NBCSN's first weekend of English Premier League coverage opened to rave reviews. With as well as ESPN covered the league and the resources Fox Soccer put towards it, the bar was already set high for the new partnership. Although it has only been just one weekend and enthusiasm should be tempered until NBCSN broadcasts a full season of the EPL, all the signs are pointing in the right direction. The level of commitment, professional quality of the broadcasts, and hours and hours of live games and studio programming is immense. In fact, after the first weekend, you could make the argument that NBCSN's Premier League investment is unmatched across sports television.
Outside the NBC network's broadcast of Swansea City vs Manchester United Saturday afternoon, all the other games were syndicated from the league's world feed (including Martin Tyler on Monday's Manchester City-Newcastle tilt). The real distinguishing factor so far is the studio programming, especially NBCSN's flagship EPL show - Match of the Day.
At 11 PM ET Saturday night, Gary Lineker of the BBC welcomed American EPL fans to Match of the Day, a recap show that has aired in the UK since 1964. I've always heard about Match of the Day and was certainly intrigued as an EPL fan to see this fabled program come to the states and came away thinking it could be not just NBCSN's top studio show, but one of the top studio shows in all of sports.
The American version featured NBC's main EPL trio - Rebecca Lowe, Robbie Earle, and Robbie Mustoe, but they took a back seat to the soccer. With 2 hours to fill and only 7 games to cover, MOTD is full of highlights. Much like you see on the EPL Review Show, the highlights aren't handled by the studio, but rather the original commentary from the game broadcast. It's such a different and often times more enjoyable way to experience highlights versus the traditional format with an anchor reading over the action. Hearing the original commentary accompanying the highlights sounds much more natural with no forced stats, catchphrases, jokes trying to share the spotlight.
Secondly, with so much allotted time, the top games of the day are more like compressed games than highlights. Over the entire first hour, the show recapped Man Utd-Swansea, Villa-Arsenal, and Liverpool-Stoke. Each game was given 10-12 minutes of highlights, meaning EPL fans get more action from their highlight show than any other sport is given. After the highlights come post-match interviews with the coaches and then analysis in the studio from Lowe, Mustoe, and Earle.
You can already sense the budding chemistry in the studio. As she showed on our podcast last week, Lowe is knowledgeable and energetic. I've been a fan of Mustoe's work since he was at ESPN and the interaction between he and Earle is insightful and natural. In particular, their comparison of Liverpool and Man Utd finishing chances at the video board gave solid details on the differences between a side struggling to get back in the Top 4 and the defending champs. There's no forced debate in the studio, no obsessive focus on stars, no forced laughs, no pre-ordained narratives. I don't say this lightly, but the comfort level watching these three in studio is reminiscent of Inside the NBA in that there's an obvious chemistry from the outset. Sure none of the three have the personality of Charles Barkley and you're not going to be finding humorous clips on YouTube the next morning, but the dynamic works for MOTD. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any actual clips from the weekend online, so you'll have to take my word for it or I don't know, watch it yourself or something.
The flow between highlights, interviews, and analysis over the course of the two hours was really the perfect way to end the first day of the EPL on NBCSN. The quality and format of this show makes me think other networks, specifically league networks, should pursue a similar format. Instead of producing NFL GameDay, why doesn't NFL Network attempt a more in-depth 2 or 3 hour show for Tuesday nights? Why can't MLB Network or NBA TV try a more in-depth late night show where the highlights are organically drawn from the original home and away telecasts?
The only thing I could compare MOTD to is Inside the NFL, but even then we're talking about 16 games in 1 hour versus 7 games in 2 hours. The extensive nature of MOTD allows the fan to experience a full day's slate of games in one evening. Soccer fans have come to expect top level coverage from ESPN and NBCSN is carrying the flag quite nicely. Match of the Day may even excel into being one of the top studio shows in not just soccer, but all of American sports.
If CBS wants to make CBSSN appointment viewing, they'll move Inside the NFL to a 3-hour slot on Tuesday night on CBSSN with a format based on Match of the Day.
I actually thought the entire weekend wasn't bad...except Kyle Martino on Sunday. Please replace him. I was in my local bar (Penny Lane Pub) and no one in the bar could stand listening to the guy. Just because he played college soccer does not make him an "expert". Let Kyle and Gus Johnson go to their own channel....
NHL on the Fly on NHLN and Quick Pitch on MLBN used to be similar, but have devolved in the past two years. NFL used to have NFL Replay Real-Time, but they're completely off the rails on NFLN now. There's no reason a show of this caliber can't exist for every sport.
NBCSN is going to show 3 hours of patsy-flop kickball (soccer) and expect people to get excited over a 0-0 game. It'll be great time to take a nap. Yawnfest.
Couldn't agree more. Rebecca Lowe is awesome and the Robbie's are excellent as well. Three professionals who don't try to be clowns -- how refreshing !! Even Kyle Martino, who was hired because he's a hunky American, played down his usual smarm on Sunday's MOTDII. Well done to NBCSN. Unlike the idiot shows on FS1. Did anyone see Fox Soccer Daily on Monday? What a horror show. Rebecca Lowe is lovely but she was hired b/c she knows her football. Fox Soccer Daily - once again - has the requisite hot chick for a host who tries to "bro it up" with the analysts and whose knowledge is cursory at best. Wynlada has ADD and Warren Barton always has that creepy Joker-smile thing going. I felt bad for Grant Wahl who tried to keep it respectable. Oh well. If anyone knows where Bobby McMahon might show up again on U.S. television, please chime in.
I was watching their preview shows and the chemistry was there, nothing was forced and they beat any one topic over the head. And when they disagreed it didn't result in a shouting match. Very professional and I think NBCSN has a hit with the EPL.
thriller....will NBCSN be the network of flag football and no score soccer matches so no ones feelings get hurt?
There is more action in 2 hours of Soccer than 4 hours of Baseball! If you ever experience a match live, you will be hooked. I have seen many exciting 0-0 games. Its not the score but the action on the pitch...i would love to see you try and play "Kickball" as you call it. You would get bruised and battered and probaly not know what hit you!
@Thom SteinBizzle Steinberg and next time, don't put a picture of your husband or boyfriend on your profile.
@Thom SteinBizzle Steinberg So where are these 3 hour matches you speak of? NBCSN shows 2 hour matches.