Since the 1994 World Cup was held in the USA, interest in the sport within America has been steadily growing. The rebirth of the MLS has helped to sustain the interest as well but for any sport to succeed, television coverage is vital. Until recently TV companies within the region have given little thought and exposure to football (or soccer as its better known in the US) but that is now changing with the demand for live games and coverage reaching fever pitch, the major broadcasters could no longer ignore the world’s game. In the past, the rights for coverage of the Premiership have been contested by only two players – Fox Sports and ESPN but in October 2012, NBC shocked the US landscape buy acquiring the rights for the English league for the next three seasons (starting this season) for a reported $250million. It’s the largest amount ever paid for these rights in the US however it’s still paltry compared to the £3.018 billion paid out by BSkyB and BT for the British rights.
NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus proclaimed at the time that soccer was on the cusp of exponential popularity growth here in the U.S, which may be an understatement but NBC are planning on making soccer one of their main sports to cover going forward. They have promised to deliver the broadest programming and promotion commitment ever in the United States for the league, which has kicked off recently with significant promotional investment including branding individual subway cars with each team’s colours to buying a gigantic billboard in Times Square that now features Gareth Bale. Despite potentially having to change the latter soon if Bale makes his suspected move to Real Madrid, NBC continues to promote the league with innovative marketing and promotion. Their latest tool is a video starring SNL actor Jason Sudeikis as Ted Lasso, an American NFL coach who is appointed as manager of Tottenham Hotspur with hilarious consequences. Titled “An American Football Coach in London” Lasso tries to understand the offside rule, how to tackle, the points system and what counts as a goal without any success, eventually ending the 5 minute video by being fired. As a comedy actor by trade, Sudeikis pulls off the role brilliantly as an awkward NFL coach, highlight the differences between football and American football.
NBC are putting in the effort to make sure that soccer becomes one of their core sports, acquiring the MLS rights as well recently bolstering their overall coverage. NBC has also been ramping up on their digital presence to complement their TV coverage, allowing users on the company’s new streaming tool, NBC Sports Live Extra to watch every Premier League match streamed live on all devices. They have also decided to go against tradition by not appointing US hosts to front their coverage, instead hand picking experts from the UK to do this. In the studio, Rebecca Lowe will anchor the coverage with former players Robbie Earle, Robbie Mustoe and “special contributor” Gary Lineker adding their opinions whilst Englishman Arlo White has been chosen to lead their play-by-play voice coverage, alongside former England defenders Graeme Le Saux and Lee Dixon. White is well known to American fans for his work covering Major League Soccer, and he brings an experienced, respected voice to American airwaves, which NBC hopes fans will enjoy. NBC need their coverage to be successful and for users to tune in regularly to watch the games in order to cover the cost of the rights. But with soccer growing as a sport in the US, including more kids playing it at grassroots than any other sport, their investment is suddenly looking like a safe bet.
To watch An American Football Coach in London, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KeG_i8CWE8