STAMFORD, Conn. - There were enough people involved in NBC Sports' opening day of Premier League coverage that the cast could have matched numbers with the Philadelphia Orchestra. And just as Yannick Nézet-Séguin sets the tone at the Kimmel Center, Pierre Moossa had the proverbial baton in NBC's control room on Saturday.
In my story on how the day unfolded, I wrote a lot about Moossa's role in setting the tone and the tempo for the broadcast. You'll never see him on TV - in fact, he isn't even on Twitter. But you should know his name. As NBC's lead producer for soccer coverage, he's one of the most important people in the American soccer community.
For a guy who's constantly under pressure, Moossa got a very cool demeanor. He's honest, and he can be direct. But he's also quite humble, and an incredibly hard worker.
Moossa talked with a few reporters after Saturday's Premier League broadcast wrapped up. I can only convey so much of his demeanor with words on a web page, but I think his personality will come across.
How does broadcasting the Premier League compare to some of NBC's other international properties? The Olympics, the French Open and Wimbledon - when you had it - were also major productions.
I think it compares a little bit more to the Olympics, because you have a base in the States and you have a base in the U.K. [referring to London last summer]. We had a call yesterday with all our announcers, because we had Arlo [White] in Wales, we had Lee [Dixon] in London, we had our talent here. We had everyone all over the place.
So I think the challenges logistically and geographically are always difficult. It compares a little more to the Olympics because of having two different base camps and two different talent camps.
Also, during the Olympics you have to think of it as the entire show, with the different events fitting into it. I thought of this as the studio show here and we're bouncing around - it happens to be the same game, but we're still bouncing from one event back to the States to another event.
What do you make of your talent so far? You've got two ex-players in Lee Dixon and Graeme Le Saux calling games, you have Rebecca Lowe here, and Kyle Martino is a strong American voice in the mix.
We've had many conference calls and many rehearsals, and you know that everyone's getting along when all the conference calls are people teasing people. The dynamic is that they are all really good friends. They respect each other as former players and athletes as well as announcers, and they all have a lot of fun.
I also respect that they have different opinions, and they respect each other for having different opinions. So if you're a viewer at home, you get both sides of the argument and you can make your own decision.
Robbie Earle said you put them through "boot camp" over the last couple of weeks. What was that like?
I modeled it a little bit after Sunday Night Football, working under Fred Gaudelli, and a little bit after the Olympics preparation. From the Sunday Night Football aspect, we had a lot of rehearsal days where we went through every single aspect, and mundane stuff. Tosses to the games, how we're going to do after the games, all the nuances. And that was done here in the studio.
But before that was done - and this is similar to what they do with the Olympics - we brought all the talent together and worked on different aspects. We went through what we expect of our talent and what we want them to do.
For example, with the announcers in the U.K., we want them to answer the question of why. Less is more, being concise. For the talent here, it was making a point and answering a question. We just went through the different things that we want our talent to do.
So Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe over here, and Kyle and Rebecca, they got the studio side. And when I went over the U.K. in May, I met with Lee and Graeme, and we went through the introduction as well. Then there was a rehearsal game on Friday. We just tried to rehearse as much stuff as we can to make sure we were as prepared as possible for today, because it was an important day.
You talked a moment ago about the less-is-more philosophy. This is not meant towards any network or broadcaster in particular, but in American sports television broadcasts there's a lot of talking - and talking over things. During the playing of "You'll Never Walk Alone" before Liverpool-Stoke City, you guys laid out for all of it. Talk about that moment and how important it was.
It is something that we talk about often. My father was a very famous and accomplished surgeon. We used to not talk during the car ride to school, and I finally said to him, "Why don't we talk?" He said, "I'm going through surgeries in my head." And I said, "But you do surgeries all the time."
He said, "Well, I'm not going through how I'll do it right. I'm going through what I'll do if this goes wrong, or what I'll do if that goes wrong."
So we spent a lot of time today going through all the different scenarios of what we wanted to do.
When it came to "You'll Never Walk Alone," that's a philosophy that comes from Sam Flood, from Mark Lazarus, from Dick Ebersol, that less is more.* There's nothing you can say, especially as an announcer, to help enhance that. It just takes away. So we had already talked beforehand about how when "You'll Never Walk Alone" comes on, you lay out.
And Arlo, Lee and Graeme, they know that when the chanting gets loud at the game, when it starts going crazy, they lay out so you get the atmosphere. Fans at home - and I've spoken to many of them - they just wish they were there. Our job is to give them the best seat in the house.
So we talk often about laying out and letting the game speak for itself.
* - Flood is the executive producer for NBC Sports and the NBC Sports Network; Lazarus is the Chairman of the NBC Sports Group; and Ebersol was the legendary head of NBC Sports' entire operation before NBC was bought by Comcast. All three are huge names in the sports broadcasting industry.
From a technical perspective, when during the broadcast did you know was the right time to lay out? Was there a cue, or something that had you ready?
We had spoken to Premier League Productions [the league's broadcasting divsion]. We had spoken to BT Sport [the channel which broadcast the game in the United Kingdom, and which was the host broadcaster for the feed]. We had spoken to Liverpool directly. So we knew that it was going to happen and after the procession.
We knew that BT was going to cover it for us. And then I spoke to Premier League Productions, and I asked them kindly to make sure they show the coverage of it. So we knew when it was roughly going to happen.
And it shows you how good Rebecca was that it wasn't planned when to throw to it. It was just more feeling it out, and the moment she knew that it was coming, the moment she started to hear it, she laid out and let the moment speak for itself.
Is it easy to be a sort of metronome in the producer's seat? All the talent we talked to praised your work in keeping things steady. Whether it's the many countdowns in their ears, or the brevity of the orders that you give out, is that easy to do? Does it come naturally?
I don't know about that. I don't know if I would give myself that credit. I think I was surrounded by a lot of really good people that made us together, and I think as a team we were very successful.
When it comes to doing shows like this, I've been fortunate enough to have some incredible mentors. It starts off with Sam Flood, Dick Ebersol, Jim Bell, Tommy Roy and Fred Gaudelli.* Those are all the people I've spent a long time watching and observing, and trying to imitate.
When you have people like that who can teach you, and you're surrounded by a team like this, I think giving me credit is kind of silly. I think the team around me did an awesome job. I was just the one talking.
* - If you're a fan of the NFL, you might recognize Fred Gaudelli's name. He's the lead producer for NBC's Sunday Night Football broadcasts. Prior to joining NBC, he was the lead producer for Monday Night Football on ABC from 2001 through 2005, the last seasons that ABC had the property.
Thetiming of his move was no coincidence. In 2005, Monday Night Football moved to ESPN and NBC bought what had been ESPN's Sunday night package. NBC hired Gaudelli and director Drew Esocoff away from ESPN, moves which rocked the sports industry as much as any big player trade. Here's a story that explains the context.
You've seen Gaudelli's name on many credits packages over the years. That 's in part because of his high-ranking position, and in part because he's extremely good at his job.