Without much further ado, let's dive into some of the details of NBC's coverage plan for the Barclays Premier League that was announced earlier today.
Although if you want to be wowed spoiler-free, read the press release. It's impressive, I promise. That's what he said? Yes, that is what I said. Do it.
ALL 380 MATCHES SHOWN LIVE ON TELEVISION
Twenty of the 380 will be shown on NBC itself - i.e. national, free, over-the-air broadcast television. While twenty seems like a really small number, it essentially will translate to having a Premier League match playing on NBC every other Saturday.
About half of the rest (154 to be exact) will air on NBC Sports Network, which has been elevated from the slums of VERSUS and OLN to be the champions of all sports for NBC (except Sunday Night Football). NBCSN may sound obscure - it is only a couple years old after all - but it is far more accessible than Fox Soccer. For example, Comcast has NBC Sports Network in their Digital Starter package, while Fox Soccer is hidden all the way up in the Digital Premier but only if you also spring for the Sports Entertainment Package. Digital Starter is $40/month and with special deals on it all the time it's easy to get an even cheaper price. Digital Premier is $85 with the additional $5-10 for the extra sports stuff. So Premier League football on NBC Sports Network is all kinds of good, especially in Comcast's case (which actually is the owner of the owner of NBCSN). Other providers may have not have it so readily accessible, but the last figures I saw still put it at twice the reach of Fox Sports and at presumably much cheaper prices.
The other half of the 380 (well, 184 to be exact) will air on something they're calling Premier League Extra Time, "a package of overflow television channels available at no extra cost for [customers who receive] NBC Sports Network." If you're familiar with MLB's Extra Innings Package - I am not - the Extra Time package will be similar. That's four instances of the word 'extra' in two sentences. Here's another: the emphasis is on no extra cost. Impressed yet?
If you can do basic math, you'll see that 20+154+184 only equals 358. We're missing 22! LIARS, they said ALL 380 would air! No, wait, actually those 22 will be aired on "other NBC-Universal properties." If the Olympics are any indication to go by, that translates to MSNBC (normally politics), CNBC (business), Bravo (artsy-fartsy), USA (Psych!), and E! (celebrity gossip trash).
The Spanish broadcasts get a bit of a short shrift: only 76 are set to air, with just 10 on Telemundo and the other 66 on mun2. It's unclear who will be calling the Spanish broadcast but I would assume they'd keep the legendary Andres Cantor, whose call of that Maxi Rodriguez goal is the pinnacle of football TV commentary.
ALL 380 MATCHES STREAMED LIVE
The biggest annoyance - and I use annoyance in a very, very generous sense here - of Fox Sports's coverage of the Premier League was the fact that if they showed a match live on their main TV channel, they would delay the online broadcast on FoxSoccer2Go until midnight. FA Cup matches would also get delayed and as recently as last year they'd also delay Champions League matches. Mind you, this was a paid service ($170/year) that turned out highly useless for fans of top teams that would get the most live TV coverage. I think I can count the number of Chelsea matches that have been streamed live this season on one hand.
NBC promises to change all of that. Live streaming for ALL 380 matches on NBC Sports Live Extra. ALL OF THEM! I cannot currently find the words how excited I am about this. I have no words. Speechless. I'm without speech! This is like heavenly manna dripping from my ethernet cable, if I still were using ethernet cables. It's 2013, people, wires are so last decade.
Much like ESPN3, the current NBC Sports offering for online (and mobile) streaming is tied to your cable subscription. My guess is that they'll continue exclusively with this method but it sure would be nice if they opened it up for cable/TV-independent subscriptions as well. Cut the cord!
MATCHDAY 38 SHOWN LIVE
As is tradition, all teams play at the same time on the final day on the season. Last season, this brought the ultimate drama and NBC will surely be hoping for more of the same as they plan on showing all ten matches live across their vast network of channels. Cool; cool cool cool.
Making fun of inept commentators and studio hosts is a sport in and of itself, and these are the contestants whom NBC has generously lined up for us:
- WHITE, Arlo - I only know of three people called Arlo: Arlo, son of Ramathorn, unwitting hero of one of the best throwaway jokes in Super Troopers (there are many); Arlo Guthrie, famous folk singer; Arlo White, voice of the Seattle Sounders and MLS on NBC. I like them all. White is originally from Leicester and he's planning on relocating back to the UK so that he may call the games live from the stadium, which is nice although perhaps not nearly as essential as some would make it out to be.
- LE SAUX, Graeme - Oh yes. Once the most expensive defender in English football, Chelsea's record (re-)buy in 1997 (his £5m fee beating Roberto Di Matteo's by £100,000), Le Saux has been a pundit with the BBC for a few years now. I admit, I have never actually heard him and online opinions on him expectedly range from ok to useless, but Bergerac is a Chelsea hero and just for that, I'm excited. Oh, and he also scored this (and then recreated it!). Sense of humor? Excellent.
- DIXON, Lee - Once part of the furniture at Arsenal, he's another ex-BBC guy. He will be working with the aforementioned two as the prime NBC crew. I'm assuming that not all three will be up in the booth at the same time but stranger things have happened. Dixon will be part-time.
- LINEKER, Gary - Another part-timer, as "one of the most respected presenters in the UK" (their words, not mine) will continue to host Match of the Day on the BBC. He will serve as a "special contributor" and "on-site host". Make of that what you will.
- STUDIO CREW - Half-time, pre-, and post-match duties will be handled by the three-person USA studio crew of ex-ESPN talent: host Rebecca Lowe (ex-ESPN UK) and analysts Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle. The latter two should be quite familiar to any soccer fan in the USA as they've been mainstays on ESPN's World Cup and Euro coverages.
OTHER ORIGINAL PROGRAMMING
In addition to live match coverage and studio shows, NBC is promising 600 hours of original BPL-related programming for each year of the three-year contract. These seem to range from the banal & obvious (highlights of all goals, woo!) to the potentially exciting, and include two Match of the Day knockoffs, a countdown show, a show slanted towards pop-culture, and a re-air of the best match of the week.
The potentially great programs include a Premier League version of NBC's 36 series, which follows a player for 36 hours before a specific match or event. Here's the MLS 36 episode on Fredy Montero ahead of the Sounders vs. Chelsea pre-season match last summer. Game Cut-Downs, featuring the Manchesters and all the other "big" clubs on Monday and Tuesday nights, promise to be as cool as the condensed games that the NFL Network has made a must watch for American-football fans.
You can check out the full list of the original programming planned in the official press release, if you haven't already done so.
In conclusion ...
I mean, HOLY [SHOE]. AMERICA, FUCK YEAH!