The SI.com world soccer TV guide
If you thought England was the home of the Premier League, guess again. This fall U.S. fans will have more access to Jose Mourinho, Robin van Persie and Jack Wilshere than anywhere else on the globe including the United Kingdom. It's part of a smorgasbord of world soccer choices on television (as long as you pony up the $$$ for cable) that includes NBC Sports' all-encompassing Premier League programming, Gol TV's coverage of Germany's Bundesliga and Holland's Eredivsie, Fox Sports 1's airing of the Champions League and UEFA Europa League, beIN Sport's coverage of Spain's La Liga, Italy's Serie A, France's Ligue 1 and international friendlies, and daily studio shows on Fox Sports 1 and ESPN. Both Univision and ESPN Deportes also have Spanish language coverage of multiple leagues including Liga MX (ESPN has the English rights language to Mexican League.) Domestic soccer is also easily within your grasp, with MLS coverage on NBC and NBC Sports Network, ESPN and ESPN2, as well as regional cable carriers.
"People in the United States have been begging and dying for this kind of coverage whether it's within the Premier League, MLS, or other leagues," said Pierre Moossa, the producer of the NBC Sports Group's Premier League coverage. "I think the leagues and the product speak for itself and I do think there is an audience for all this coverage."
In short, these are the salad days for world soccer fans in the U.S. Below, we offer a brief television guide to help you navigate through the early part of the season:
The most popular soccer league in the world has moved to NBC thanks to the network's winning bid of $250 million for a three-year agreement with the Premier League. That more than tripled the $23 million per year that Fox paid for its deal, and the network plans to get its money's worth. NBC will air the league's entire schedule -- 380 games -- on a combination of NBC's television platforms, the Premier League Extra Time bonus TV package, and live-streaming on NBC Sports Live Extra.
The schedule breakdown includes 154 games on NBC Sports Network, 22 games on other NBC Universal channels and 20 games on NBC. There will be 184 games airing on Premier League Extra Time and 76 Spanish-language broadcasts on Telemundo (10) and Mun2 (66). "The soccer universe cares about this league and our coverage is going to be very simple: We are going to get out of the way and just cover the game and the league properly," Moossa said. "It's an amazing product and it speaks for itself."
Over the first three weeks of the season, NBC and NBC Sports Network will televise 17 Premier League matches including five matches this weekend. Each match will be preceded and followed by pre- and post-match studio shows ("Premier League Live") hosted by Rebecca Lowe and analysts Robbie Earle, Kyle Martino, and Robbie Mustoe. The Saturday pregame show will begin at 7:00 a.m ET, and when the players come out to the pitch about 35-40 minutes in, NBC will switch to the game site. On Sunday morning the studio show will come on the air at 8:00 a.m. for about 25 minutes before heading to that day's kickoff.
Following the matches on Sunday, at 1:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network will air the "Premier League Goal Zone" which features the best goals, saves and sound bites from Saturday and Sunday action. There will also be "Match of the Day" highlight shows that will tape after the conclusion of each day and debut at 11:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network on Saturday and Sunday. The studio show will be back on the air Monday at 2:30 p.m., prior to the 3:00 p.m. ET Monday kickoff.
For major games later in the season, NBC has the option of doing an onsite studio show in the U.K. hosted by longtime BBC presenter Gary Lineker. Promised Lowe: "We're not going to dumb down the game or the shows, but we're going to make sure that we're also not alienating people. I think it's important to strike that balance; it's a difficult balance to strike."
The excellent Arlo White is NBC's lead broadcaster for the Premier League package, and he'll be assigned games with either analyst Lee Dixon or Graeme Le Saux. Moossa said NBC will employ its announcers for what it deems the best games of the weekend, and use the world feed announcers for all the other games it airs and streams. White and Dixon will call 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday games over the first three weeks of the season, including Swansea-Manchester United on Aug. 17, Aston Villa-Liverpool on Aug. 24 and Crystal Palace-Sunderland on Aug. 31. White will also team with Le Saux to call two Sunday matches and one Monday game over the first three weeks, including two highly anticipated matchups: Manchester United-Chelsea on Aug. 26 and Liverpool-Manchester United at 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 1.
Asked how NBC's coverage will be distinct from Fox Sports and ESPN's previous coverage of the Premier League, Moossa said, "There are a couple of different ways and you can start with the amount of hours and coverage. That's the first distinguishing factor. I won't comment on other coverage but our coverage will be focused on three areas: Interviews and access from the site, breaking down highlights and analysis, and discussion points."
Despite losing the World Cup to Fox after 2014, ESPN said it is committed to soccer coverage. The daily studio show "ESPN FC on TV" debuted last week and will air Sunday through Friday on ESPN2. (The show will air at 5:30 p.m. from Monday-Friday and at midnight on Sunday). Hosted by SportsCenter anchor Max Bretos and Dan Thomas (who has fronted "ESPN FC Press Pass" in the U.K. for the past two years), the 30-minute program will focus primarily on the Premier League, UEFA Champions League, Spain's La Liga, Major League Soccer, the U.S. men's national team and the Mexican national team. There are a ton of well-respected analysts and commentators on the show and you can find the list here.
"Editorially, the show will be an extension of ESPNFC.com," said ESPN coordinating producer Steve Palese. "The Sunday show will be more highlight driven, but every day, ESPN FC will offer analysis, discussion and reporting on the top stories in the sport. The show will have a global feel while also offering extensive coverage of the U.S. national team and MLS... One of the great things about ESPN FC is that if we run out of time on a particular topic, we can always continue the conversation on ESPNFC.com after the show. The reverse will also be true. If there is an article or video analysis piece that is creating a lot of discussion from fans on the site, we will carry that discussion over to the show."
Fox Soccer Daily debuts on Fox Sports 1 on Aug. 19 at 4:00 p.m. ET, a live half-hour show featuring soccer news, highlights and analysis. Hosted by Canadian broadcaster Julie Stewart-Binks, who previously worked as a reporter on Fox Soccer Channel, FSD will cover the major soccer leagues and competitions across the globe with an emphasis on Europe and North America. The primary analysts will be Eric Wynalda, Warren Barton and Brian McBride. Fox will also use SI's Grant Wahl, former Sky Sports presenter Georgie Thompson and Dr. Joe Machnik as contributors. The show will air Monday to Friday except when preempted by Champions League and UEFA Europa League pregame and postgame shows.
"Everyone has seen talking heads behind a desk covering headlines you can read in every sports paper, but we expect Fox Soccer Daily will be different," said Fox Soccer Daily executive producer Jonty Whitehead, in an email. "Our panel of experts, insiders and special guests will breakdown a story beyond the headlines and they are going to have some fun along the way. We have the ability to tap into the vast resources and expertise of FoxSoccer.com, the leading soccer website in the U.S., as well link up exclusively with our FOX Sports and Sky Sports affiliates across the globe including daily hits from Sky Sports News in the U.K. That global footprint means that if there's a soccer story breaking, anywhere in the world, we'll be there to bring you the latest."
Fox Sports executives have repeatedly mentioned soccer as a significant pillar of Fox Sports 1 programming (the network debuts August 17) and the plan is to air international games (Champions League and UEFA Europa League, in particular) on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. (Champions League play debuts on FS1 next Tuesday with PSV Eindhoven vs. AC Milan at 2:00 p.m. ET)
Fox Sports will also be the home of the FA Cup, CONCACAF Gold Cup and CONCACAF qualifiers and long-range plans include coverage of the 2015 and 2019 Women's World Cup, and men's World Cup coverage in 2018 and 2022. "Success will be determined by the production quality of the program, the performance of our personalities to deliver insights viewers won't find anywhere else, and the viewership levels we've set for ourselves," said Whitehead. "As long as we meet our own high standards, we'll be succeeding."
Dial Global holds the exclusive terrestrial English and Spanish-language U.S. radio rights for the Premier League, FA Cup and Capital One Cup. (Listeners will have access to talkSPORT's play-by-play commentary of every game; talkSPORT is the world's biggest sports radio station, based in London.) On the satellite front, SiriusXM Radio, as they have in previous years, will carry multiple EPL games each week. For the first time, SiriusXM will also be airing Spanish-language broadcasts for EPL matches. Additionally, beIN Sport and SiriusXM announced that beIN Sport's live English-language play-by-play of Spain's La Liga, Italy's Serie A and France's Ligue 1 will be available to SiriusXM subscribers on SiriusXM's soccer channel, SiriusXM FC and other SiriusXM play-by-play channels.