Premier League Grows US Audience Through Strategic NBC Partnership

The allure of the Premier League has notably increased in the United States since NBC acquired the broadcasting rights in 2013.

by Faruk Imamovic
Premier League Grows US Audience Through Strategic NBC Partnership
© Getty Images/David McNew

The allure of the Premier League has notably increased in the United States since NBC acquired the broadcasting rights in 2013. This $250 million deal for three seasons marked the beginning of a significant shift, leading to a six-year agreement in 2022 worth $2.7 billion. This arrangement ensures all 380 Premier League games are broadcast across NBC and its affiliates, including the streaming service Peacock, which has further amplified the league's presence and accessibility.

The impact of this deal is evident in the viewership records being shattered regularly. A March game between Manchester City and Arsenal drew an audience of 2.12 million—a record for the U.S. The strategic opening of a Premier League office in New York and the influx of American investors across the league underline the growing business interests linked to the sport.

Prominent figures like NBA star LeBron James and NFL icon JJ Watt have invested in clubs, blending elite sports personalities with Premier League brands. This cross-pollination has not only boosted the league's profile but also encouraged a deeper cultural exchange, evidenced by the planned pre-season tours in North America by clubs like Manchester United and Chelsea.

NBC's commitment to the Premier League extends beyond mere broadcast rights. It reflects a strategic positioning to embed the sport within the American cultural fabric, leveraging the "event" quality of Premier League matches to captivate a diverse new audience. The network's approach to coverage emphasizes authenticity and respect for the game's heritage, integrating British commentators and avoiding unnecessary Americanization, which could detract from the sport's intrinsic appeal.

Basketball star LeBron James takes a photo prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United
Basketball star LeBron James takes a photo prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United© Getty Images/Clive Brunskill

NBC's Strategy: Marrying Tradition with Innovation

Mastering the Art of Sports Broadcasting

At the heart of NBC's success with the Premier League is its careful balance between innovation and tradition. Jon Miller, NBC’s president of acquisitions and partnerships, played a pivotal role in securing and expanding the network’s Premier League rights. His strategy was clear from the outset: focus singularly on the Premier League to avoid diluting the brand with other football leagues. This approach has allowed NBC to position itself as the definitive home for English football in America.

NBC's promotional tactics have been both bold and culturally savvy. From placing a giant billboard of Gareth Bale in Times Square to wrapping subway carriages with Liverpool and Everton colors, the network has made the Premier League a visible part of the American sports landscape. The creation of the "Ted Lasso" character in promotional campaigns—later developed into an award-winning series by Apple TV+—demonstrates NBC’s knack for integrating humor and relatability into its marketing efforts.

Cultivating a Dedicated Audience

The broadcasting team is a critical element of NBC’s strategy. Studio anchor Rebecca Lowe, along with pundits like Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle, bring credibility and charm to the coverage. Their chemistry and deep understanding of the game resonate with both long-time fans and newcomers to the sport. This team’s ability to explain complex football strategies in accessible language helps demystify the sport for American audiences unfamiliar with its nuances.

Pierre Moossa, NBC’s coordinating producer, leads the production with a focus on detail and pacing. He ensures that each match is presented with clarity and excitement, maintaining high production values. The control room during live matches is a hub of activity, where every second of airtime is meticulously planned and executed.

Soccer ball
Soccer ball© Getty Images/Graham Chadwick

Adapting Coverage for a Broad Audience

NBC’s presentation style is carefully calibrated to blend American broadcasting preferences with British football culture. The network uses terms familiar to British audiences, such as “the pitch” and “the table,” while also making allowances for American viewers. This thoughtful approach helps build a bridge between different cultural understandings of the sport.

Rebecca Lowe notes the importance of inclusivity in their broadcasts, especially during the intense moments of the Premier League title race. She and her colleagues are mindful of the mix of seasoned viewers and those new to the sport, ensuring that explanations are clear but not condescending.

The network’s commitment extends to engaging with fans through various platforms, including social media and fan festivals. These events, often held in major U.S. cities, allow fans to experience the excitement of the Premier League up close and personal. They feature everything from live broadcasts to interactive games and meet-and-greets with famous players and commentators.

Globalizing the Premier League Experience

NBC’s role extends beyond broadcasting into influencing how the Premier League is perceived and experienced in the United States. The network has been instrumental in making Premier League football a weekend ritual for many American families. This cultural integration has been facilitated by NBC’s careful blend of expert analysis and accessible commentary, making the sport’s complex tactics and rich history approachable for new fans.

Moreover, NBC’s involvement has prompted the Premier League to consider more direct engagements with the American market. Ideas such as hosting competitive matches in the U.S. reflect an ambitious vision for global football, mirroring other sports’ strategies to internationalize their appeal. While logistical and traditional barriers exist, the potential for such initiatives illustrates the growing influence of American broadcasters on international sports.

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