Will the Premier League kill Major League Soccer?

April 20, 2013

This past week, NBC announced that they will show every single match of the Premier League campaign in the United States beginning at the start of next season, which begins at the end of the summer in 2013.  This means that NBC will literally use its empire of networks to broadcast Premier League games from England during the weekends.  There is even a graphic going around, showing that on May 11th, 2014 – what is referred to as “Championship Sunday” or the last day of the Premier League season – there will be games on the following NBC channels: NBC, NBC Sports, USA, Bravo, CNBC, SyFy, Esquire, MSNBC, E! and so forth.  I’m sorry, but Premier League on SyFy seems to be quite a reach, but NBC has paid $250 million for the 2013 Premier League rights, and they want to do things the right way.  As their press release notes:

Details of the 2013-2014 NBC Sports Group Premier League programming include:

  • All 380 matches presented live on television with studio pre- and post-game coverage;
  • All 380 matches streamed live via NBC Sports Live Extra;
  • Games not aired on a designated NBCUniversal channel will be made available to distributors via Premier League Extra Time, a package of overflow television channels available at no extra cost for each of their customers who receives NBC Sports Network;
  • Championship Sunday – May 11, 2014, when all 10 Premier League matches will be available live on a different NBCUniversal channel;
  • 76 Spanish-language telecasts, 10 on Telemundo, 66 on Mun2;
  • More than 600 hours of Premier League original programming.

NBC SPORTS LIVE EXTRA: Every Barclays Premier League match will be streamed live via NBC Sports Live Extra, the NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktop, mobile and tablets and, in most cases, on the digital platforms of participating cable, satellite, telco and other video subscription services. The vast majority of Barclays Premier League matches will be streamed via “TV Everywhere,” available on an authenticated basis to subscribers of these services.

NBC happens to have the rights for Major League Soccer as well, which they pay $10 million a year for.  In this current deal, NBC shows usually one or two MLS matches a week, with the Premier League they will be showing around 10 matches a week through the season.  Some people have discussed that the deal would be beneficial for MLS, as it would draw more soccer fans to the NBC network who could then carry over watching Premier League matches to MLS matches.  I believe that this logic doesn’t fully fit.  First, the MLS matches would usually not transition smoothly with the Premier League, unless the MLS started playing at 10 or 11am, which would mean much less fans in the stadium.  At this point in time, fans in the stadium are the lifeblood of the MLS, as the revenues from television, once distributed, aren’t even worth a quarter of a team’s salaries for a season.  In this, the Premier League may not kill the MLS, but could draw some major attention away from the professional soccer in the U.S.

Time will tell how this deal affects MLS, but I personally think obtaining the Premier League rights was a great move by NBC.  For many years, I was part of a that crowd of people who paid extra money to get Fox Soccer on their cable plans to watch matches early on Saturdays.  Now, NBC will bring the Premier League to a national audience on over-the-air channels, meaning that people can watch certain Premier League matches without paying.  I think that this move could really help heighten the popularity of the Premier League, though I’d be curious to see how well ratings do on NBC during college football season.  The games wouldn’t overlap, but I am not sure how many college football fans will turn on their television sets early to catch Fulham play Everton.


NBC Coverage and the Olympics

August 6, 2012

For most of the world, the Olympics has been a wonderful live sporting event.  For the United States, it has mostly been enjoyed via the wonders of tape delay.  I personally use a mix of Japanese television streaming and NBC live streaming to try and watch most of the events on the internet, but that came to a stop today as the NBC online stream pretty much died right as the men’s 100 meter final was about to take place.  Some were thinking that NBC didn’t want to show the live event, so everyone would have to tune in to the tape-delayed coverage in the evening.

So here I sit in front of the TV waiting to watch the men’s 100 meters (which I will not say what happens for those who don’t know the result).  In fact, some metrics are claiming that around 2 billion people worldwide viewed the men’s 100 meter final live.  This article discusses the viewership (Spoiler alert: it tells you who wins the 100 meters) and how NBC denied the ability to watch the moment live in the U.S.  This would normally seem to make the Olympics less desirable for viewers, as the Uncertainty of Outcome hypothesis notes that for a match where fans can easily predict the outcome, fans will be less likely to attend that match.  NBC researchers seem to be finding the exact opposite of this, saying that viewers who know what is going to happen have been more likely to tune into the Olympics.  I think that they may just be capturing those fans who would watch the Olympics no matter what, and are checking the outcome of matches before hand because they want to know what happens, as it happens. It is also likely, that because the NBC has been heavily editing programming to show Americans winning, that Americans are more likely to tune in because they really are nationalistic and want to see the U.S. win those golds!  NBC has been crafty though, they heavily edited the women’s gymnastic team finals in the U.S., removing an early fall and mistakes by the Russians to make it look like the competition was neck and neck.  This despite the fact that the U.S. jumped to an early lead and really had no trouble winning the gold for the women’s teams gymnastics.  NBC went as far as to not show point standings throughout the telecast in order to give the sense of drama.  In some sense, even though their research shows uncertainty of outcome might not matter, they are still trying to create it… even when it doesn’t exist.

Also, the Olympics do not really compete with any noteworthy programming at this time of year, so it is a good time to be NBC.  In the previous cycle it was said that NBC potentially lost around $200 million in revenue on the Olympics.  The chairman of NBC noted that there is a chance that the Olympics this cycle might make a profit, as the ratings and ad revenue from the Olympics has been very strong.  NBC is really trying all they can do to get viewers and make money, but some will still be very unhappy about the tape delay and jingoistic coverage of the Olympics.  If you want examples, just head to deadspin or go to twitter and type “NBCFail”.  The number of people using this hashtag is staggering.


Moving professional sports teams is not economic development, it’s checkers!

September 12, 2011

At least that is what California Assemblyman Chris Norby is saying about the plans to bring a new stadium (Farmers Field) to downtown Los Angeles in the hopes of bringing the National Football League back to LA.  Norby’s full quote, seems to hit the subject spot on, he notes:

“Moving professional sports teams within the state is not economic development, it’s checkers – and ultimately there is a public price that must be paid,”

That’s right, he is saying that a sport team coming to town is creating something new for the economy, its just moving and shuffling around the spending in town.

This round of talks about having the NFL come back to LA comes hot on the heels of a measure passed by the state, which is expected to be signed into law that would expedite any legal challenges made against the stadium construction plan for Farmers Field.  In the article linked above, it is noted that the revenue from the stadium is already being linked to financing a new convention center downtown.  It seems that Los Angeles and Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) who is leading the stadium project are potentially making quite the gamble.

While others are saying the new stadium will create 10,000 new jobs for the L.A. area during these hard financial times, Norby again seems to be skeptical.  The article notes:

Assemblyman Chris Norby, R-Fullerton, questioned the value of many jobs that would be created by a new stadium — ushers, ticket sellers, popcorn vendors and other such positions do not provide long-term stability, he said.

And the research literature seems to back him up.  The only question is if anyone is actually listening to what the research and now, Mr. Norby have to say.