NBC’s Premier League Coverage Includes Free Mobile App


NBC has given soccer fans a look at what its coverage of the U.K.’s Barclay’s Premier League will look like next season and fans have to be excited with all 380 matches presented both live and streaming so fans can always catch their favorite teams’ action, or root against foes as the case may be.

There were some questions about how the network would handle the broadcasts after outbidding Fox Sports with a $250 million offer for the rights to broadcast the extremely popular league starting next year.

The live broadcast will be shown live on NBC, NBC Sports Network, Telemundo, Mun2, Premier League Extra Time, NBC Sports Live Extra and Other NBCUniversal Channels. The Premier League Extra Time package of overflow television channels is a set of free channels that come with subscribers of NBC Sports Network. On top of the coverage of the matches will be approximately 600 hours of weekly studio and other programming.

However the network is reaching out to fans that may not have access to broadcast television some or all of the time and have the NBC Sports Live Extra website for online users and then there is an app for mobile device users that provides free live streaming of all of the matches. Now you can watch soccer while watching your kids’ soccer.

I was surprised to find out that Fox had also an app available for watching soccer, and that according to The Big Lead it cost extra and its customer service left something to be desired.

NBC Sports Group has announced on-air talent for its coverage of Barclays Premier League soccer, starting in August. Arlo White is the lead play-by-play and will be calling them live from the U.K., joined by former Premier League stars Lee Dixon and Graeme Le Saux as analysts.

From the looks of it NBC has fans covered from top to bottom on the upcoming Premier League, and while I have yet to watch any of the US Major League Soccer matches that they now broadcast, I have heard from friends that the network has brought it’s a game to that as well.

Fox Offers Mobile and TV Options with start of English Premier League

the Barclays English Premier League

Well the Euro 2012 is over, the Summer Olympics are over and now ramping up is the Barclays English Premier League that starts up again this weekend and Fox Sports will continue to broadcasting of the matches with the first broadcast dates already set.

The first match will be broadcast this Saturday, early in the morning on the East Coast as West Brom kicks it off against Liverpool, followed later in the day by Newcastle vs Tottenham. Both of these matches will be live with additional games scheduled that will be taped.

Last year’s final day of the season brought on some major surprises as Manchester City won the

title for the first time since 1968 when it beat Queens Park Rangers 3-2 on the last day of the season even as rival Manchester United was celebrating on the field when it believed that the titles was theirs. The title was decided on goal differential and Manchester City scored in the waning moments to clinch the title.

It will be hard to beat an ending such as that this season but Fox will be providing not only the games on television but also has a full set of solutions for mobile fans with Android and iOS solutions as well as providing the ability to watch via computer.

Fox offers solutions for the mobile fan as well with its FoxSoccer2Go which has a huge array of leagues and matches. Aside from the Premier League, of which it will broadcast 270 matches, it also has Europa League, UEFA Champions League and NCAA Soccer. In all it expects to broadcast a minimum of 100 matches a moth for the 2012/2013 season. It also covers rugby.

It has an on-demand feature that provides replays of matches for between 3 and seven days after the conclusion of the matches, depending on the league.


ESPN turns the heat up on Soccer Coverage

ESPN has taken another solid step in its effort to provide full soccer coverage to fans worldwide with the introduction of ESPN FC, an effort that will provide umbrella branding for all of its diverse soccer media coverage.

This appears to be the network’s biggest step yet and will include a multilingual, multi-nation push to expand and brand its coverage and will include television, print, Internet, radio and online aspects to the branding effort.

ESPN’s soccer coverage has been a work in progress, and we mean that in a positive way. In the last few months it has been taking incremental steps to improve its coverage even after it lost broadcasting rights to future World Cup tournaments.

There are a number of ingredients to the ESPN FC effort, and not all of them are in place yet. Looking forward it plans to add local and regional contributors so that it has full 24/7 global news coverage of the sport. Hand in hand with that will be the ability to deliver content based on where a fan is accessing the network weather from a mobile device, the Internet or television.

The channel kicks off the new branding effort with its coverage of the Euro 2012 tournament in the Ukraine and Poland. It already had plans to broadcast the matches; they will now be the first to have the new branding as well. For the upcoming tournament ESPN FC will also have a feature called Euro 2012 Top 40 Player Rankings which will include contributions from the network’s soccer experts.

With the European season winding down the new brand will really see an uptick later this year with the start of the new seasons for leagues worldwide will see coverage of more than just the European leagues. As part of this effort ESPN will bring increased soccer coverage to its Spanish language channel into ESPNdeportes.com as well as produce Spanish-language online, mobile and print content for fans.

It looks as if the Soccernet label will also be a thing of the past as it has renamed its global multi-platform soccer debate and discussion show ESPN FC PressPass and done away with ESPNsoccernet PressPass

Other features will include a new version of GameCast called Live MatchHQ that will provide game data and imagery while also providing news and score3s from elsewhere around the league. The May 18th issue of ESPN: The Magazine will include a Euro 2012 preview section with a feature on Wayne Rooney as the cover story.

Last but not least ESPN FC will launch a pair of fantasy games for the Euro 2012 tournament. One is called Euro 2012 Bracket Predictor and the other is Euro 2012 Manager where fans can select fantasy rosters and win points.

ESPN FC appears to be a great idea from ESPN, unifying coverage that at one time was in multiple places and enabling fans to go to a single source for all of their soccer information. While Fox Sports also increasing its coverage especially Premier League coverage, hopefully the competition will make both provide more that fans want, rather than air time fillers that it occasionally seems.

MLS embracing Social Media

Major League Soccer has kicked off its season last weekend with it its new broadcasting deal with partner NBC. You might have missed the broadcasts because it seems that people are missing NBC Sports a good deal these days leading to very bad ratings.

NBC’s woes might not go away soon due to the fact that the MLS has not yet broken through as a ratings driver. Its troubles in this area are varied, and it has at different times come under fire for everything from when it starts to its trading window. A good look at some of the issues can be found in these transcripts from Eric Wynalda.

Yet if you attend a match the energy is great. Fans are knowledgeable and attendance is growing. So what more can be done? Well using social media and other tools to keep the sport in front of fans is one step, and one that the league is taking.

It conducted a Twitter-based contest last weekend called #FirstKick for fans attending their teams opening match. The rules were pretty simply and any fan with access to Twitter that attended a match could participate. All you needed to do was tweet a photo of you or your friends from a match to win.

The tweet needed a @MLS twitter handle; it needed the #FirstKisk hashtag, proof that you were actually at the game in the photos such as stadium, player, promo or sign visible in your photo and last a link to your photo available on public domain, ex. Twitpic, Lockerz, Yfrog, Photobucket, Flickr, etc.

Submissions were accepted from Saturday, March 10 at 6 PM EST and ends on Monday, March 12 at 11:59 PM EST, so there is still time to send your photo in! There will be a winner draw at random for each day.

Fans that are traveling, or have games that are not broadcast can watch the action via MLS Live, which the league has revamped for the current season. The program, which does have blackout rules, allows fans to watch games via computer, iPad or iPhone, Roku and can be integrated with Apple TV for broadcast as well. Cost for a season is $59.99 and the free preview unfortunately ends on March 12.

The league has the obligatory Facebook page that also has the ability to keep fans in touch with what is going on in games and the league as a whole. I was surprised to find two friends that I did not know were fans not only subscribed to the page but also wrote about the sport in blogs and posts elsewhere. I guess when you have 325,000 likes that is inevitable (the league not me). I did not check Myspace.

I feel that the aggressive use of outlets such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as revamping and increasing its online presence is vital to the success of MLS. The league has a number of soccer only stadiums that show off its product very well. But it is obvious that television alone will not get the message out.

Even as sports powerhouses Fox Sports and ESPN continue to turn up the presence of soccer in their sports programming, MLS often seems to be missing in the mix. Fox captured the World Cup broadcasts in 2018 and 2022 and has increased its broadcasting of soccer matches, just not US MLS. ESPN, after losing the World Cup to Fox has still increased its broadcasting and online efforts with things such as broadcasting the UEFA European Championships and upgrading its online presence.

MLS has been expanding and has seen strong attendance in the new towns like Portland where its games last season were sold out. However television viewership has been flat and this does not bode well for the sport. According to the Big Lead last weekend, MLS averaged 291,000 viewers on ESPN and ESPN2 last season and 70,000 viewers on FOX Soccer. That is just sad.

The league, which is kicking off its 17th season, does not have to worry about out of control salaries for players due to a hard cap, but this is a disadvantage because it will be hard to lure top talent from around the world or to keep talent that hears the siren call of a big payday. Glowing television viewership can change that, but it will take all of its tools, on-line, mobile and broadcast, to achieve this dream.

Cisco Scoring Big in Europe with Stadium Wi-Fi, Infrastructure Deals

Warsaw's new National Stadium, soon to be powered with Cisco networking technology.

With a couple new deals for stadium-network infrastructure, U.S. networking giant Cisco Systems is at the start of what could be a big string of wins for its new focus on “connected stadiums.”

A Nov. 15 announcement of plans for soccer powerhouse Real Madrid to partner with Cisco to bring fan-accessible Wi-Fi and other improvements to its home stadium in Madrid was followed by an announcement on Nov. 21 of a deal for Cisco to bring a wide range of technology to the new National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland, where next year’s Euro 2012 soccer tourney will kick off.

Cisco Sports and Entertainment Solutions Group SVP and GM David Holland

Though Cisco is no stranger to sports stadium deals — it helped AT&T build wireless networks inside stadiums like AT&T Park in San Francisco and Stanford Stadium, and is behind wireless efforts at facilities like Kansas City’s Livestrong Park soccer arena — the next year should see Cisco kick into full gear on its “connected sports solutions” group, headed by senior VP and GM David Holland. While free Wi-Fi is of top interest to most fans these days, Cisco’s breadth of networking smarts brings even more to the table for venue owners — including the ability to integrate voice, public safety and other data streams like ticketing and concessions into a tight, secure, single IT infrastructure.

For fans, the benefits of a connected stadium are clear: Personal access to instant video replays, the ability to order food from your seat, and the fun of connecting with fans and friends either in the venue or out on the Internet. For teams and stadium owners, a fully connected stadium not only helps make fans happier, it can also increase advertising and other revenue streams while reducing administration and cost of IT ownership.

Where Cisco has an edge over other technology providers is in its depth of offerings — not only is it the world leader in back-end routing and switching gear, but it is also among the market leaders in wireless access gear, through the expertise of its Linksys division. Unknown to most observers is Cisco’s strength in digital-display technology, which it uses in stadium situations to improve or enhance video display on screens both big and small.

Sports is something Cisco understands

And unlike other consumer-based offerings — such as its failed efforts to crack into the personal video market by buying handheld videocam maker Flip — Cisco clearly “gets” the sports fan’s desire to have better access to technology. Just read this snippet from a Cisco blog about stadium technology, which reads like something we might write here at MSR:

Picture a fan sitting in a football stadium full of tens of thousands of people getting ready for the game to begin. The stadium is roaring with noise, the team takes the pitch, and the fan uses his or her mobile device to snap a picture, capturing an iconic moment.

Like most football fans, and sports fans in general, he or she is a vibrant digital and social media consumer, and therefore tries to share that photo via a social media channel like Facebook.

However, with so many fans in the stadium desiring to do that same thing, or engage with their mobile device in another way, the strain on the existing mobile network at the game is intense. The fan finds the device has a low level of or no connectivity, and is unable to share that moment with friends, family and other fans…an inability to interact – something this fan and scores of others desire.

And going to Europe makes plenty of sense for a global powerhouse like Cisco, mainly because of the more-advanced cellular culture there. In some research we are conducting now at MSR we are finding out that most big stadiums in this country have little or no Wi-Fi access — except maybe in the luxury suites. In Europe the revolution toward fully wired fans is already in full swing, and Cisco is smart to get out in front early. It will be interesting to see how quickly these stadium deals contribute to the networking giant’s bottom line.

Friday Grab Bag: Mostly Football Issue

Get your vote in for Straight Outta Stockton
The good folks at Awful Announcing have added a new bad announcer category. For regulars on the site they are already familiar with the “Pammies” named after Pam Ward and given to the worst college football announcer have been joined by a weekly award for the NFL broadcasting corp. The new award is called “Straight Outta Stockton” in honor of Dick Stockton. The winning comment in its first week was “The Lions undefeated season is over… for now” – Scott Hanson (via Real_DWM).

NFL Games DVDs now widely available from NFL Films

Have some gaps in your home library of great games by your favorite NFL team? Well the league has taken steps to fix that by offering the entire NFL Films DVD catalog for the first time. Approximately 115 titles can now be purchased from iTunes, Best Buy Cinema and Vudu as part of a distribution deal between the NFL Films and Vivendi Entertainment. The videos will range from Super Bowls, team histories and a range of classic games. The deal helps NFL Films aggressively push into the home entertainment market for the first time. In the past limited films were available.

Android app market continues to see strong growth
The number of apps available for the Android platform continues to grow, and has reached the half a million market in September, compared to Apple’s iOS 600,000, according to market research firm Research2Guidence and forwarded by readwriteweb. This shows that the huge lead that Apple once enjoyed is getting narrower by the month as a solid influx of apps for the Android continue to hit the market. The one downside for the Android space, according to the report shows that 37% of apps are removed from Androids while 24% for the iOS.

Fox wins TV rights to 2018 and 2022 World Cup

Fox Sports has won the TV rights to the 2018 World Cup to be held in Russia and the 2022 World Cup that is scheduled to be held in Qatar. This gives the sports network all FIFA events from 2015 to 2022. Telemundo won the Spanish language broadcasting rights in the United States. The amount has not yet been announced but the company outbid ESPN and Univision which had the rights to the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, and had gained those broadcasting rights with a $425 million bid. Not sure how well Fox Sports will do here, but ESPN had seemed to be putting an effort in its soccer coverage in the last few years and I now expect it to disappear from the network. My one hope is that Joe Buck does not feature on Fox’s broadcasting team.