NBC goes into its 11th season of Premier League coverage on Friday with plenty of momentum.
Audiences continue to increase and American soccer fans’ knowledge and interest has increased to where all 20 clubs in England’s top soccer league have their own U.S. followings. The Premier League opened an international office in New York last month.
NBC’s goal is to cater to that educated fan base while attracting new followers.
Pierre Moossa, the coordinating producer of the network’s Premier League coverage, said that approach hasn’t changed since NBC’s first telecast in August of 2013, while adding that the network is still trying to improve its broadcasts.
“We spent a lot of time the last 10 years growing a Premier League fan base for generations to come, and we can see tangible evidence of that impact,” Moossa said. “I think you have your core principles, but you have to try different ways to reach that audience. I think coverage has to evolve, but as long as you keep to your core principles of growing the fan base, being authentic, respecting the game, intelligent analysis and being over in the U.K. as much as possible.”
Premier League games averaged 527,000 viewers on NBC, USA Network, Peacock, and CNBC last season. That was a 3% increase over 2021-22 and the second-highest average since NBC Sports started covering the league in 2013-14.
NBC added to its stable of announcers by hiring Jon Champion, which gives the network two established soccer play-by-play voices. Champion’s primary duties will be calling the late Sunday morning match on NBC, Peacock or USA Network. Sunday’s match between Chelsea and Liverpool will be on Peacock. He will also call Friday’s opener between defending champion Manchester City and Burnley.
Champion comes to NBC after four years at ESPN, where he was the primary announcer for Major League Soccer and U.S. national team games. NBC approached him after ESPN lost the rights to MLS and U.S. games.
Champion spent many years as the lead broadcaster for Premier League Productions. After nearly five years living in the U.S., the Englishman thinks having a better understanding of American soccer fans will help in his new role.
“I think I’ve got a better appreciation of the genuine love and knowledge of the game in the United States,” he said. “I spent enough time in bars before and after matches talking to soccer fans, whether they’re MLS fans, whether they’re Premier League fans, whether they’re both, because there is a crossover and I’ve heard how they consume the Premier League, why they like it and things that they don’t like about it occasionally as well. I’ve lived that rather than just read about it.”
Peter Drury, who joined NBC last season, will continue to call the Saturday afternoon matches on NBC and Peacock. Drury will call the Sunday match for Sky Sports in the United Kingdom, which is considered the highlight match of the week.
NBC owner Comcast acquired Sky Sports in 2018, and the networks have worked together on Premier League events.
NBC’s studio crew of Rebecca Lowe, Robbie Earle, Robbie Mustoe and Tim Howard is in England for the opening weekend. They will be at Burnley on Friday, Newcastle on Saturday, Chelsea on Sunday and Manchester United on Monday.
Two opening weekend matches will be shown on USA Network, starting with Friday’s opener and Manchester United-Wolverhampton game on Monday.
NBC will carry Newcastle United and Aston Villa on Saturday.
NBC and Premier League Productions experimented with some enhancements to their coverage during last month’s exhibition games in the United States. That included a body camera on the referee, manager interviews at halftime, and post-match player interviews on the field after the final whistle.
Moossa doubts any of those innovations will be used this season, but he said it could happen in the future.
It also should be a slightly less hectic season without a World Cup in the middle of the European season or a pandemic creating havoc with schedules.
“Dare I say this might be the most normal schedule of a season we’ve had in five or six years. It’s going to be a little bit less congested in the fixtures and hopefully back to normalcy, which I know we’ve all been looking forward to for quite a long time,” Moossa said.