Four, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Genesis, and The Police; The Premier League is in search of a media partner in hopes would one day make its entity the best in the World in any sport, even surpassing the American brand of football. But the Billion dollar question is, whom is going to take The Premier League to that summit?

    That question shall unfold in the ensuing hours of the upcoming Premier League television bid for the USA. This kind of decision is more critical and consequential than any Transfer Deadline Day and likely to have a lasting impact on the growth of The Beautiful Game on the other side of the Atlantic.

    Only one thing is certain as of right now, the selectors of the winning bid will reveal their real intentions.

  13. Michelangelo

    November 7, 2021 at 1:25 pm

    The Euro ESPN was perfect and watch ESPN and ESPN PLUS did a fantastic job in everyway. I wish ESPN can cover every league because their content is always going to be top notch. Excellent.

  14. Ra

    November 7, 2021 at 9:08 am

    For those who are into tactical analysis, the Leipzig vs Dortmund game yesterday has an alternative tactical view which is quite interesting. For instance, now in 49min into the game, I can watch a broader aerial view alongside heatmap, radar, and stats views. It is available on demand.

  15. Michelangelo

    November 7, 2021 at 8:19 am

    The only way I figured out how to find the Italian SAP option is only in the Live TV section only. If you go into the Italian Serie A section it will not work. Also the only devices I see an Italian SAP option is the the New Chromecast with Google TV, Amazon Fire Stick, and Laptops/PC. I wish they added this features to smartphones which is really upsetting. If anyone needs any help or any tips please let me know. Thank you so much. Forza Napoli!!! In Addition, Paramount Plus also needs to have instructions on their website and how to access it. I also called Paramount Plus and they have no idea on what I’m talking about.

  16. JP

    November 6, 2021 at 6:51 pm

    @Mercator, what did Boston ever do to you? Well the Revs had a historic regular season so you get to have fun rooting against them in the playoffs!

  17. Mercator

    November 6, 2021 at 11:03 am

    I will miss NBCSN as well. IMO they were the first to do it properly here in the US – it reminded me of watching in England when it first came on and to this day is still the only global broadcast I find competitive with the UK broadcasts. There was a wonderful window there before the peacock nonsense when PL Mornings were just great, always a great kickoff to the weekend.

    I would pay $200 for EPL on Amazon but only if it is EVERY SINGLE GAME. I wouldn’t pay half that for 90% of the games, unless it has every single game anything over $50 per year is ridiculous and I wouldn’t pay. For $200 I would also expect every bit of bumper programming etc the EPL makes available. I don’t think it would work at that price in any case though.

    MLS’s poor showing in big markets hurts its national appeal. You can’t going to have national appeal with no serious contender in NYC, and two teams run by foreign clubs. You aren’t going to get national coverage when Chicago (3rd most populous metro), Dallas (4th) and Houston (5th) are all pretty poor (although Dallas gets some Pepi credit and Houston’s new owner seems to be the real deal). I don’t want to see Seattle or Atlanta games 15 times a year, I’m not sure why half the national games are always the same 6 teams. Fix NYC, fix Boston, fix Chicago… that is the sort of “regional” league that can get national attention. A good part of sports for most of the country is hating certain markets, Dallas, NYC and Boston being the most hated. Give the people something to root against, I will show up even for a very poor team if they have a chance to beat anyone from Boston.

  18. dave

    November 5, 2021 at 4:33 pm

    Good content as usual, thanks
    .
    1. I share the nostalgia for NBCSN. I use NBC Sports app now, but remember well scrolling to the channel for EPL and NHL. NBC no longer have NHL and will soon no longer have NBCSN and their status with EPL is unknown
    .
    2. Fascinating discussion about what happens to the space previously occupied by the channel! I almost want to be awake and watching NBCSN just to find out. ESPN Classic (not big ESPN) will sunset on the same day, though that has been on the way out for years
    .
    3. Count me with @JP and @greg in continuing to think local may be the best play for MLS. MLS has good attendance which is suggestive of at least some deep local interest that could potentially be broadened. If MLS keep the business end of their season in October-December, how many customers can they realistically grow and acquire nationally? Every major US sport overlaps at least part of that window as does every major worldwide soccer league

  19. greg

    November 5, 2021 at 4:24 pm

    Yeah, that Ziegler piece was a joke. Stale bread.

  20. greg

    November 5, 2021 at 4:24 pm

    Slight change to today’s choice…the Sudbury v Colchester FA Cup match on ESPN+ is fun. 8th tier v League 2, small community ground. Gary Taphouse commentating, good stuff.

  21. SteveK

    November 5, 2021 at 3:54 pm

    Jesus, what was the news in the British press this morning? Are you talking about the Martyn Ziegler article in The Times? There was very little actual new in that article, it was mostly a gloss over what John Ourand and The Athletic wrote weeks ago. We already knew the PL was accepting bids on 4 packages, but one of those packages is ALL games just like it has always been. No new source was quoted to indicate that the PL was leaning toward accepting split packages. The following from The Times “It is understood that a 50 per cent rise in the value of the rights, over a new six-year deal, could be announced next week, as broadcasters in the United States scramble for a piece of the action. There is potential for that to increase as final first-round bids will be accepted until Monday, and there could be further rounds beyond that” is interesting in that it speculates the bid discussion could continue past the actual bid deadline and “Competition to NBC is expected from ESPN and CBS. There is also the possibility of more than one US broadcaster being able to show matches, as happens in the UK, as the Premier League has split the rights into four packages.” sounds hopeful, like it was lifted from this website, but that wasn’t sourced either.

    Was there some other news?

  22. JP

    November 5, 2021 at 2:13 pm

    @greg, absolutely agree on MLS. They can probably do an entire podcast on the subject.
    For me, it boils down to a couple things.
    Who are potential MLS fans?
    How does MLS best reach those fans?
    People who already follow soccer on the world level probably not the best target. These fans view MLS as inferior quality to the matches they watch on weekend mornings/afternoons (not a dig at those fans, would mostly include myself here).
    The target should be sports fans who might not already follow soccer avidly overseas, but would be likely to follow a local team because of hometown pride. Young fans should be who they’re marketing to, because older fans could already be set in their ways/perceptions of soccer.
    Once those fans become invested locally, only then will they start to care nationally. Not because they enjoy watching other teams, but because those other results will have an impact on their local team’s chances of getting to/advancing in playoffs.
    Can only speak from personal experience, but that’s how it went for me for almost all the sports I’ve ever followed from a young age. College basketball an exception, but became an NBA fan 1st because of the local team and that love of basketball transferred to the college level (and for a long time surpassed NBA interest).
    It’s the chicken and the egg argument. Think both you and I agree that a strong local/regional interest needs to take hold before national interest becomes a goal. Even if national interest never takes off, they’ll have that local base to sustain the league.

  23. Turfit

    November 5, 2021 at 1:52 pm

    100% agree with JP,

  24. greg

    November 5, 2021 at 12:42 pm

    As for enjoying the football…my matches to see all or part of for the weekend & international break

    Friday
    Southampton v Villa 1pm (Pacific times)

    Saturday
    Man U v Man City 5:30
    Portsmouth v Harrow 7:55 FA Cup ESPN+
    Oviedo v Las Palmas 10:05 (Segunda on ESPN+ !!)
    Leipzig v Dortmund 10:20
    Real Madrid v Rayo 12:30

    Sunday
    Everton v Spurs 6:00 NBCSN
    Leeds v Leicester 6:00 Peacock
    West Ham v Liverpool 8:30 NBCSN
    Napoli v Hellas Verona 8:50 Paramount+
    Osasuna v Real Sociedad 9:20 ESPN+
    AC Milan v Inter 11:00 Paramount+
    Real Betis v Sevilla 11:30 ESPN+
    Stade Rennais v Lyon 11:35 Bein

    Friday 11/12
    Italy v Switzerland 10:45 ESPN2
    US v Mexico 5pm ESPN2

    Sunday 11/14
    Spain v Sweden 10:45 ABC

    Monday 11/15
    Scotland v Denmark 10:45 ESPN+

    Tuesday 11/15
    Wales v Belgium 10:30 ESPN2

    Wednesday 11/16
    Jamaica v USA 2pm Paramount+

  25. greg

    November 5, 2021 at 12:17 pm

    @JP – Agreed, I thought that was a preposterous assumption. You can’t compare an EPL price-point to the NBA. Right now the NBA has tons more popularity in the US than EPL. It’s a national sport thanks to their marketing strategy around stars like Magic Johnson, Jordan, Kobe, LeBron, etc. They realized in the 1980s that they could turn it from a localized sport to a national and international league. The EPL just isn’t at the same level in the US that the NBA is in other countries. Though I’d bet the NBA isn’t now what it was in the prime Magic-Jordan-Shaq-Kobe years, even with LeBron still playing You need stars like that to make the league go big. The NFL also has used big stars (Aikman, Brady, etc) and teams (Cowboys, Raiders when they moved to LA, Bears in the 1980s, Patriots in the 2000s) to become national. They’ve made the Super Bowl an EVENT.

    No way the EPL get $200 / year from enough people to make it worthwhile. I love EPL but if that’s the price I’m nope-ing out and going all in on La Liga, Budnesliga, Ligue 1. Completely fanciful thinking that it’s a reasonable price-point for what’s still a niche league in the US. Especially if that’s all you get for the $200.

    Which brings me back to my MLS take. Kartik seemed to disagree with my take that they shouldn’t worry about national ratings because their competition is EPL & other international leagues, especially Euro & Mexico. Without huge stars & marketable teams perhaps beyond either of the LA teams or maybe Seattle, Portland or Atlanta I don’t see enough people nation-wide caring about rando games that aren’t the playoffs. I get that’s Beckham’s aim in Miami but they need to win. If/when they get Messi you’ll see an uptick, like LA with Beckham. But when the star goes, so do the casual fans.

    So again, I’ll stay with my belief that MLS needs to build strong local roots, worry about local ratings & match attendance. Get most teams to the kind of support that Columbus has long had, Portland has, etc…not based on stars but on clubs that people connect with and care about year after year.

  26. JP

    November 5, 2021 at 10:05 am

    Wow, I’m surprised there was no pushback against the hypothetical cost of $200 (on top of the $100 Prim subscription) for EPL on Amazon. Compared to other services, that is absolutely exorbitant. $50 a year for UCL/EL, Serie A, plus others. $70 a year for La Liga, Bundesliga, Eredivisie, plus others (and NHL, College football, Grand Slam tennis events, golf, etc). No comparison, and if that ever happened, suspect many casual EPL fans would just forget about it and the hardcore fans would find other means (whether watch in Spanish, illegal streams, and so on)

    As a non EPL fan outside of the largest matches (say a Chelsea v City if both in the title race) , I’m probably not the best judge. But, don’t think I’d pay $300 a year for Serie A coverage, so there’s that. $100 maximum a year is probably far as I’d go for any league (and better have other leagues/competitions included as well). That would make the EPL inclusion WITH Amazon Prime somewhat ok if I wanted it, not as an add on to that.

  27. Jesus

    November 5, 2021 at 9:58 am

    Judging from this morning’s news about the EPL in the British press it looks like the US rights will be broken into 4 packages allowing multiple companies to get one or more packages. This is how it’s done in the UK with Sky and BT. So it will be interesting to see who gets what in the US. Of course it also means that US viewers may have to get multiple streaming services to see EPL matches and that means it will become more costly.

  28. RS

    November 4, 2021 at 4:18 pm

    Another excellent podcast! .. I am not sure the news about NBCSN and the shift to USA is all that impactful .. It’s a content-centric (versus channel-centric) world these days .. rather than scroll and navigate unwieldy program guides, viewers search for whatever interests them …. With regard to the Premier League rights NBC deserves enormous credit for their unique fan-centric approach with innovations such as their regional FanFests and #MyPremierLeagueMorning photo features, not to mention the clever Men In Blazers with their sly comedic parody of characteristic American sports broadcasting …. A reminder of what it would be like if the EPL ever went to Fox .. Heaven forbid .. #AnyNetworkOtherThanFox !!!

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