The English Premier League has long been the number one football league in the world according to TV figures but the move from NBC to buy the rights in the American market has stunned pretty much everyone who keeps a keen eye on these things.
When FOX and ESPN signed the last contract for the rights it was for $23million per year but the new NBC deal is for more than triple that and includes the shocking news that every single game will be broadcast. Yes every single game will be broadcast via one of NBC’s platforms (180 games solely online with 200 on TV). Up to 20 games will be broadcast over terrestrial TV live on NBC and these are expected to be the biggest games of the season. NBC Sports Network will be the primary home for the league but they are planning on having a regular set up for time slots so fans know where they’ll find games.
The EPL was first broadcast on terrestrial TV live last season when FOX used the Chelsea v Manchester United game as a lead-in to their Superbowl coverage and it performed way above expectations. Football in the States is slowly becoming more of a TV sport and last season’s final days slate of games saw FOX (and ESPN) show all ten games on Survival Sunday live over their collection of channels for a 72% increase on the previous season. Clearly eyeballs are being drawn to the EPL and the fact it now makes the home pages of SI, FOX and ESPN shows that the league (along with the Champions League and El Clasico) make enough waves to get written about amongst the big four sports.
What this means for UK viewers is not a lot apart from the fact Ian Darke now doesn’t have an EPL contract for next season. The Pompey fan and voice of the sport in the States is contracted through 2014 to ESPN in the States and will head up their coverage of the 2014 World Cup. He’s also slated to work on US Men’s National Team games as they attempt to quality for Brazil 2014. Now does ESPN allow him to go to NBC for EPL coverage? They might but another possibility is ESPN allowing Darke to be the voice of the new BT Sport channel which signed the rights to 38 live games from next season here in the UK.
After snapping up Jake Humphrey last month, the next thing BT Sport had to do was decide on who’ll be the voice of the channel. The obvious choice was always going to be Jon Champion but if Ian Darke is available then does he have interest? Would moving to BT Sport also end his boxing association with Sky Sports that has continued despite his ESPN football duties in the States. Does Darke return to the Sky Sports stable? Many questions but the possibility has arisen that Ian Darke could return to the UK screens for EPL coverage and would certainly be our gain. I’ll certainly be keeping a keen on on the developments on this front…