NBC says that its ability to mock itself has contributed to its broadcasting success of Barclays Premier League games. After signing a deal with the Premier League in autumn 2012, paying $250 million to air matches over the next three years, viewing figures after the opening seven weeks of the campaign are up 93 per cent compared with the same period last term.
“Showing that we can poke fun at ourselves got us an enormous amount of credibility,” said Jon Miller, NBC Sport’s president of programming, in relation to a spoof ad the network created that subsequently went viral. “The fact we admitted we didn’t know everything there is to know and poked a bit of fun at it, broke down a lot of barriers.”
However, satirical humour has played just a small part in NBC’s success. A vast marketing operation plus an aggressive commercial strategy have ensured the Premier League’s popularity has surged across the US.
All 380 Premier League matches are available to NBC viewers this season, across various platforms, the majority on NBC Sports Network, which was established in January 2012 and costs viewers a subscription of $0.31 a month.
Ratings are steadily growing as the season develops, with Everton’s home match against Chelsea in September, broadcast across the whole NBC network, pulling in an average audience of 917,000. Highlights are shown and matches previewed on Sundays during live coverage of the NFL, something Miller describes as unprecedented, and 12 million people have tuned in – a significant increase on the 5.5 million managed by ESPN and Fox Soccer this time last year. “We expected it to do well – it’s lived up to our expectations and, in a lot of cases, exceeded them,” says Miller. “What is surprising is how many people have jumped on this bandwagon so quickly and have fallen in love with it.
Kick-off times, some as early as 7.45am on a Saturday on the east coast, mean there are no clashes with the major US sports NBC covers. The Sports Network broadcasts live NHL, Nascar, golf and horse racing – having also recently purchased the rights for Formula One – and will show 154 of the 196 games that NBC will cover. Another 184 matches, which are not being televised, can be watched for no fee at Premier League Extra Time, a service available to NBC cable and telephone customers, while all 380 games are being streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra.