NBC/Universal’s Premier League soccer telecasts have been pretty special, though the quality of play on the field is only one part of the equation. Viewers who suffered through the late, unlamented Fox Soccer Channel are for the most part, thrilled with the resources NBC has deployed since taking over in 2013 and the Guardian’s Barney Ronay, not one to gush over broadcasters, declares “watching English football in the US was an unexpected reminder of how good it actually is”.
Rebecca Lowe is a fine and knowledgeable anchor, albeit her role here is often shaved down into being really good at talking fast without stuttering and remembering to call Romelu Lukaku “the 56 million-dollar Belgian”. Robbie Earle still looks like a nice friendly saggy old embroidered cat propped up in the shop window and encouraged to talk about set-piece opportunities and overlapping runs and how “they’ve got to move the ball quicker for me”.
Robbie Mustoe proves it is possible after all to cram fact-based, cliche-free critical opinion into a 30-second analysis spot. The only slightly “soccerball” note is the retired American player Kyle Martino (above), who looks at first glance like the kind of man who might walk into a crowded room at a cocktail party and do a double-handed pistol shot with his finger and thumb, but who turns out to be very watchable in the grand American sportscasting tradition where things like research and preparation are still non-negotiable assets even for ex professional players.
What happens from here is anyone’s guess. The Premier League has made some unarguable gains in the foothills, to the extent that its TV revenue is split pretty evenly between domestic and global markets, a balance that is likely to tilt only one way in future. If this is a slightly alarming prospect for the domestic football fan, already alienated, priced out, rescheduled and generally encouraged to sit down and shut up, then it is worth remembering where all this syndicated wealth actually comes from.