Monday Morning Centerback: NBC securing of EPL TV rights a win for American soccer fans

 

By IVES GALARCEP

The ever-changing landscape of professional soccer on American television underwent another seismic shift with the news that NBC Universal has secured the rights to the English Premier League in the United States starting with the 2013/2014 season.

The EPL confirmed the news over the weekend that NBC had indeed beaten out Fox and ESPN for the rights, with reports putting the final deal at three-years and approximately $250 million.

The deal continues NBC’s impressive foray into covering soccer, which kicked off with the network securing rights to Major League Soccer before the 2012 season. NBC’s coverage of MLS has been widely-regarded as a significant upgrade over the previous coverage provided by Fox Soccer Channel.

Now NBC will turn its attention to covering the wildly popular English Premier League, and the network has made it clear it will provide thorough coverage of the EPL using its full complement of channels. NBC Sports Network will serve as the key hub for coverage, but marquee matches will also be shown across NBC’s family of networks.

“It will not be unlike the Olympics where you saw programming on CNBC, Bravo, USA or MSNBC,” NBC chairman Mark Lazarus told Sports Illustrated. “We are working to make it a consistent schedule so fans know exactly where to find games. But the Premier League fan will be able to get to every game live.”

Unlike previous EPL TV deals, which saw games shared by NBC and Fox, NBC’s new deal will keep all Premier League game solely on NBC channels, meaning no more EPL coverage on the two networks that had become synonymous for covering the league.

What does this mean for American soccer fans?

It means being able to watch English Premier League matches on channels that are more widely-available, and just as importantly, it means the end of having to pay extra for the chance to watch the full complement of EPL matches.

Fox Soccer provided ever-improving coverage of the EPL, but the channel isn’t nearly as widely-available as the NBC family of networks are. Also, watching that extensive coverage came at a price for American viewers, be it via the premium Fox Soccer Plus, or through an online subscription to FoxSoccer2G0.com.

The news is a devastating blow for Fox, and specifically Fox Soccer Channel, which is losing the rights to its premier property. It is the latest in a series of lost rights deals for the struggling network, which also lost Major League Soccer rights to NBC as well as Italian Serie A and French Ligue 1 rights to beIN Sport.

What next for Fox? The network still has UEFA Champions League, as well as some other minor properties like the CONCACAF Champions League and Scottish Premier League, but with NBC boasting a strong portfolio of soccer and beIN Sport holding the rights to multiple major European leagues, Fox Soccer is set to endure a devastating slide from the premier soccer network in America to, at best, the third most relevant soccer network in the nation. At least until 2015, when the network begins covering events associated with its acquisition of World Cup TV rights (events ranging from the 2015 Women’s World Cup to youth world cups prior to the 2018 World Cup).

If NBC’s coverage of the English Premier League is as impressive as its coverage of Major League Soccer has been, American soccer fans will be the real winners in this quarter-billion dollar TV deal. Not just because of what promises to be improved coverage of the most popular soccer league in the world, but because of the increased visibility for the sport in this country.

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60 Responses to Monday Morning Centerback: NBC securing of EPL TV rights a win for American soccer fans

  1. yameson says:

    As long as we don’t have to endure Eric Wynalda, I’m happy. If NBC can pick up Bobby McMahon, that would be an exciting bonus.

  2. Andy in Atlanta says:

    I am completely fine with this provided the world feed EPL commentators are used… I will not tolerate GOLTv style American announcers calling games off a TV screen… the announcer must be present at the match and preferably British too…

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      I agree regarding on-site broadcasting. I have the same basic complaint about F1 on Fox’s Speed channel. I tend to think you get very little out of people in a booth here talking over a feed, which is how FSC handles CCL and certain other properties.

      However, I’m struggling to think of who was covering EPL games with booth telecasts. ESPN would have their people physically there, and FSC seems to have a feed with UK live commentators. I suspect NBC will do one or the other. When NBC does TdF they have their people in France, Indycar 95% on-site, MLS on-site at least in part.

      A good hint may come from how NBC handles F1, which they also won from Fox. Do they have Americans over a feed, the world or UK feed with on-site people, or even their own production of each race? I could see the same level of effort either way. They could do it up like ESPN or do it down like FSC, or even both for different levels of matchups on different channels…

    • Dennis says:

      I second Andy in Atlanta. No comparison between Phil Schoen and Martin Tyler

    • Georkt says:

      Spot on my friend, it’s the only way to broadcast. To do otherwise is an insult to the sport. A Merseyside derby announced by some bozos in a both an ocean away would be embarrassing.

    • bigprof says:

      i agree w/broadcasters being British and at the match, but NBC just cant stream whatever british network is covering, they have to provide pre-game & halftime American network coverage. Without that American context, the “hey, we’re Americans watching the EPL”, its gonna come off as too foreign. It needs to be a production from NBC, period.

    • Ryan in NYC by way of NC says:

      Yea, I’m a little bias to have Brits calling my match too…

  3. beto says:

    every game!!! wow.

    • beto says:

      do ppl in england even get that many games on tv?

      • John Holder says:

        Not even close. Maybe one or two EPL

      • vik says:

        In england it’s terrible, nothing is for free. Some teams have their own channels you need to pay for to watch any games, everything else is on premium cable/sat channels. The best you can hope for on free tv is the “game of the week” replay, where one game is chosen and replayed Sunday night. Pretty dire…

        • slowleftarm says:

          Ironically the years I actually lived in England I followed the Premier League far less closely because in order to watch a match on TV (didn’t own my own set with the license fee and all) I had to go to the pub. Which is fine but can get expensive.

  4. Matt S says:

    Not sure how I feel about this. I think the quality of the broadcast will be better but the overall coverage won’t be. I can turn on FSC and watch games, review shows, and special programming all day long. I feel like NBC will just have its 2 hour block for each game and then move on to weight lifters picking up cars or college field hockey. I appreciate the work NBC does with the Olympics and other major sporting events but they typically focus on the “news” of the sport rather than the actual live play.

    Can’t judge it till it happens so I’ll hold my final judgement until it happens.

    • Nicholas says:

      I’m not sure you’ve watched much of NBC’s MLS coverage this season then…

      Every game has had a 2 1/2 hour window with full pregame and postgame show. Add in the ‘MLS 36′ series, which as with ‘NHL 36′ has been a great behind the scenes look at some of the players in the league, and MLS and CCL highlights being consistently included in its new morning show ‘The ‘Lights’, and the league has received plenty of exposure thanks to NBC.

      I’d expect the same, if not more of this, with the potential for cross-promotion between the two leagues adding to that.

  5. RK says:

    I think it’s great, because NBC won’t have its schedule full with Sunday afternoon football; they should have plenty of time to broadcast.

  6. Duneman says:

    Some people have worried that it might mean MLS will become second fiddle…but I dont see that happening as the EPL will be early in the day….they might try to have some early afternoon weekend games for example so you have some EPL games at 11am EST (where they cant of course impact the schedule) but try to maybe use some leverage to have a few MLS games start earlier in the day so noon or 1pm EST for example they have an MLS game (where NBC MAY be able to have some influence into the scheduling of MLS as the big TV rights buyer) to keep soccer fans glued to their TV. It would be a great way to maybe convert some Euro Snobs who might be more willing to go from an EPL match or two, a show reviewing the eruope games and then stay on the couch for an MLS match to begin. It will also be interesting to see if NBC makes a soccer specific channel like Fox or just keep the content on the current network options. With ML going from the summer through Fall and adding the EPL season. I have to admit I am a bit excited having it all together. I have ESPN 1 and 2 and all NBC with my current cable…..I have to go to a bar/wings place for the EPL matches when I want to watch Dempsey or the other Yanks play…..I just cant get myself to the bar at like 8am….so I am always excited when a big match is more like 11am or noon EST so I can catch it at the local soccer bar…..but having it on NBC means I sit at home with some bangers and mash and a pint or head to any bar since they would all have NBC (even some of the sports bars dont have Fox Soccer which is annoying). I dont care really about who is commenting so much on the game….because if I do go to the bar….I usually cant hear much from the TV……but I really think this is a huge step for soccer in the US. If it is easier to find/watch games at home or from the bars this will be a great way to grow the sport. True fans will always hunt for where the game can be viewed….but true fans are already following the sport. if the regular “sports guy” can easily catch a game or know when game times are always set (weekend mornings) it will be easier to convert these fans as well. I am looking forward to 2013/2014 seasons. I just hope he USMNT keeps getting some good coverage as well. I really wonder what will happen to Fox Soccer….but maybe now FoxSoccer will be more willing to pay the CONCACAF guys for the TV rights so they dont go to payper view since they will be in need of content.

  7. Ace says:

    Most important question for me:
    Any chance Ian Darke moves over to NBC?

    Will Fox still have news programming like the Premier League Review show? Any chance they snag the Bundesliga or even Championship games in England? In general I find Fox Soccer to be pretty cheap on production values and things like that. NBC will do well in that department.

  8. Steve C says:

    Time to rebrand FSC as PAC. Pro-Actice Channel.

  9. homerica7 says:

    Terrible news. One of the great things about FoxSoccer2Go meant that I didn’t have to pay for a ripoff cable package to watch games legally. I’m sure NBC’s streaming media player will be like what they did for the Olympics, meaning you had to have a cable package, and can’t just pay for a subscription like you could with FoxSoccer2Go. ESPN3 (Watch ESPN) was already heading that way when they started to block out specific national team games live unless you had a cable subscription with an appropriate affiliate.

    • josh says:

      Yes. For anyone that has cut the cord this sucks. And to further confuse the issue, Fox will still have the Champions’ League.

      • BamaMan says:

        Get an antenna. You can’t legally watch games covered by Fox Soccer Live anyway on FoxSoccer2Go (mandatory delay) plus the pricing is outrageous. The best thing that could happen would be for this to force Fox into abandoning Fox Soccer altogether and moving the Champions League to the soon-to-be Fox Sports One or FX.

  10. Adam says:

    Who has La Liga?

  11. Nick says:

    Is Fox Soccer even going to survive by the time the 2018 World Cup roles around?

  12. krolpolski says:

    This stinks because I still have to keep paying $15 a month for FSC in order to watch Champion’s League matches.

  13. THomas says:

    The headline concerned me at first, because while I have to pay for it online, I am able to see any game I want by doing so.

    But then when they said they will make sure every game is broadcast over the family of networks…and LIVE…what a win.

    NBC coverage of the ‘lesser’ sports such as NHL and MLS has been remarkable and I hope that it only helps them grow as a sports property.

  14. Ian says:

    If, as expected, FSC goes bye-bye, that’s actually a win for the soccer fan at large. Remember, Speed is being rebranded as Fox Sports One next year and is on more basic cable packages. Take the Champions League, CCL and other minor properties, move them to the broader channel, let FSC die its poor death, then give us the World Cup on Fox, Fox Sports One and FX. They keep the rights they have and kill off the bad production value stepchild channel, while we as viewers get more games on cheaper cable tiers.

    I think this is win all around.

    • slowleftarm says:

      Not sure how losing a 24/7 soccer channel is a “win” for soccer in the US.

      • BamaMan says:

        When it means replacing a premium channel that costs extra each month with over-the-air broadcast plus a basic cable channel, it is definitely a win. This is a huge step in moving the EPL from a niche interest to a major league in the US. Hockey fans, however, ought to be worried.

  15. Tim M. says:

    Good Riddance. Fox Soccer News is horrendous, as well as their original programing.

    Republican’s are crap and their greed has led to their loss of market control, thank heavens.

  16. Old School says:

    I’m conflicted.

    On one hand, I think this is a great move for the American soccer community for reasons already previously stated…a bigger network with a broader access and higher revenue available for presentation and quality.

    Obviously NBC Sports has taken a huge interest in this sport and appears to be supporting it with respect and the financial backing to become THE player in our country for providing it.

    On the other hand, I can help but think this move affects a website owner I’m a huge fan of.

    • RP says:

      My guess is that NBC will likely be looking to ramp up a website and would prefer known experienced commodities to help make that happen. Ives will find his spit no matter the landscape.

  17. AC says:

    No complaints about this…More coverage, less money to pay for Fox Soccer Channel….

  18. nickp says:

    nbc When you take over the EPL next season please broadcast the games live

  19. CPTKevin says:

    As long as there are no “weather” events and NBC doesn’t interrupt a match to broadcast a useless “weather related” news conference like they did during the 1st half of the NY Red Bulls v Union game on Saturday. What a joke that was.

  20. The Gaffer says:

    Ives, “it means the end of having to pay extra for the chance to watch the full complement of EPL matches.” … not necessarily. NBC has said that “Mid-week Premier League games will be available digitally or through some sort of arrangement with MVPDs (multichannel video programming distributors) on some sort of pay TV package.”

    NBC hasn’t released details yet regarding how much the package will cost for soccer fans who want to have access to ALL of the EPL games.

    Cheers,
    The Gaffer

    • BamaMan says:

      Gaffer, my guess is that EPL games not on NBC, NBC Sports, CNBC or the like will run on an “ESPN3″ type service as with the Olympics this summer. That and/or on a supplementary channel like those NBC gets during the Olympics. In fact, that may be a big factor in their purchase – to provide greater year in/ year out use of all this extra bandwidth they have to get for the Olympics.

      All that to say, ppv or even a subscription service like Fox Soccer2Go is unlikely. This will most likely function like ESPN3 with games on NBC available to all online but games on cable networks only available to those with subscriptions.

  21. Tim F. says:

    I’m glad Bein Sport did not win since they haven’t secured a deal with Cablevision or AT&T who are the only two options I have. However, NBC needs to improve its current coverage. It unnecessarily butchered the New York – Philadelphia game this weekend.

  22. Gnarls says:

    “But the Premier League fan will be able to get to every game live.” I <3 NBC.

  23. Scott A says:

    Is Ives still with Fox Soccer? I really don’t know, just wondering.

  24. Kevin_Arnold says:

    Do you think that NBC will get greedy and make the stations that a lot of people get now pay-only sites?

    Or, if NBC is not in control of that–do you think cable companies will do that?

    Currently, I have all of these channels (and NOT FSC), but am terrified that I’m going to have to start paying extra for NBC Sports, and the like.

  25. KJ says:

    Who has Bundesliga rights? Anyone? Fox should go after those.

  26. Sal says:

    I was so loyal to Fox Soccer Channel. But they keep losing and losing programming. They have done so much for soccer in this country and I don’t think that can be debated. But because of BeinSport I can’t even watch SerieA live because they only have one channel and so many games to play they can’t play all at the same time. Maybe Fox Soccer can find a way to buy some rights from BeinSport for SerieA and La liga. He’ll I was furious when I couldn’t watch AcMilan versu Inter a few weeks ago live. In this day in age and with the opportunity we in America have to watch so much soccer, it is a shame that games like that aren’t broadcast live because a greedy channel (BeinSport) bought more than they can handle

  27. eddie says:

    Soccer will become the 4th most popular sport in America, if it hasn’t already. NBC buying the rights to exclusively broadcast EPL games is a huge opportunity for Americans to become accustom and well acquainted with the sport. It’s a win situation for everyone.

  28. Stephen says:

    Agree to the comment above that for those of us w/o cable, its going to suck losing the Fox2Go app; while the games Fox Soccer shows live were delayed, it was a just price to pay for being able to get that many EPL games w/o having to have cable. No way I am paying for cable JUST to watch soccer. I lose.

  29. Rick says:

    Great new! Now lets just wait and see where the future of soccer in America goes from here, hopefully upwards.