A new era for soccer in the United States kicks off tomorrow morning when the NBC Sports Group begins its comprehensive coverage of the Barclays Premier League.
All 380 games of the top-flight English football campaign will be available on television in the States as NBC Sports pulls out all the stops in the first of a three-year rights deal.
“We’ve been given a great responsibility, and it is an honor to cover the Premier League,” says Pierre Moossa, coordinating producer for NBC Sports Group’s Premier League coverage. “Our goal is to treat the game, the league, and the fans with the respect they deserve.”
The action begins Saturday morning at 7 a.m. ET with the network’s new studio prematch show Premier League Live, followed by the first match of the season, Liverpool-Stoke City at 7:45 a.m.
Bridging an Ocean
With NBC Sports’ new broadcast center in Stamford, CT, and the entire Atlantic separating the viewer from the action, the productions come with obvious challenges, both cultural and technical.
To help give the broadcast an English flavor, NBC has entrusted on-air duties to play-by-play Arlo White and studio host Rebecca Lowe, two Brits with deep ties to English football. In addition, NBC will have on-the-ground reporters filing stories and serving as studio guests from stadium grounds and NBC News’ London studios.
“There’s an inherent challenge to producing this show from another country,” says Moossa. “Our goal is to be overseas as much as possible, to give people a sense of place and to bridge that geographical divide.”
Technologically, NBC engineers and technicians will pull off a transmission feat, bringing in feeds from 10 matches across the UK into Stamford every weekend. According to Moossa, NBC Sports Group has set up 16 direct transmission paths from the UK to Stamford and fitted them with brand-new converters.
“We will have redundancy after redundancy to make sure that we will have those paths,” says Moossa. “When you have a state-of-the-art facility like the one we have here and you have the support from the Premier League Productions as well as our support staff here, I am fully confident that there will be no technical challenge when it comes to transmission.”
Trusting the Source
NBC Sports will not be producing any original game action. That is well covered by Premier League Productions, which handles all the live productions of Premier League matches.
According to Moossa, the NBC production team had contemplated adding a supplementary camera or two for establishing shots of games aired on NBC and NBCSN but decided against it.
“We have a group that is on-site covering the game properly, and for me to think that I can do it better from over here or changing out extra cameras is silly,” he says. “They have excellent coverage, and their coverage doesn’t need any supplements. It is quality.”
NBC will overlay its own graphics package on games featuring NBC Sports on-air talent.
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. game and a 10 a.m. game on NBCSN. 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 NBCSN at 3 p.m.
Any games that don’t find a place in one of these slots 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 NBCSN 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, TV Everywhere 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 games will be 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.