NBC Sports Plots Plan To Deepen Premier League Reach In U.S.

Jul 25, 2018; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah (11) plays the ball against Manchester City during the second half of an International Champions Cup soccer match at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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Photo Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

As NBC Sports prepares to broadcast the Premier League for the seventh consecutive season, coordinating producer Pierre Moossa says the focus for this year is quite simple.

“Everything is about increasing the reach of the Premier League across all of our platforms,” said Moossa. “Looking back at last season, we want to build on the success of trying to be anywhere that fans are consuming the Premier League, whether that’s on television, on YouTube, via a podcast or even live and in person.”

That means things like once again sending all of the announce team over to the U.K. to broadcast the starting weekend of matches live, which Moosa said will likely happen at another point in time this season as well. It also means producing more content for  YouTube, like the new series “Crossroads,” which looks back at critical moments in Premier League history and what would have happened if they went the other way. There will also be a boost to NBCSN’s pre-match show on Sundays as well, which is now being extended to two hours.

“The number one challenge anyone has in sports broadcasting is that there is such great competition for people’s time,” Moossa said. “If someone is choosing to consume our content, we need to make sure we’re making it worth their time by making it compelling and that is getting them closer to these clubs and their stars.”

NBC Sports’ ability to get fans closer to the Premier League received a huge boost this offseason when the league’s new broadcast contracts kicked in for the 2019-2022 cycle. While the Premier League typically does deals in three-year increments, NBC acquired six years of the league’s rights in 2015 in a deal that cost the network more than a $1 billion, more than double annually what NBC Sports was paying in its previous deal.

But while NBC Sports had the luxury of knowing its deal was locked in, it did benefit from two key changes.

First, the Premier League has further relaxed its media access policies as it relates to broadcasters, mostly in response to interest from its international media partners. Unlike North American leagues, broadcast partners for European soccer leagues don’t receive nearly the same level of access, keeping them off the field or on sidelines as well as in the locker room.

However, Moossa said, the Premier League is now providing more access on stadium grounds and has improved the amount of access to players not only for interviews, but for marketing messaging as well. NBC Sports will also have access to the locker rooms at some of the biggest clubs, such as at Manchester United’s Old Trafford.

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Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, Sky Sports is now the host broadcaster of the Premier League in the U.K – the network that NBC Sports’ parent company Comcast acquired in September 2018.

The coupling of the two networks will be a boon for U.S. Premier League fans, Moossa said. 

“You really get the best of both worlds – you’re not only getting the benefit of being part of the international broadcast and having every match available for viewing, but you’re also getting all of the content produced by both Sky and Premier League Productions,” he said.

Some of that content will get pushed directly through NBC Sports, such as Sky Sports transfer deadline day coverage, which was simulcast on the U.S. network with NBCSN talent taking part. Content such as a player or manager interview done by Sky Sports talent will also be shared during pregame and postgame NBC Sports coverage.

Some of that content, such as linear Sky Sports content like its matchday shows and its popular Goals On Sunday highlight show will be showcased in the OTT product Premier League Pass, which includes every match live and costs $64.99 for the season.

The enhanced partnership with Sky Sports also means that the higher-profile matches that typically air in the 12:30 pm ET window on Saturdays can now be broadcast on NBC, versus having to be aired on NBCSN.

That should further juice the network’s Premier League ratings, which averaged 457,000 viewers per match window last season, a 2% increase over the previous year. 

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There is hope too that the transfer of U.S. Men’s National Team star Christian Pulisic also helps those figures as well. Moossa said that in a marketing survey that NBC Sports did in Boston at its live Premier League event, 25% of attending fans said the player not on their favorite club that they’re most interested in watching was Pulisic, ahead of global stars like Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Liverpool’s Mo Salah, who polled at 12% and 9%, respectively.

“There certainly are high expectations for Christian and I think he will be a huge star, but it’s a balancing act – he is a player we will watch and will be discussing, but we need to be careful to not be focusing on a player that we’re not sure how much they’ll be playing, at least at first,” Moossa said. “We’ve always focused on making sure we’re telling the story of all 20 clubs and their players – we expect we’ll be doing even more of that this season.”

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