NBC starts the Premier League season with a new voice and a focus on all 20 teams
NBC will launch their 10th season of Premier League coverage this Friday after inking a six-year deal with the competition that is reportedly worth $2.8 billion. The agreement kept two of America’s most respected football brands together through 2028. This season, however, the network’s decade-long relationship with the world’s most popular domestic league will have a noticeably different tone in the broadcast booth.
Well-known English broadcaster Peter Drury has joined NBC as the Premier League’s lead commentator, replacing Arlo White who has held the same role on NBC since the inaugural season of Premier League coverage in 2013-2014. White has since joined the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf as senior commentator. Drury has recently called up UEFA Champions League games for CBS Sports but has long been a household name in the UK.
Drury was guest on The Athletics new podcast Copa with Felipe Cardenas to discuss his decision to join NBC, in which he revealed the network first approached him in April. The official announcement was made in early July.
“I was very easily seduced because NBC’s reputation in the Premier League broadcasting world was gained very quickly and has only improved since,” Drury said on the podcast. “It’s a team list you want to be on. I don’t think there is a better league anywhere in the world of football.”
Drury’s exuberance will now be a prominent feature of NBC’s weekend coverage as he joins an established US studio crew in Rebecca Lowe, Robbie Earle, Tim Howard, Danny Higginbotham and Robbie Mustoe.
Lee Dixon and Graeme Le Saux will partner with Drury on the ground to provide color commentary, including a triple header in opening weekend. Drury, Dixon and Le Saux will play Arsenal for Crystal Palace on Friday, Chelsea for Everton on Saturday and Manchester City for West Ham on Sunday.
All of these games involve teams with ambitions to finish in the top four, but the power of the Premier League product goes beyond that; John Miller, CEO of NBC Sports Group to the Sports Business Journal what he believes is central to their broadcasts.
“We’re focusing on all 20 clubs – we’re not just focusing on the big six,” Miller said. “To stay true to the league you have to give all 20 teams attention and coverage.”
Sports Business Journal also reported a massive increase in the Premier League’s overall reach. which is the number of viewers who had the opportunity to watch an ad. According to the report, the total Premier League reach was 30 million in the US last season. Before NBC acquired the rights to the league, its total US reach was 13 million. In short, ad spend on NBC’s Premier League coverage and marketing engagement is doing reasonably well.
Drury himself claimed that despite NBC’s reputation as a production giant, the Premier League’s on-field product will continue to captivate audiences.
“The truth is the Premier League is the most established brand of all. That’s what people tune into,” Drury said. “They don’t tune in for me, they don’t tune in for Rebecca Lowe and the excellent panel she’s carrying. They tune in because it’s an amazing competition. And my job and our job is to reflect that. And I don’t think there is a better league anywhere in the world of football in terms of its dynamism, its competitiveness and its 20 separate agendas.”
On Wednesday, Lowe told her 66,0000 Instagram followers that this Premier League season “is going to be different in so many ways” before urging viewers to do whatever it takes to tune in for the season opener show on USA Network this Friday.
That follows a scheduling issue during the season’s opening weekend, when most games were moved to NBC’s streaming platform Peacock. The 2022 Women’s Open Golf Tournament on NBC capped the total TV slots available so only two games will be televised. The Winter World Cup played a role here as it forced leagues around the world to start and end their seasons earlier than usual.
“Obviously (the World Cup) is going to have a massive impact on this domestic English football season,” said Drury.
USA Network, which will begin its first full season as the home ground of the Premier League on cable TV, will broadcast Crystal Palace vs Arsenal and Everton vs Chelsea. Spanish-language broadcaster NBC Universo will also broadcast these games, with Andrés Cantor on those calls, while Peacock will stream eight games.
The ability to switch to Peacock may not be well received by viewers who have not signed up for the $4.99/month service. It should be noted that Peacock will be covering every Premier League game live this season, as well as studio shows, full match replays and the Premier League TV channel.
“It’s like some kind of traveling circus”
As Drury pointed out, the Premier League’s biggest draw for casual viewers is the level of competition.
“I always compare the Premier League and I don’t say that disrespectfully, of course, but it’s like a soap opera and it needs its main characters,” Drury said. “Jose Mourinho was a main character. Obviously Pep Guardiola is a main character, Jurgen Klopp and we almost unthinkably have Cristiano Ronaldo back in the Premier League now is one of the main characters should he stay should he go.
“It’s like years ago ‘who shot JR.’ That’s the kind of stuff that we have, and these characters that are so marketable in their own right and are an integral part of the nature of the ongoing narrative and the ongoing story,” continued Drury.
Drury has described the Premier League as football’s ‘global league’, with megastars visiting the country’s holy sites across England at the weekend.
“It’s, you know, again, I’m not using the term disrespectfully, but it’s kind of like a traveling circus of the world’s greatest players showing up at the doors of fans who are both excited to see their teams play against these players . but only to see these pieces in their own meaning, he said.”
In the US, there will be an increased American influence this Premier League season, thanks in large part to deals in the current transfer window. Most notably, US internationals Chris Richards (Crystal Palace), Matt Turner (Arsenal), Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream (Fulham), Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United) will join Chelsea’s US star Christian Pulisic.
Leeds United in particular will draw a lot of attention from NBC. The club’s American Legion, led by second-year manager Jesse Marsch, will be a must-see on TV. Leeds United’s intense playing style and rabid Elland Road vibe are big draws, but the club’s cross-season storylines will feature American and USMNT angles.
“I have to say I’m really excited that the American football crowd, as I put it in football, could embrace Leeds United because Legion’s ice is huge,” said Drury. “I’m really excited that Leeds United could be the focus of our programming with NBC because that identity will be there.”
(Photo: Matt McNulty – Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)