Any announcement involving English Premier League and its broadcast destinations qualifies as “big news.” But Sunday’s big news of NBC Universal acquiring exclusive U.S. rights is, as our English friends abroad might say, “Massive!”
First, it’s a remarkably exciting time for domestic soccer watching. (And for ProSoccerTalk, which is an NBC Universal product. But more on that later …)
Fox Soccer Channel, the previous home for EPL rights, for all the great games and analysis it delivered, could never match the market penetration of the NBC networks. That means that more soccer fans can now share in more of the ongoing EPL greatness – and make no mistake, it is glorious. More viewers can attach themselves to the quality, history, passion and star value that makes the English Premier League product the world’s best by most standards.
If you look at what NBC production quality has brought to Major League Soccer – this is coming from voices in the industry and around the media, not just from me – it’s easy to get excited about NBC’s plans for EPL production and promotion. NBC has devoted tremendous resources to its MLS productions, and the quality shows. There is zero reason to believe more of the same isn’t ahead for the globe’s top soccer league.
Second, NBC’s win is an unfortunate loss for Fox Soccer Channel, another setback to the network that has meant so much to domestic soccer supporters over the last decade or so.
There was a time when fans in the United States had very few options for watching top-flight soccer; Fox Soccer Channel has been there over the last 10 years or so, supplying safe harbor (providing that your cable system offered it.)
So fans are surely feeling a pang of bittersweet over the news. I am, personally.
What others are saying about today’s big news:
SI.Com’s Richard Deitsch has lots of facts and figures, including the strong numbers for last year’s final EPL matchday.