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Quotes from NBC's Premier League press presentation

NBC Sports held a press conference on Tuesday at which executives and on-air talent spoke at length about the company's Premier League broadcasting plans. Here are some highlights.

Quotes from NBC's Premier League press presentation

From left to right: NBC Sports president of programming Jon Miller, Premier League CEO Richard Scudamore, NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus and NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood. (Bebeto Matthews/AP)<br />
From left to right: NBC Sports president of programming Jon Miller, Premier League CEO Richard Scudamore, NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus and NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood. (Bebeto Matthews/AP)

NEW YORK - NBC Sports held a press conference on Tuesday at which executives and on-air talent spoke at length about the company's Premier League broadcasting plans. Here are some highlights.

Note that they are laid out by speaker, not chronologically. So you'll see some references to the same question spread across multiple speakers.

Most of the quotes come from the formal presentation part of the afternoon, with some prepared remarks and a Q&A session. There are also some quotes scattered in from breakout sessions with individuals.

I have transcribed quotes from Arlo White, NBC's lead soccer play-by-play voice, in a separate piece here. Given his importance to the American soccer landscape, I thought he deserved his own post.

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NBC Sports President of Programming Jon Miller

Opening remarks:

We embarked on this road close to two years ago. Richard and started planning and looking for this, and we were fortunate enough to acquire the rights this past fall. We spent a lot of time before that preparing what we thought would be a very compelling opportunity for the Premier League.

When we went to meet with the Premier League, we brought to them a mission statement on what we wanted to achieve for them, and how we will help grow the sport. This is exactly what we intend to do here.

Using all the different assets at our disposal, not only with the NBC Sports Group but NBC Universal's digital and linear networks, we think we'll achieve that.

One of the things that is special about NBC Sports is that we have a history of making big events bigger.

Whether that's having the most-watched Super Bowl in history; or the Stanley Cup and the NHL, which we have re-launched and extended into a long-term relationship with; or the Triple Crown, which now gets over 40 million viewers; or last summer's Olympics, which is the most-watched Olympics of all time.

We think that using all of our assets together and coming together as one company achieves that goal.

[…]

The windows for the Premier League are set up much like the NFL is, in that you have definite windows on different days over the weekend. Every window will be covered through the NBC platforms.

[…]

The Premier League Extra Time package will be taking all of the games that are not available on a designated channel on that Saturday morning, or midweek games, and provide them to distributors at no extra charge to consumers who receive NBC Sports Network.

This is the first time that a professional league, to our understanding, has made available every single game live, across the board, to viewers at no charge.

All 380 games will be shown live, in their entirety, both on television and streaming tablets, phones, you name it. You won't have to miss a game wherever you are.

[…]

All told, we'll have roughly 30 hours of Premier League programming each week through the season.

On whether NBC will have increased access to behind-the-scenes action than what EPL teams have traditionally provided:

We definitely will try. We have already worked very closely with the Premier League and the clubs, who have been very open to having us come in and work with them.

[NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus then chimed in: We also can't request or demand it. We have to build trust, and they have to believe that we're going to work in the best interest of them and their league and their clubs. That's something that I have great confidence in Pierre, Sam, their team and our new presenters to be able to do.

No matter what we do, we can't demand that – it's their ballyard. We will earn that trust, I believe very quickly, and we will be granted more and more access because of the way we handle ourselves and present them.]

On the quantity and importance of NBC Sports Network's ancillary Premier League programming:

We have the opportunity to provide weekly programming on a regular basis that educates and informs, that really takes advantage and super-serves the Premier League fan.

We have the same opportunity with the NHL, which we do with a lot of our NHL programming. We have the same opportunity to do it with golf on the Golf Channel. We do it with a lot of our Olympic programming.

But here, you have the ability to take all of the games that take place on Saturday, and add to it a "Match of the Day" program, and the same thing on Sunday with "Match of the Day 2."

We have the ability to take great games from the weekend and cut them down, as well as do review and preview shows, as well as showcase the great personalities that make up the league. I think that is what fans of the Premier League, and sports fans in general, will find when they come to us.

On the importance of hiring talent with some familiarity for the American audience:

I think it's very important, because it gives us authenticity, it gives us credibility and it gives us familiarity.

The great example is Al Michaels, the single best [American] football play-by-play announcer out there. He was very important for us in [launching] Sunday Night Football. We went out to get the best of the best, and we did.

On a potential production partnership with British Telecom's new sports channel, which will also start broadcasting Premier League games next season:

Absolutely, we'll share resources with them. We're also working very closely with the Sky folks, and the Premier League has really opened a lot of doors for us. 


NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus

Opening remarks:

We are so excited to get this partnership underway. As fans, we look forward to the end of the current season; as those who are going to be entrusted with this wonderful property, we cannot wait for August 17th to come and for us to get started.

It's really going to be a wonderful, all-encompassing undertaking for our entire company.

[…]

It's a groundbreaking deal for us. We were challenged and pushed by Richard [Scudamore] and his team to think differently, and to come to the table with our assets both from a television point of view and a digital point of view. I think our plans achieve that, and now our execution moving forward will achieve that.

[…]

We are going to be authentic to the sport, and we're very proud to be part of this new tradition with NBC Sports and the Premier League.

On expanding the reach of the Premier League among non-soccer fans in the United States:

There's really two parts to the answer. The first is what we are going to do to bring people into the tent, and the second is how we are going to treat them once they get there.

We as a company look at our NBC Sports Group, which reaches – between NBC, NBC Sports Network, Golf Channel, all of our regional [sports networks] – many people every months. As a company, we have 20 television networks and 80 websites. This property, as part of our commitment, will be promoted across our entire portfolio.

Then it's making sure that we speak in each of those voices. How we present on NBC Sports Network in terms of marketing will be different from how we present on, say, Bravo or USA, or Style or E!. That comes with a tone, and then it's how we are going to treat people once they get there.

To be sure, the marketing commitment is across our entire NBC Universal portfolio. Once we get them to sample us and to come to visit, we'll treat them in a way that we believe they've not been treated before here in the States, in terms of production.

[…]

And [it's] not just about the games. It's about familiarizing the American audience with the players, with the teams, with the traditions of the teams – and hopefully encouraging American fans to pick teams, to have favorites, to become fans or fanatics of those teams, much like they do in any of our American sports.

That's one of the things we've been talking to the clubs about – how can we help you, what kinds of tools can we provide for you to come market here, to build your American fan base. We think once they start to do that with us, that will allow more people into the tent.

On changing the Premier League's culture of restricted media access:

One of the things that the clubs have said to us is that they have a keen interest in marketing their product here. They don't have geographical boundaries in this country like our sports do, in terms of where they can market and what they can do.

We think that as we earn that trust, some of the other surrounding programming that we're going to be doing will be given some interesting access and perspective, because they have a self-interest in promoting their brands here in the United States.

On making online streams of EPL games available for free, instead of charging for them:

We had many options and opportunities as to how we were going to treat these games. Would we create a package that we would charge for? We believe that we already have very loyal and very good customers, and that they deserve the full weight of our investment.

On the quantity and importance of NBC Sports Network's ancillary Premier League programming:

Part of it is that we need to educate the American audience. We need to familiarize them with players, with teams, with traditions.

In terms of how much, it's about what the right balance is given our other commitments. But it's really about making this one of the key pillars of our landscape.

If you look across our portfolio, with the National Football League, with our very large golf vertical, with the National Hockey League, this is another season-long product that will be a key pillar.

It will represent a significant portion of our schedule, both in game coverage and in surrounding content that is meant to be informational and topical, but also to educate the audience that is involved in this marketing opportunity.

[…]

I think that when you see our company, when we have a piece of content or product or a league exclusively, we're all in. As they went all in with us, we're all in with them, and we will treat it as such. I think you see that with the other properties that are mentioned, which are pillar properties for us.


NBC Sports Executive Producer Sam Flood

Opening remarks:

Our number one objective is to be true to the sport. We want to honor the Premier League, honor what they do on the field and celebrate the sport. I have a brother who lives in London and they have kids who are bigger Premier League fans than they are NFL fans.

They go to the games at Fulham every week and are passionate about that team. I want to capture that for the audience in this country, and make sure that they are passionate at the same level, and expose why this is such a popular sport – why it's so huge in the U.K. and now around the world.

We traveled to London in February to meet with the Premier League and also to meet with talent. Pierre Moossa, who has been heading this up, really broke down who the right people were for the team.

I'm not going to steal his announcement of who it is, but I will cheat and let you know that Arlo White is going to be on-site for more than 75 games.

We think it's very important to have authentic voices, and to call every match from the United Kingdom. We don't want anything done off tube here – everything's being done across the pond. We want to do it right, and we want to have authentic voices who are true to the sport.

All our studio programming will come from our new studio in Connecticut. Pierre and the directors have some really neat ideas for how to take advantage of all the technology that we have in this new space.

The building we're in here [30 Rockefeller Center] was built for radio. We're now in a building in Connecticut that was built for television. So it's really exciting to be able to take advantage of the technologies that tell the stories of this great league, the right way and for the right people.

On how NBC's presentation will treat viewers:

Our storytelling legacy, and the ability to be first true to the sport – let the people first understand why there's this passionate following in the U.K. – we've got to honor that and follow that storyline.

We've got Pierre Moossa running the production side. I'm a big believer in his ability to tell stories and get you inside the sport.

[…]

You'll understand that we're going to be true to the sport and authentic to what's going on, but we're going to welcome you in. We're not going to make this a secret society that you don't feel welcome in. It's an inclusive telecast that's going to welcome the crowd and let them know that this is something pretty cool.

On gaining increased access to EPL teams and players to create better stories:

We were already over this week to start some shoots and some specialty relationships. They have been very helpful in working with us to make things happen.


Premier League CEO Richard Scudamore

Opening remarks:

If my grin never leaves my face you'll probably understand why. This is a very exciting day for me. I've seen some peaks and I've seen some highs, and we thought we had taken this league around the world to some levels. But this is just about as good as it gets.

These guys will not worry when I say that you are my third priority. My first priority is to put on a fantastic football competition. That's really my daily focus – making sure the football competition is played in the best possible stadia with the best possible players.

My second priority is to make that the stadia are as full as they can be – to make sure that there are home fans, and uniquely in many sports, I think, away fans. [They are] sometimes a little bit too exuberant, but mainly for good.

And then my third priority is making sure that our broadcast partners around the world can portray, as best they can, what goes on in that environment via broadcast television.

You just cannot imagine the palpable excitement when – I've never seen our 20 clubs more excited than when these guys came and gave a longer, more detailed version of the presentation you've just seen. Because really, it's about commitment.

We are sitting here in a privileged position. We are not unhappy with our current broadcast arrangements in the U.S., and our partners here [Fox and ESPN] have done a great job taking it from where it was to where it is.

But we can just see that we are on the threshold of taking this to a whole new level in terms of reach, in terms of quality, in terms of audience, in terms of authenticity. Just in terms of bringing it to this market.

And is this market important to us? Of course it's important. Whichever metric you look at – I'm in a privileged position, I get to do business in 212 countries in the world. And yes, there might be 1.2 billion people in China, there might be 1.3 billion people in India. And there's huge numbers around the world.

But nowhere do they consume sport – or sports – like they do here. That's why it's so important to us.

There are a number of things that you cannot say in [British] English and it sounds the same when you're in America. "30 Rock" is one of them. It doesn't sound right in the Queen's English.

I learned this when I used to work here and I would go on airlines and ask for "wat-ah." The flight attendants don't know what you're talking about until you say "wat-er." I know we're going to have some of those moments in the next few years.

But fundamentally, this is a market which is of huge interest to the Premier League, and of huge interest to our owners.

As I say, we are right at the beginning, I think, of a most exciting change when it comes to bringing what we consider to be a pretty good example of what is the world's most popular game into television homes.

And in many different ways – with handheld devices, in the digital space. The plans that these guys have got are a big change for us, and we are thoroughly excited. We're looking forward to August the 17th – goal line technology and everything else. It's going to be a great day.

On where the scale of the U.S. TV rights deal ranks internationally for the Premier League:

I can't give you a specific answer to the value question, but suffice to say I think it's in the top five of single territories around the world.

It's an odd analysis, because a single territory is Hong Kong, with five million people. A single territory is Singapore, [or] Myanmar.

So to compare the U.S., it's pretty impossible. I think more important, though, is this whole point of audience reach. Our economic model is not entirely predicated on revenue from television rights. The clubs' economic model is predicated on wider reach and wider audience.

In our sports model, compared with the U.S., the clubs have much more ability to monetize non-broadcast revenues in terms of sponsorship, merchandise sales, that whole thing.

The people who are most avidly interested in this outcome of this process were our owners. They could see the pervasive nature of this coverage and how it's being taken to a whole new level.

On changes to the culture of media access in the Premier League:

We are just introducing this year some new media access rules which will liberate things a little. Will they liberate things totally? No, because that's not where the sport starts from.

There's also an absolute physical constraint at most of the stadia. We can't have all 212 of our broadcasters turn up at a game. And also, for those who know the game, there's a little bit of a kind of mystery behind the dressing room door. That's kind of a testament to [the culture of the EPL].

I can't see that there will be cameras in the locker room, as you may say here. I can't say there's going to be that sort of access, because there is something that goes on behind the dressing room door.

Whether it's science, or whether it's magic, or whether it's Chauncey Gardiner from Peter Sellers' "Being There," it's a mystery to all of us – even those of us who are very close to the game. In some ways, that's part of the essence. It's not all bare-naked exposure. That's part of the cultural difference.

On balancing the prominence of the Premier League's biggest teams with wanting to increase the recognition of the league's lesser teams:

You're hitting on a big cultural difference between our sports and some of yours. We celebrate "the ladder." Our 20 [teams] sit on top of 44,000 other teams that play football in England. They just happen to be in the top 20. But they are also on the way to another place, which is European qualification.

So rather than dividing the world evenly, or [having] a draft pick system where the worst teams get the best players, we celebrate the idea that we have super-teams that are huge, and not such big teams, and therefore we actually encourage that stretch.

We are trying to build that ladder from the Championship below through to the successive European competitions. We don't mind the fact that this is an escalator, as opposed to a flat situation.

But where I see some great opportunity, it goes to the access question. The club aren't silly. I know that they see an opportunity – the other clubs, beyond the ones that you've just mentioned – that by being smarter, by being more cooperative, by giving greater access, they will end up with exposure that starts to get closer.

But are they going to overtake them? You can't stop the Man United phenomenon. I am entirely grateful that they are in our league and not somebody else's league.

I don't know if you follow the debate about Scottish clubs in the U.K. and Celtic and Rangers. They're trying to leave. Well, some come clubs want them to leave because it would be good for competition. I would say no, keep your big brands, keep your big clubs in. That's why it's fantastic to have them.

Though I can see huge opportunities for those other clubs. They'll never overtake [the big clubs], but they may certainly expand their reach and exposure.


NBC Sports soccer producer Pierre Moossa

Opening remarks:

First off, I want to say that when we started the hiring process, I was overwhelmed with the amount of people who showed interest. It was a massive undertaking trying to narrow down this group of very knowledgeable and qualified candidates that we have assembled.

On the tone that NBC's soccer broadcasts will take:

As with all of our properties, the number one focus will be the game. We will not get in the way of the game – our job is to cover it and enhance the broadcast, but never get in the way of the game.

When we're talking about the U.K. coverage, [color analysts] Lee [Dixon] and Graeme [Le Saux] will be tasked with answering the question of why: why was that a spectacular goal, why was that important? They will be there to help us appreciate the nuances of the game, but again to help answer the question of why.

When it comes to Gary [Lineker], we're looking for his legendary knowledge. When it comes to his perspective on the weekend's fixtures, we want to get his views on everything that has happened over the course of the weekend.

With regards to our studio, our main focus will be a newsy, big-event feel. We're not going to be focusing on just one game, but the entire weekend's games. From start to finish, Rebecca [Lowe] will be the guide.

We've brought the trio of Robbie [Earle] and Robbie [Mustoe] and Rebecca, there job is to cover the key events, the important storylines, but also the exciting moments.

The main theme for the announcing team is that we were looking for very intelligent people with a great knowledge of the game. Our focus was on trying to assemble a team that would complement each other, and I think we have achieved that quite well with the team we have.

[…]

We have an overall philosophy that Sam and Mark have instilled in us that it's not about us.

When it comes to the coverage and whether we can focus on it, I don't think it's very hard to focus on such an incredible property, and such incredible matches. There's just so much to talk about. I just wish that there was more programming time.

We've got some very knowledgeable soccer fans that will spend all their time dedicating to covering this game that all of us do love, and I think it will be easy for Rebecca to guide us through that.

[...]

When you're an announcer or a commentator, the way we have approached it is that we don't ever want to be talking down to the viewer.

I always equate it to when I was growing up watching sports - it was me and my buddies on the couch. When something happened, we'd always want to know if that was the right call or the wrong call, did the manager make the right decision or the wrong decision, was it offside... We want our analysts to always answer all those questions.

I also feel like you're inviting someone into your home. With the announcers, they should be someone you'd want to invite into your home, and who you'd feel comfortable with having them chat back and forth.

They're not lecturing you, they're not talking down to you, they're just having a conversation like you would have with any other friends, whether it's at the water cooler or as a match is happening. That's the feel we want.

So I always relate to them that it's easier for them when they're not up on the lecture hall, they're not a professor - they're just having a conversation, and we're fortunate enough to eavesdrop on it.

On how technology can make American fans feel closer to action that's taking place across an ocean:

It was very much in our mind when we started this out that there is a huge logistical gap between our studio in Stamford and the U.K. You don't want the audience to feel that gap, so how we try and bridge that gap is the question.

We can't have everybody over in the U.K. - it doesn't make sense. So we have this beautiful facility here. How do we do that?

Part of it is sharing reporters on-site, part of it is live shots, part of it is having announcers over there, part of it is making sure that we're going back and forth as often as possible. Having Gary Lineker as a special contributor, and going back and forth, and having that newsy feel.

That's the most important thing to bridge that gap, so you don't feel like you're separated from it, and you also feel like it's not one match followed by another match, it's an all-encompassing weekend. We're going to cover every storyline all the way through, and you're going to know it's a big event.

On how much staff NBC will have at its games:

We haven't finalized all of our production [elements], but we will have a U.K.-based production team. That will include announcers, some logistical people and some production support.

The degree of how many people depends on how we divy up the labor, but it would be silly for us to say here are two announcers and you're on your own. They are going to need some support. And you can't be arrogant enough as to think that you know how it all works.

We spent that week in February just learning how everything worked. There's so much going into a new property that you can't just say we're going to do it bigger and better, and we have to disregard how it's done. There is a process and a system in place, and we need the support over there to be able to accomplish our goals.


NBC Sports Premier League studio host Rebecca Lowe

Opening remarks:

It's a privilege for me to work in and around the Premier League – it has been for a number of years. It's such an entertaining and magical competition, and to have been so close with the players and managers, and some unbelievable games in that time, has been fantastic.

But now, to slightly change tack, it's a privilege to come to the United States and work for a channel and a company such as NBC. It's a channel that I've seen on many occasions when I've come over [here], and have always known that it has great gravitas and great history.

To be able to bring the passion that I've got for the Premier League over here, to a country where we all know that soccer isn't the No. 1 [sport] yet – the challenge that it poses, to bring this sport and this league especially over here, is one that I'm really excited about and relishing, and looking forward to.

I went to Stamford [Conn.] yesterday to visit [NBC's soccer] studios – they were out of this world. I've never set foot in studios quite like them. They're huge, apart from everything else. The facilities are just second to none.

On what is attractive about working in America:

So much. I actually was at boarding school for a year in Pennsylvania [at Mercersburg Academy] when I was 18, and I think going to high school prom got under my skin. After that, I thought, "This country's pretty good."

In all seriousness, ever since [then], I've always had this place in my heart for America, and Americans.

I think that over the years, the opportunity to work for ESPN was something I really grabbed, and then the chance to do the Women's World Cup and the Euros for ESPN allowed me to come over here for a bit of time and enjoy life.

It's very different – and I like change. I'm looking forward to everything that's different about living here, I'm looking forward as someone who's talked about educating people about football – I don't think people will need a lot of education, but some may well.

It's a combination of a change of lifestyle and a change of where I'm living that's really exciting. But really, bringing my passion for something that I can share with people who will be open to it, I think is something that is very rare.

And to be at the beginning of something, this huge project that we've got here at NBC, it's fantastic.

On the tone that she will set for NBC's studio coverage:

There's always something to talk about, and the most important thing is to talk about the right thing at the right time in the right order. Our studio, with Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle – they're so knowledegable that people will want us to get to them quickly and get their opinions fast.

We're going to have fun, of course. This is sport, at the end of the day – the job is entertainment, that's why we all love it. It's not the news. But at the same time, it will be thoughtful and thought-provoking. I hope it will be enjoyable and entertaining at the same time.

[…]

I've never played the game, as such. What's very important to me is that I'm not there to give my opinion, I'm there to get their opinions out.

On whether she watches Major League Soccer:

I've got to be honest - we only show the odd game on ESPN at home [in the U.K.], and they're not always live, I don't think. I have a thing about watching football that's not live. I struggle with that, unless I don't know the score.

So I don't watch a lot of MLS, but my husband-to-be is a football coach, and he's coming over with me. I'm getting into MLS now, because he's thinking about trying to get a job and that kind of thing. We're definitely learning more about it, and I'm looking forward to seeing more.

On the importance of the fact that American audiences will recognize her from her pat work with ESPN here:

I think it will be a little bit important. If you've worked on the [2011] Women's World Cup and the [2012] Euros, a major women's tournament and a men's tournament, that familiarity - of course it will. Because if you're turning it on and asking "Who's that random person they've selected to present our football?" then you have to get familiar.

Hopefully those fans that will recognize me from those tournaments, I think that will give me a little more confidence that when they do turn on their TVs in August, they will at least vaguely know who this person is.

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The Goalkeeper is your home for the latest news about the Philadelphia Union, Major League Soccer, U.S. national teams and the rest of the world's most popular sport. It's also a place for fans to gather and celebrate the culture of soccer and its unique place on the sports landscape.

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