WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – NBC’s break-the-bank deal to acquire exclusive rights to broadcast English Premier League soccer in the U.S. may be catering to a small audience, but that doesn’t make it a dumb financial decision. It just makes it a risky one.
“They paid a ton for it,” Richard Deitsch explained the three-year, $250 million deal to Lavar and Dukes Wednesday. “They essentially overpaid for this property, but the reason why they overpaid is because the NBC Network needs programming and they need to figure out ways to get eyeballs outside of hockey.”
NBC Sports Network has failed to attract viewers since launching 15 months ago, and officials hope carrying the brunt of the 380 EPL games next season spread across the network’s various holdings, is the key to viability of the brand. Of those 380 games, 154 will air on NBC Sports Network itself, 76 will run in Spanish on Telemundo and 20 will even make onto the mother ship.
“The fact is, they do not have anything at the moment that is going to draw people to that network unless you’re a big hockey fan,” Deitsch said.
But the question all non-soccer fans scoff at, and supporters of the sport project to anyone who will listen, is will professional soccer catch on in America?
It’s dominance as the most popular sport worldwide can’t be denied, but it’s potential for growth and sustainability of that growth in America may forever be up for debate.
“Even if the sport isn’t super popular in a country, if it’s the highest level of competition and you get thrilling games and you do a good production, you could start maybe attracting some people and convert them,” Deitsch said. “When it comes to soccer, it’s a very dedicated audience. It’s not particularly large – probably let’s say like a million and a half, two million on a weekend – but it’s really, really dedicated.”
And in case you hadn’t noticed, Fox Sports was the previous rights holder for the Premier League, but lost a bidding war to NBC to renew, rendering the Fox Soccer channel useless moving forward.
“This is never going to be college basketball or college football, but I do think that because of the talent and the caliber of the play in the EPL, I think they got a chance to get more of an audience than Fox did.”