Its official: Premiership to NBC Universal

 

 

 

NBC will be the home to the Premiership starting 2013-14 season

 

Here is the full article by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED’S Richard Deitsch

 

The English Premier League, home to storied clubs such as Chelsea, Liverpool,  and Manchester United, has a new television partner in the United States.

NBC Universal formally announced Sunday night it has become the exclusive  English- and Spanish-language media rights holder to all 380 Premier League  matches across all platforms and devices in the U.S. Starting next August, the  EPL will appear on a variety of NBC properties including NBC, NBC Sports  Network, NBCSports.com, as well as Telemundo and mun2 for Spanish-language  coverage. Matches will also be live-streamed on the NBC Sports Live Extra  platform across web, tablet and mobile devices.

A source with knowledge of the negotiations told SI.com that NBC Universal’s  winning bid was $250 million for a three-year agreement, a sum more than triple  the $23 million per year that Fox currently pays for its deal. Sports Business  Daily first reported that Fox and ESPN (who partnered for the rights) had been  outbid by NBC Universal.

In an interview Sunday night with SI.com, NBC Chairman Mark Lazarus said NBC  Sports Network will be the primary carrier of EPL games and that EPL fans will  have access to every game on the schedule through an NBC platform. “It will not  be unlike the Olympics where you saw programming on CNBC, Bravo, USA or MSNBC,”  Lazarus said. “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.”

EPL clubs play 38 league matches over a 41-week period from August to May.  The league has six traditional weekly broadcast windows, including three on  Saturday, two on Sunday and one on Monday. According to Lazarus, broadcasts on  those windows add up to about 200 games per season. Lazarus said the remaining  180 games will be made available “digitally or through some sort of arrangement  with MVPDs (multichannel video programming distributors) on some sort of pay  television package.”

As part of the new deal, Lazarus said EPL fans can expect a number of games  to be broadcast on over-the-air NBC. Those matches will likely air Saturdays and  be shown live. Lazarus predicted viewers might see up to 18-20 games on NBC  during the season, which would be a significant increase from Fox’s over-the-air  broadcasts.

While offering few programming specifics, Lazarus said NBC will provide a  “significant” amount of shoulder programming around live-event coverage of the  EPL, including pre- and post-match shows, as well as highlight and weekly  wrap-up programs. “The quantity or quality of what is on today will not be  compromised in any shape or form,” Lazarus said.

Lazarus said NBC has already had early talks with BT (formally British  Telecom), which acquired a set of the UK rights to the EPL, and the two could  partner on production. As far as broadcasting talent, a subject of fanatical  concern for soccer fans, Lazarus said he thinks NBC has some talent on its  roster that will translate well but he will be in acquisition mode. The network  has an exceptional soccer play by play announcer in Arlo White and it’s a  near-guarantee he will play a significant role on EPL broadcasts.

“We think Arlo fits very nicely, and we are working to see who fits this  content,” Lazarus said. “I don’t think you can take someone calling an MLS game  on a regional sports network, put them on an English Premier League game and  have the same tone that the fan is accustomed to. We believe in the indigenous  voice. And the fact we have Arlo doing our games speaks to that. We think that  there is a tone and tact that the international soccer fan expects and we will  not disappoint.”

The EPL has been the jewel in Fox Soccer Channel’s programming, and much of  the network’s programming centers around commentary and news of the league. Fox  Soccer has averaged about 136,000 viewers for live EPL games this year, down  from 142,000 viewers in 2011-12. The network still has the rights to World Cup  programming, beginning with the Women’s World Cup in 2015. They will also air  UEFA Champions League, UEFA’s Europa League, the F.A. Cup, the CONCACAF  Champions League and Gold Cup. “FOX Soccer has been the primary US voice of EPL  for almost two decades, and has done much over the years to increase its  popularity, value and availability,” Fox Sports said last week in a statement.  “We wish them well.”

Swiping the EPL gives NBC the most significant soccer portfolio among  American broadcasters. Last year NBC signed a three-year  media rights agreement with MLS to televise more than 40 matches per year  and NBC-owned Telemundo will air the Spanish language coverage of the 2018  and 2022 World Cup. Clearly, NBC is counting on the EPL to bring eyeballs  (and affluent ones at that) to NBC Sports Network, which could use an infusion  of high-caliber programming with the NHL on lockout and depressed MLS  ratings.

Lazarus said when he took over for Dick Ebersol in May 2011, he and his  executive team targeted the EPL as a strong fit alongside other NBC  international properties such as the Olympics, NHL, the IndyCar series and Tour  de France. (NBC has since acquired the rights to F1.) “It’s a good fit,” Lazarus  said. “We will do great things for them and they will do great things for  us.”

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