I remember when NBC Sports was gearing up to broadcast its first season of the English Premier League after obtaining rights to the top domestic soccer league in the world.
NBC Sports made its coverage ahead of the 2013/14 season practically dummy proof. There was a show explaining what teams wore red, which wore blue, what the Tyne-Wear Derby was, why Everton is called the Toffees, etc etc. It catered to all viewers, whether you were an avid English soccer supporter or accidentally stumbled across the channel in search of Professional Bull Riding or NASCAR.
That first season saw NBC and NBC Sports average 438,000 viewers per match, up 118 percent from EPL viewers on Fox Sports, ESPN and ESPN2 the prior season, according to The New York Times.
They might be onto something here …
Premier League interest continued to grow — up another nine percent — the following season. Leicester City FC, truly a Cinderella story coming out of nowhere to defy their 5,000-1 odds and win the Premier League in 2015/16, only drew more interest, especially from neutral fans not rooting for the league’s Big 6.
Yet, here we stand today, barely into the 2017/18 EPL season and NBC Sports is repeatedly shooting itself in the foot and frustrating its viewers.
Prior to the season, it announced NBC Sports Gold — a subscription service for a pretty penny ($49.99/season) to watch all Premier League matches. Not only is the cost outrageous (on top of whatever your monthly cable bill is), but the service has experienced a slew of technical issues. As an alternative, EPL fans are taking to illegal streams in order to get their fix and watch their favorite team that is being dangled in front of their face behind a paywall.
If NBC and NBC Sports want to continue to increase interest in the Premier League — you know, still catering to the audience it was so nice and accommodating to only just five years ago — it should go back to making all matches available without having to jump through hoops and pay extra fees.
As I write this, watching my Manchester United play Southampton via a TSN feed found online, NBC Sports tweets out a link to the match, which has emerged like a phoenix from the ashes of the paywall and into regular streaming access … only catch is there’s no commentary.
Better than having to pay $49.99, I guess.