When NBC bought the rights to the Premier League a few years ago, it couldn’t have imagined a result as good as this in its wildest dreams. The network’s first season with Premier League rights included a thrilling title race with Liverpool failing to claim its first title. Now this season, Leicester City has given soccer a growth spurt no one could have seen coming.
Due to the greatest long shot, well, ever winning the Premier League title, Leicester City has been a top story on SportsCenter and has led ESPN.com more than any non-USMNT soccer story in recent memory. Even people who have never watched a minute of soccer paid attention, Leicester City was a top Twitter trend in the United States on Monday afternoon. NBC had done a good job marketing and growing the Premier League regardless, but this has made the network’s contract, worth roughly $1 billion, look like a bargain due to increased exposure.
The Premier League rarely has to compete with American sports because of the time change. It creates hours of programming for NBC both live and in-studio. It’s created stars like Rebecca Lowe and the Men in Blazers that NBC Sports didn’t have outside of its football coverage. For an up-and-coming network like NBCSN, that value is priceless. NBCSN doesn’t have Sunday Night or Notre Dame football, and the Olympics is only once every four years. Expansive NHL coverage is nice, but it doesn’t do much on its own, especially given that NBCSN doesn’t have much NHL content that isn’t live. The Premier League has become the face of NBCSN, helping the network to avoid turning to desperate tactics like trying to recreate programming on other networks.
Leicester City is an exclamation mark on the huge success that the Premier League has had for NBC Sports and that success is only going to continue.