NBC exec Jon Miller: ‘We have no desire to be the network of soccer’

Call NBC the network of the Premier League, not the network of soccer.
NBC Sports Group and the Premier League.

One of NBC’s prime properties is the Premier League, which the company has aired since the 2013-14 season.

But despite that long run with the Premier League, which will continue until at least the summer of 2028, NBC hasn’t seemed too keen on acquiring other soccer rights.

Per NBC exec Jon Miller, the President of Acquisitions & Partnerships at NBC Sports, that’s by design. In an article at World Soccer Talk about NBC’s Premier League rights renewal, Miller admits NBC has “no desire to be the network of soccer,” and instead wants to “be the network of the Premier League.”

“We were able to press upon the Premier League something that I’ve said since day one,” explained Miller. “We’re not the network of soccer. We have no desire to be the network of soccer. But we do want to be the network of the Premier League.”

Miller also admitted that in the fall of 2021, when bidding for the league’s rights, NBC was the high bidder in the first round, but not in either of the final two rounds.

“Oh yeah,” admitted Miller. “In the first bid, we were probably the highest bidder but not by a huge amount. But the last two bids, I do know we had people who bid more than we did.”

NBC’s winning bid was $2.7 billion over six years. A joint bid between CBS and ESPN was widely reported as the other top contender, and likely the bid that exceeded NBC’s offer.

Taking it back to Miller’s comments about not wanting to be “the network of soccer,” NBC’s decision-making in recent years clearly highlights that mentality. The company only had preliminary discussions with UEFA last summer for Champions League rights and also fell short in the fall of 2019. NBC also hasn’t been linked to the other major European domestic leagues (sensibly, due to its Premier League commitments) or either domestic English cup. Both the FA Cup and Carabao Cup are ESPN properties. NBC wasn’t a reported suitor for MLS rights either.

When it comes to international tournaments, both FIFA and UEFA have long-term deals with Fox. UEFA’s Spanish deal is with Univision, but FIFA’s is with Telemundo, allowing for simulcasts during the World Cup (with the entire 2022 tournament airing on Peacock). NBC does have access to soccer during the Olympics, but that’s a two-week tournament every four years.

The strategy makes sense for NBC. Without a proper cable sports network following the shutdown of NBCSN a year and a half ago, the company doesn’t have much linear real estate for even more live soccer (especially on weekends). It’s sensible to focus so much on the Premier League that NBC’s production and presentation of the league are considered best in class than to potentially water it, and possibly other offerings, down by adding more rights.

[World Soccer Talk]

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.