NBC will kick off their 10th season of Premier League coverage this Friday after securing a six-year deal with the competition that’s reportedly worth $2.8 billion. The agreement kept two of America’s most respected soccer brands together through 2028. This season, though, the network’s decades-long relationship with the world’s most popular domestic league will have a noticeably different tone in the broadcast booth.
Well-known English broadcaster Peter Drury has joined NBC as the lead Premier League commentator, replacing Arlo White, who held the same role with NBC since its first season of Premier League coverage in 2013-2014. White has since joined the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf as the lead commentator. Drury most recently called UEFA Champions League matches for CBS Sports, but he has long been a familiar voice in the UK.
Drury was a guest on The Athletic’s newpodcast Copa with Felipe Cardenas to discuss his decision to join NBC, in which he revealed that the network had first approached him in April. The official announcement was made in early July.
“I was very easily seduced because NBC’s reputation within the Premier League broadcasting world was very quickly won and has only since been enhanced,” said Drury on the podcast. “It’s a team sheet that you want to be on. I don’t think that in the world of football there’s a better league anywhere.”
Drury’s exuberance will now be a featured characteristic of NBC’s weekend coverage as he joins an established US-based studio crew in Rebecca Lowe, Robbie Earle, Tim Howard, Danny Higginbotham and Robbie Mustoe.
Lee Dixon and Graeme Le Saux will team up with Drury on location to provide color commentary, including an opening weekend triple-header. Drury, Dixon and Le Saux will be on the call for Crystal Palace vs Arsenal on Friday, Everton vs Chelsea on Saturday and West Ham vs Manchester City on Sunday.
All of those games involve teams with ambitions to finish in the top four, but the strength of the Premier League product stretches beyond that; NBC Sports Group executive John Miller told Sports Business Journal what he believes is central to their broadcasts.
“We focus on all 20 clubs — we don’t just focus on the big six,” Miller said. “In order to be true to the league, you have to give all 20 teams attention and coverage.”
Sports Business Journal also reported a massive jump in the Premier League’s total reach, which is the number of viewers who had an opportunity to view an ad. According to the report, the Premier League’s total reach last season was 30 million in the US Before NBC acquired the league’s rights, total reach in the US was 13 million. In short, NBC’s Premier League coverage advertising spend and its marketing engagement is performing quite well.
Drury himself contended that despite NBC’s reputation as a production giant, the Premier League’s on field product is what will continue to captivate audiences.
“The truth is that the most established brand of them all is the Premier League. That is what people tune in for,” said Drury. “They don’t tune in for me, they don’t tune in for Rebecca Lowe and the excellent panel that she has with her. They tune in because it is a fantastic competition. And my job and our job all is to reflect that. And I don’t think that in the world of football there is a better league anywhere in terms of its dynamic, its competitiveness, its 20 separate agendas.”
On Wednesday, Lowe told her 66,0000 Instagram followers that this Premier League season “is going to be different in so many ways,” before asking viewers to do whatever it takes to tune in this Friday for the season kickoff show on USA Network.
That much is apparent from a scheduling conundrum on the season’s opening weekend, in which the majority of matches have been moved to NBC’s streaming platform Peacock. The 2022 Women’s Open golf tournament on NBC limited the overall available TV slots, so as a result just two games will be on television. The winter World Cup played a role here, as it forced leagues around the world to begin and end their seasons earlier than usual.
“Obviously, (the World Cup) is going to have a massive impact on this domestic English football season,” Drury said,
USA Network, which will start its first full season as the Premier League’s home on cable television, will carry Crystal Palace vs Arsenal and Everton vs Chelsea. Spanish-language channel NBC Universo will also carry those games, with Andrés Cantor on those calls, while Peacock will stream eight matches.
The ability to pivot to Peacock may not be well received by viewers who have not signed up for the $4.99/month service. It should be noted that Peacock will broadcast every Premier League game live this season, as well studio shows, full match replays and the Premier League TV channel.
‘It’s like a kind of traveling circus’
As Drury opined, the Premier League’s biggest draw for casual viewers is the level of competition.
“I always like the Premier League, and I don’t say this disrespectfully of course, but it’s like a soap opera and it needs its major characters,” Drury said. “Jose Mourinho was a major character. Obviously Pep Guardiola is a major character, Jurgen Klopp, and we’ve got Cristiano Ronaldo almost unthinkably in the Premier League again now is one of the major characters, should he stay should he go.
“It’s like years ago ‘who shot JR.’ It’s that’s the sort of stuff we have and these characters, who in themselves are so marketable, and are an essential part of the kind of ongoing narrative and the ongoing story,” Drury continued.
Drury referred to the Premier League as soccer’s “global league” whose mega stars visit the country’s hallowed grounds across England on the weekend.
“It’s, you know, again, I don’t use the term disrespectfully but it’s like a kind of traveling circus of the greatest players globally, turning up on the doorsteps of fans who are both thrilled to see their teams compete against those players, but also just to see those plays in their own rights, he said.”
Stateside, this Premier League season will have an increased American influence, in large part due to dealings in the current transfer window. Most notably, US national team players Chris Richards (Crystal Palace), Matt Turner (Arsenal), Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream (Fulham), Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United) will join Chelsea’s American star Christian Pulisic.
Leeds United in particular will garner plenty of attention from NBC. The club’s American Legion, led by second-year manager Jesse Marsch, will be must-see television. Leeds United’s intense style of play and rabid Elland Road atmosphere are big draws, but the club’s season-long storylines will be tinged with American and USMNT angles.
“I have to say it really excites me that the American football audience, as in football, as I say it, might embrace Leeds United, because Legion ice is massive,” said Drury. “I’m really excited that Leeds United could be central to our broadcasts with NBC, because there will be that identity.”
(Photo: Matt McNulty – Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)