The British have conquered America. But this time instead of bayonets they bring soccer balls.
The numbers are in, and Barclays Premier League on the NBC Sports Networks is drawing record audiences. Nine million viewers watched the first five weeks of BPL broadcasts from across the Pond. The 27 matches were covered on NBC’s English-language channels, which averaged 391,000 viewers. That figure is a 70 percent increase from last season when BPL matches were broadcast on FOX. The derby between Manchester United and Manchester City peaked at one million viewers and averaged 852,000, which made it the second-highest Premiere League match to ever be watched on cable TV in the United States.
What this all means is that there was a pent up demand in the States for easily accessible world-class soccer, and NBC has filled that void with its wall-to-wall coverage, including live streams on its NBC Sports Live Extra website and app. An entire of generation of Americans who grew up playing soccer are coming of age and want to see the best players on the planet kickin’ it. Besides the experience of playing youth soccer, America is becoming more of a global society with more exposure to soccer-loving nations and cultures so it was inevitable that professional football would start to make inroads in the U.S. via the airwaves.
One enormous advantage the BPL has is its Saturday morning and early afternoon start times on the East Coast, which steer clear of most college football games and completely clear of NFL Sunday games. That wide open time slot allows for little competition when it comes to luring sports viewers. There are a few games on select Sundays, but even most of those matches don’t conflict with American football games.
It was only a matter time until the global game’s conquest of America, and while it is not there yet, the success of the BPL on NBC shows the possibilities that lie ahead.