After NBC won the rights to broadcast the Premier League in America, I decided this would be a good chance to start following the world's most popular sport a little more in-depth. The extent of my soccer knowledge is this: MLS isn't exactly on the level of the major European leagues, Lionel Messi is a god, and there are something like 80 tournaments a year.
But I have several friends that are huge Premier League fans, and seeing them talk about the matches every weekend intrigued me. I read up on the Premier League and was enthralled by the table, with its system of qualifications and relegations. Even with MLB starting up its stretch drive and football getting ready to begin, I was determined to add some soccer viewing to my schedule.
So this weekend, I tuned in for the first Premier League games on NBC and NBCSN. Quite frankly, I couldn't have been more impressed.
NBC presented the Premier League more like it presents the Olympics as opposed to how they present the NHL: like a major event. The commentators and studio crew used a technique that more American commentators could learn from: silence letting the crowd tell the story. The very first Premier League match on NBCSN pitted Liverpool against Stoke City. Although they were using a syndicated feed, NBC let the crowd at Anfield take over with their rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone" instead of talking over it. From then, I was almost immediately hooked.
The studio crew, led by Rebecca Lowe, managed to make things simple enough for even a novice like me to understand what was going on, yet didn't break out a talking soccer ball or any other visual aids that would be better suited in an elementary school classroom. When there was controversy in the Arsenal-Aston Villa match, the commentary team broke down why the Arsenal players were so fired up about yellow cards on what looked like an innocuous tackle. NBC's main commentary team of Arlo White and Lee Dixon called the Swansea-Manchester United match, and were largely very good, aside from technical difficulties that were out of their control.
Those technical difficulties were the lone blemish on NBC's opening day of Premier League coverage. Their coverage was approachable for a new fan like me, and yet it wasn't so basic that it drove away the diehards. I still have no club to support, and I'm still learning as I go, but I was extremely impressed with my first foray into the Premier League on NBC and NBCSN.
I think the production was good; my only complain is the lack of replays on NBCs website. Most fans like to watch several games. Espn and Fox had full replays on their sites so I don't see why NBC can't do that.
For you who are testing the waters of the sport, if you live in an MLS city (Seattle, Portland, Bay Area, LA, Salt Lake, Denver, Kansas City, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Columbus, DC, Philly, New York or New England [Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal for you Canuks]), consider giving your local team some attention. I love watching soccer on TV, but watching in person is a whole different level of awesome.
Arlo White cannot influence the coverage of the game nor is the coverage of some of the biggest global sports 'product' influenced by what little old NBC say in their broadcast. The pictures and sound are produced by the Premier League in association with a vendor like Sky TV.
The coverage was excellent because it was shot by local British production companies. The NBC 'add-on' was also excellent because not only did they choose an expert British commentator who has lived and worked in the US but because they did their research. How easy it could have been for the NBC production to que Arlo to speak during the Liverpool Anthem but they all knew what they were doing. Also having announcers on-site makes a big difference although with the quality of the Coles Lip Ribbon microphones in use you would have thought they were in a booth in the US. They weren't and they sounded great! Very impressive production values by NBC and they did not get carried away.
I thought Arlo White was terrible and I would prefer the international commentators. The biggest problem was that White so smitten by Wayne Rooney, continually showing him on the bench. Yes, I understand the drama that is evolving in the Rooney saga, but when you have comments like "Wayne Rooney is warming upish" that just shows you have beaten that horse, over and over.
I thought NBC did a great job, as a long time soccer fan, I'd say their coverage has been the best I've seen so far. Even though their analyst Robbie Earle has some baggage after being fired by ITV over the WC ticket scandal, he's still a top notch analyst. Mustoe is also a great hire, I was waiting for a network to put together a crew that feels like the old ESPN Press Pass crew and EPL coverage.
Arlo White and his sidekick are the only NBC commentators doing live games, right? The rest are whoever is pushing out the Premier League International Feed...which is exactly what FSC did. The only noticable difference that I noticed was that NBC showed more of the teams lining up in the tunnels and post-game handshakes than FSC did.
Aside from that, I thought the NBC Studio crew was better than FSC, but it's still early.
Longtime fan of soccer and English soccer in particular. I thought the coverage was excellent, right out of the gate. I liked the in-studio crew that Fox Soccer Channel uses, so I was apprehensive about NBC Sports Net. I came away impressed with the Studio Crew and thought Rebecca Lowe was extremely smooth and professional.
The complaint I've heard wasn't based off the technical difficulties. I've heard complaints from several English Premier League followers saying they wanted NBC to form more than 1 broadcast team for the Premier League. I also will still say that they need to adapt the water polo idea and place the color of the jersey next to a team for those of us who haven't followed them before.
Rebecca Lowe is pure quality as a presenter of the Premier League. She did quality work in the England on ESPN UK for the last few years. The first woman to be the main presenter of the FA Cup Final in 2012. Robbie Earle is quality with his analysis. I would have liked to see Robbie commentating at game sites with Arlo. Robbie was outstanding as in game commentator when he worked with Martin Tyler on coverage on Sky.
In exactly the same boat as you; came away very impressed. Especially appreciated the "Who are the PL Teams" special they did the week before...and Rebecca Lowe is exquisite. Certainly a better debut than Fox Sports Uno...
I was impressed too, being similar to the author as this was my first attempt to seriously follow soccer. I thought the production values were high and you could feel the intensity from the crowd and they did let it breathe. Even the matches I had no rooting interest in were fascinating to watch. By the way I chose Tottenham as my squad.
@berto84 The pictures are put up in front of Arlo to commentate on. He has the choice of saying something or nothing but it would be odd to have a shot of Rooney or any player picked out by the local host broadcaster and for him to say nothing.
@motodop @berto84 Yes, moto.. but even when Rooney was not on the screen Arlo had odd comments about him, like I mentioned above. The best play-by-play commentators have a keen silence to them and not an over infatuation with unnecessary words, which Arlo continually added throughout the match. He even saying that RVP was on a hat trick (which he obviously wasn't, nor did he apologize for the misinformation). Talking about Rooney is fine, but move on from it.