For those who consider social media a reliable measure of sentiment–and tread lightly if you do–NBC’s Premier League coverage is unique among sports rights properties. It gets equal respect from viewers, sports media reporters and writers, and well, pretty much everyone who follows the sport.
That’s why there was an outpouring of excitement on Twitter and Facebook on Monday when a new six-year agreement was announced between where NBC Sports Group will continue as the exclusive U.S. media home of the Premier League through the 2021-22 season. As per the agreement, NBC Sports Group will continue to make all 380 Premier League matches available through NBC, NBCSN, USA Network, Telemundo and NBC Universo linear channels, plus the Premier League Extra Time TV package and via live stream on NBC Sports Live Extra, or other platforms. The rights go across all forms of media.
“We believe we have built a real destination for a growing fan base in the U.S.,” said NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus.
“Obviously we had to do the best job by the clubs and club owners,” said Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore. “It was very competitive and lots of interest but to continue with NBC, the clubs are very pleased. They have taken it, embraced it and taken it to new levels. Everything they have done, they have done with top class. We deal with broadcasters around the world and no one does as good job of promoting the Premier League as NBC does.”
During a conference call with a handful of writers on Monday afternoon, Lazarus admitted he was nervous prior to learning over the weekend that his network would retain the rights. NBC made its bid last Thursday and did not hear back from Premier League officials for a couple of days. Fox Sports and beIn Sport also bid for the rights, according to Sports Business Daily writer John Ourand while New York Times reporter Richard Sandomir said ESPN did not bid given its college football commitment. There were no combined network bids. “We took nothing for granted, but I spent a very anxious Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday until the dialogue became clear that we were going to have the ability to negotiate until conclusion,” Lazarus said.
The Premier League and NBC declined to cite the dollars it paid for the rights outside of the network saying it paid more than the $250 million for three years it paid in 2013. Ourand estimated the six-year bid was likely north of $800 million and possibly closer to $1 billion. Every bidder submitted a bid for a three-year term and a six-year term and Lazarus said he thought that NBC emphasizing all 20 teams in the league throughout its coverage was a selling point for the Premier League, along with the creativity of NBC’s marketing the sport in the U.S. (The Premier League told networks that it would not hold a second round of bids if the top bid was at least 15% higher than the next one.)
In an interview with SI.com on Monday afternoon, Scudamore would not get into specifics of the number of bidders–he said the others were “huge organizations with resources”–or bid details because “part of our success globally is keeping everyone guessing.” Scudamore did say what the Premier League was looking for from potential bidders was value (dollars), distribution and commitment to marketing and promotion. He said NBC stepped up on all of those. On the issue of a six-year bid, Scudamore said, “There was some strategic premium to be extracted for a longer term bid and all the bidders bid on a three or six year basis.”
Scudamore said there was a group at the Premier League that did a scoring exercise on all the bids, which took a couple of days. His team then started negotiations with NBC to bring the deal to conclusion on Monday.
“When we made our bid three years ago, we said if we are successful we know we are going to have to pay more to retain these rights,” Lazarus said. “That has happened and we were proud that we helped grow the league.”
Lazarus said he considers the Premier League package one of the three sports pillars for NBCSN, along with the NHL and motorsports. He would not go into financials regarding how the Premier League package will make money but he did say that he saw plenty of room for growth in viewership and expected high single or double digit growth this year.
“We have always believed that this particular league is the finest in the world and has a growth trajectory,” Lazarus said. “We have every expectation this will pay off for our company.”
THE NOISE REPORT
SI.com examines some of the week’s biggest sports media stories
1. NBC announced last week that Doug Flutie had replaced Mike Mayock as its lead analyst on the network’s coverage of Notre Dame Football. On the same day that announcement became official, Mayock was the guest on the 14th episode of the SI Media Podcast. In the podcast, Mayock discussed how he got his start in the industry, his experiences covering college basketball for CBS, his thoughts on the industry's coverage of NFL games, what he thinks about executives and viewers who believe he talks too much and uses excessive jargon on air. We also spoke about NBC making the personnel move (which I consider a mistake for viewers) and how much his verbal style played a part.
“I think it played a part,” Mayock said. “But you’d have to talk to NBC management. We had conversations and again I was highly respectful of what they wanted. But I’m also respectful of, in my mind there is a reason I got to where I got to as where I got doing games. I kind of have to be true to who I am… But you also have to be a communicator and I want to make sure I am being fair to both sides. So NBC had an opinion, which I respect, and at some point I still had to be who I am, which is football guy who uses some vernacular and hopefully tries to explain that. It’s up NBC to decide if I fall short of that.”
I asked NBC Sports why it opted for Flutie as a booth analyst over Mayock. Said a spokesperson: "We were pleased with our experiment at the end of last season that placed Doug in the booth and Mike on the sidelines. However, Mike did not want to do analysis from the sideline this year and we respected his decision. We often remind all of our commentators, including Mike over the years, that we serve large, broad audiences, and our communication style needs to reflect that fact. Mike has always wanted to stay true to his own style. We respect that and wish him well.”
2. For the lead of my Monday column, I created a fictional NFL network using broadcasters from multiple networks to staff a regular season NFL Sunday. My Broadcast Teams:
1. Al Michaels (NBC), Cris Collinsworth (NBC) and Michele Tafoya (NBC)
2. Ian Eagle (CBS), Dan Fouts (CBS) and Tracy Wolfson (CBS)
3. Mike Tirico (ESPN), Troy Aikman (Fox) and Pam Oliver (Fox)
4. Kevin Harlan (WestwoodOne), Trent Dilfer (ESPN) and Lisa Salters (ESPN)
5. Brad Nessler (ESPN), Mike Mayock (NFL Network) and Suzy Kolber (ESPN)
6. Joe Buck (Fox), Phil Simms (CBS) and Ed Werder (ESPN)
7. Beth Mowins (ESPN), Ron Jaworski (ESPN) and Charles Davis (Fox)
For the rest of the staffing, click here.
3. Buddy Baker, the 1980 Daytona 500 winner and a longtime popular NASCAR broadcaster, died Monday morning at 74 after a brief battle with lung cancer.
4. As part of a Monday interview with ESPN announcer Joe Tessitore, the studio host for the SEC network’s SEC Nation and ESPN's College Football Final (which also airs Saturday) and the recently named the play-by-play voice for ESPN’s College Football Primetime Thursday series, I asked Tessitore for his list of the best SEC food.
“Now THIS is an important question,” he said. “Seriously, here’s an answer where I can really impact people’s lives. Who really cares to hear me bloviate about my new job, but to be able to eat well is to live well. So here we go. There are three absolute must eats in the SEC. In no particular order:
• BBB in Oxford, Mississippi: John Currence is a remarkable chef. One of my favorite guys to have a drink with. Everybody loves his hot spot City Grocery near Ole Miss but my choice is to head to his strip mall hidden gem Big Bad Breakfast . I know breakfast is in the name but go there for dinner. Two rules at BBB. First, order any dish that includes his house-cured bacon. It’s rubbed with the excess pepper sludge from the original Tabasco plant. And the second rule I have at BBB is to order extra homemade pork terrine. Yes, that’s correct, spreadable pork. You dip a butter knife into a mason jar of pork. I repeat, pork you can spread! ‘Nuf said.
• ACRE in Auburn, AL: ACRE is an outstanding restaurant. Chef/owner David Bancroft crushes it. He does everything really well, especially his wood-roasted whole fish, but the move to make here is to get his southern deviled eggs. He will do variations. I was there the night before a broadcast with supreme eater Todd Blackledge, and Bancroft busted out his play on Green Eggs and Ham. He scooped the yolk out, filled the egg with whipped avocado and topped it with a strip of cured duck prosciutto.”
• Dead End BBQ in Knoxville, TN: “There is no such thing as bad BBQ in the SEC footprint. Still most places do one or two things really well. There are BBQ joints near A&M that are great for beef brisket. Places in Alabama are some of the best for ribs. Only Dead End BBQ in Knoxville is tops at everything from the start of your meal until the last bite of their banana pudding. It’s the best overall full BBQ meal in the SEC. The apps are great, especially the smoked sausage and cheese with beer mustard, the burnt ends are incredibly flavorful. The cole slaw with crumbled blue cheese mixed in is smooth, #1 is this fact: you haven't had chicken until you’ve had George’s Competition Chicken. Owner and BBQ master George Ewart has won numerous awards for that chicken. Foodies will tell you it’s the truest test of a kitchen–if you can make a chicken taste that good than you’re great at what you do. George’s chicken is great.”
5. The National Football League and Twitter announced a multiyear partnership to deliver uniquely packaged official NFL video and other types of content including highlights.
5a. The NBC Sports Group extended its rights to the Preakness Stakes.