The English Premier League season kicked off this weekend for its third and final season under its current rights deal.  With rights soon up for bidding for the next cycle, NBC is doing everything they can to show why they should be the favorite to maintain those rights.

The NBC family of networks added a new weekly game to cable television this year with the USA Network now joining NBCSN and airing one of the 10 AM ET games every Saturday nationally.  NBC airs every game anyways through NBC Sports Live Extra, but being on USA only adds to the reach and visibility the EPL enjoys with the peacock.

Predictably, that added exposure led to NBC’s best opening weekend ever in terms of ratings for the EPL.  But it wasn’t just the addition of the game on USA that led to the success.  Swansea-Chelsea was the network’s best opening day game on broadcast and Manchester United-Tottenham Hotspur was the highest rated game ever in the early morning 7:45 AM ET window.

Via an NBC release:

The 2015-16 Premier League season kicked off yesterday with an exciting day of matches that resulted in the best-ever overnight ratings in the U.S. for the league’s opening Saturday.

With four matches on the networks of NBCUniversal — two on NBCSN, one on NBC, and one on USA Network in its newly-added Premier League telecast window – the combined Saturday overnight rating of 2.02 is the best-ever for a Premier League opening Saturday in the U.S. The combined 2.02 overnight is up 43% from the prior record set last August (1.41 for three matches across NBCSN and NBC).

In addition:

The 12:30 p.m. ET match on NBC – a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge between champions Chelsea and Swansea City – averaged a .93 overnight to rank as the best Saturday opener ever and topped last season’s NBC opener (Arsenal/Crystal Palace) by 27%.

The 7:45 a.m. ET match on NBCSN – Manchester United’s 1-0 victory over Tottenham in the Premier League’s opening match of the season – posted NBCSN’s best-ever overnight rating in the early Saturday window (.49).

When you look back over the last 2+ years, it’s really amazing how the Premier League has grown with NBC.  Making every game available through Live Extra and giving fans consistent broadcast windows for games along with superb pre and postgame coverage has fueled its growing reputation.  The English Premier League is now one of the most watched, most followed, most popular sports leagues in America.  Imagine telling that to your rank and file American sports fan 15 or 20 years ago.

Perhaps moreso than the money they can offer, it’s that growth that is the best case NBC can make for why they should retain EPL rights moving forward.

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