NBC Sports Group Rolls Out Robust Plans for Barclays Premier League
Earlier this week, executives from NBC Sports Group laid out programming plans for its coverage of the Barclays Premier League, and they’re about as comprehensive as they could possibly be.
In the time since the Peacock obtained the U.S. rights to the world’s most popular soccer league with a three-year deal last fall, the two have put together a schedule that will ensure that every game (380 of them, to be exact) will be broadcast on television, in addition to Web and connected devices.
“This is a very exciting day,” Richard Scudamore, chief executive of the Barclays Premier League, said at a press conference in New York on Tuesday. “I’ve seen some peaks and highs, and we thought we had taken this league across the world to some level, but this is, just about, as good as it gets.”
NBC Sports Group will utilize nearly all of NBCUniversal’s portfolio to pull off this programming feat. NBC Sports Network will serve as the flagship channel of the Premier League in the U.S., but games will also appear on NBC, USA, CNBC, Universal Sports, and Telemundo networks.
On top of that, all games not aired on a designated NBCUniversal channel will be made available to distributors on Premier League Extra Time, a package of overflow television channels available at no extra cost to customers who receive NBC Sports Network.
“When we met with the Premier League folks a couple of months ago, several folks in the meetings said they wanted to come over here to watch the games,” said Jon Miller, president, programming, at NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network. “This is an opportunity that is not even available to them in the UK.”
As is currently the case with Fox Sports’ Premier League coverage, NBC Sports will take the world feed sent out from the UK by Premier League Productions into its new facility in Stamford, CT.
“I’ll tell you, we were over there for this week-long tour, and we went to a bunch of their games. Going into their trucks, they literally have a guy who is producing and directing the whole game, and he is switching and pushing the buttons and everything,” said Sam Flood, executive producer, NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network. “I was thinking, wow, this is going to put some people out of work!”
He added that, for NBC’s primary game of the week, the network will send its own on-air talent and a small collection of supplemental cameras to capture wide establishing shots and backdrops for full-screen graphics. NBC will also overlay its own graphics package on top of the feed from Premier League Productions.
Play-by-play man Arlo White will be on-site to call upwards of 75 games. Flood emphasized that, although many of the production elements may be kept home in Stamford, it’s important for the network to have an “authentic voice and an established presence” in the UK.
With as many as 10 games in a weekend, it will be a logistical challenge for NBC to bring those feeds across the pond.
“The transmission will obviously be very difficult with all of these feeds coming in,” said Pierre Moossa, coordinating producer of NBC Sports Group Soccer. “We’re having constant conversations about it. We have an extensive transmission plan that we’ve been working on and coordinating with Premier League Productions to get all of those feeds.”
He added that, on game days, the NBC staff will be prepared for anything.
“I feel like, anything that you do in broadcasting production-wise and dealing with technology, there’s always challenges,” he said. “So how do you combat that? With organization, clear direction, and having a plan in place.”
The Premier League television schedule lays out very similarly to an NFL schedule in that there are broadcast windows that games slot into.
On a typical Saturday, there will be a 7:45 a.m. ET game and a 10 a.m. game on NBC Sports Network. At 12:30 p.m., the week’s marquee game will take center stage on the NBC broadcast network. Sunday has two windows: 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. Any Monday or other weekday games will be on NBC Sports Network at 3 p.m.
Again, any games that don’t find a place in one of these slots will be moved to other networks: CNBC, USA, etc. Beyond that, all other games will be shifted to Premier League Extra Time, a set of overflow channels similar to MLB Extra Innings or NFL Sunday Ticket, the major difference being that cable subscribers who currently get NBC Sports Network will not have to pay anything extra for these channels.
Every Barclays Premier League match will be streamed live via NBC Sports Live Extra, NBC Sports Group’s live-streaming product for desktop, mobile, and tablets and, in most cases, on the digital platforms of participating cable, satellite, telco, and other subscription video services.
The vast majority of Barclays Premier League matches will be streamed via TV Everywhere, available on an authenticated basis to subscribers of these services.
NBC Sports Live Extra provides a primary- and second-screen experience across mobile, tablet, and desktop, delivering high-quality video, match/player stats, and video highlights while aggregating Premier League content from social media.
Keeping It In-House
NBC Sports Network will present more than 600 hours each year of studio and original programming catered to the Premier League.
In terms of access, the Premier League is known for being significantly stingier to broadcasters than even most leagues and entities in the U.S. Flood said NBC Sports Group will honor the rules of the league’s clubs and begin working on establishing strong communications with them in hopes of opening more doors as the life of the deal progresses.
“It’s all about relationships and honoring what their systems are and never crossing the line,” said Flood. “It’s understanding that this is a long partnership, and we want this partnership to be real and never cross the line. We do that with everything that we do. The NFL teams, the NHL teams: there’s a trust there.”
The long list of program offerings breaks down this way:
- Premier League Countdown: A preview of the 2013-14 Barclays Premier League season
- Premier League Download: High-profile celebrity supporters, comedians, and journalists help fans explore what it is that’s so intensely loved — and loathed — about England’s topflight league. Long-time supporters will enjoy the lively commentary, while new fans will learn the language of the league
- Premier League 36: A version of NBC Sports Network’s 36 series, which follows athletes for the 36 hours leading up to a game/match/race
- Premier League Goal Zone: A 30-minute program airing after the matches on Sunday with highlights of all the goals scored on Saturday and Sunday
- Game Cut-Downs: On Monday nights, NBCSN will present a two-hour show featuring cut-down versions of the Manchester United and Manchester City matches. On Tuesdays, a two-hour program will feature Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Tottenham matches
- Match of the Day: A two-hour show featuring extended highlights with the natural calls of every game on Saturday. Modeled after the BBC show of the same name, the show will re-air on Sunday mornings
- Match of the Day 2: A 90-minute show featuring extended highlights with the natural calls of every game on Sunday. The show is modeled after the BBC show of the same name
- Match of the Week: On Sunday nights, NBCSN will re-air the best match of the weekend in its entirety
- Barclays Premier League World: A weekly magazine show produced by Premier League
- Barclays Premier League Preview: A weekly show produced by Premier League previewing the upcoming week’s matches
- Barclays Premier League Review: A weekly show produced by Premier League that recaps all the matches from the past week