April 16, 2013 6:03 pm

NBC deal to boost Premier League exposure

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Manchester City vs Queens Park Rangers at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester©PA

Manchester City vs Queens Park Rangers at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester

The Barclays Premier League’s new television rights deal with NBC, worth a reported $250m over three years, will lead to “a step-change” in the audience for British football in the United States, its chief executive predicted on Tuesday.

As Comcast’s NBC unveiled plans for live coverage of all 380 matches in the 2013-2014 season across its channels, including 20 on the free-to-air NBC broadcast network, Richard Scudamore said the deal would make the US one of the league’s five largest markets by revenue, after having been outside the top 10 thus far.

“That will be a step-change in audience” compared to the reach the Premier League had through its previous deals with News Corp’s Fox and Walt Disney’s ESPN sports network, he said. “The big shift is going from niche sports channels to broadcast.”

Football audiences have grown in the US with expanding coverage of World Cups, the success of the US women’s football team, the growth of the Hispanic population and the rising popularity of the sport in schools.

“We know the sport is on the upswing,” said Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports: “The nice thing about this sport is its passionate following.” However, football audiences remain far behind those for domestic sports such as American football, basketball and baseball.

Mr Scudamore, who last year secured a 70 per cent increase in the value of domestic live TV rights, said it seemed “completely improbable” that rights inflation could continue at such a rate. He added, however, that he had been “pleasantly surprised” by the rate of rights inflation over the past 15 years, and that the league had hedged its exposure over more than 200 markets.

Mr Scudamore would not comment on the “very” competitive auction for US rights, but NBC is understood to have beaten Fox and ESPN, as well as al Jazeera’s BeIN network, with a bid worth roughly three times what Fox had been paying.

Under NBC’s exclusive English and Spanish media rights deal, announced in October, it will show each game live on channels from the NBC Sports network to CNBC, MSNBC and its Spanish language networks, Telemundo and Mun2.

NBC, which was criticised by some commentators for tape delays during last year’s Olympic coverage, would cross-promote the Premier League from coverage of Major League Soccer and other sports from golf to Formula 1, Mr Miller said.

Each match will also be streamed live to desktop, mobile, & tablets. Pre- and post-game programming will include a highlights show named and modelled after the BBC’s Match of the Day. NBC’s contributors will include former Premier League players Lee Dixon, Graeme Le Saux and Gary Lineker.

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