Sports 8 of 10 Premier League matches this weekend streamed in US
Unchanged Real Madrid begins title defence in Spanish league
MADRID — Real Madrid is keeping most of the same players to try to win back-to-back Spanish leagues for the first time in more than a decade. Madrid begins its title defence on Sunday at Real Sociedad with practically the same squad that a few months ago lifted its first league trophy in three years. It hasn’t won consecutive leagues since 2007-08 as Barcelona has dominated domestically. The Catalan rival won eight leagues since Madrid’s last double, including three in a row from 2009-11. Barcelona won two in a row in 2015-16 and 2018-19. Madrid’s other titles in the last decade came in 2012 and 2017.
NEW YORK — NBC moved eight of this weekend’s 10 Premier League matches to its online streaming service Peacock behind a pay wall because it wanted to broadcast golf's U.S. Open and the Tour de France on its television networks.
NBC took over Premier League U.S. broadcasts from Fox starting with the 2013-14 season and on typical weekends in recent seasons had two Saturday matches on NBCSN followed by a late game on NBC, and several Sunday matches on NBCSN.
8 of 10 Premier League matches this weekend streamed in US
NEW YORK — NBC moved eight of this weekend’s 10 Premier League matches to its online streaming service Peacock behind a pay wall because it wanted to broadcast golf's U.S. Open and the Tour de France on its television networks. NBC took over Premier League U.S. broadcasts from Fox starting with the 2013-14 season and on typical weekends in recent seasons had two Saturday matches on NBCSN followed by a late game on NBC, and several Sunday matches on NBCSN. But there will be just two televised matches this weekend, Manchester United vs. Crystal Palace on NBCSN at 3 p.m. EDT Saturday and Chelsea vs. Liverpool on USA at 11:30 a.m. EDT Sunday.
But there will be just two televised matches this weekend, Arsenal vs. West Ham on NBCSN at 3 p.m. EDT Saturday and Leicester vs. Burnley on NBCSN at 2 p.m. Sunday. Manchester United- vs. Crystal Palace and Chelsea vs. Liverpool were originally announced for television, then were moved to Peacock.
Rick Cordella, Peacock’s executive vice-president and chief revenue officer, said a goal was for “people to download, register and use the new service.”
But a change in the distribution of kickoff times also is a factor, and Cordelia said the emphasis on streaming this weekend is an anomaly. The Premier League continues to play in empty grounds because of the novel coronavirus, and all September games are being televised live in Britain. The usual blackout of 3 p.m. matches (10 a.m. EDT) does not apply, and fewer games are being scheduled for the traditional 3 p.m. kickoff time.
Real Madrid starts title defence with draw at Real Sociedad
MADRID — Real Madrid opened its Spanish league title defence with a lacklustre 0-0 draw at Real Sociedad on Sunday. With a squad mostly unchanged from last season, Madrid looked out of rhythm and couldn't get more than a point at the Basque Country's Reale Arena. Zinedine Zidane's team struggled in attack and needed a good performance by goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to salvage the draw. Madrid had won 10 of its last 11 league matches last season to clinch its first title in three years. It is trying to lift back-to-back league trophies for the first time since 2007-08.
The Tour de France fills the 7:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. EDT Saturday slots on NBCSN and the golf overlaps the 12:30 p.m. NBC slot. Sunday’s 7 and 9 a.m. slots on NBCSN are taken by motor racing from San Marino followed by the Tour de France.
NBC averaged 462,000 viewers for English-language televised EPL matches last season, up 1% from 457,000 in 2019-20 and its highest figure since 2015-16. That is by far the highest European domestic league viewership in the U.S., driven partly by NBC’s studio shows and promotion.
Peacock, which launched its live sports coverage in June, is likely to get only a fraction of the audience for its matches.
NBC originally aired additional matches on cable overflow channels, available at no additional cost to those already receiving NBCSN on cable. It shifted them behind a pay wall to NBC Sports Gold for the 2017-18 season, and last year they cost $39.99 for a Premier League MatchDay Pass that gave access to 140 live matches or $64.99 for the Premier League Pass that included replays and additional programming.
EPL warns of devastating effect of delay reopening stadiums
LONDON — The English Premier League warned of the devastating financial impact on clubs as supporters faced being locked out of games for another six months after new pandemic restrictions were imposed by the government on Tuesday. Prime Minister Boris Johnson put on hold plans to allow the phased return of spectators into sporting venues in England from Oct. 1 because of a spike in coronavirus cases. “We are disappointed that the safe return of supporters to matches has been postponed,” the Premier League said in a statement. Pilot test events have been held across sports venues with capacity restricted at 1,000.
Those matches shifted to Peacock for this season.
“I think whenever you have someone to pay more money, we suspect it’s probably not going to reach the same amount of people as a NBC broadcast,” Cordella said. “As the media world continues to evolve, I think every media company is trying to figure out how do we change our mix up from just broadcast and pay TV and include a direct-to-consumer service, and NBC Universal is no different.”
ESPN takes over the Bundesliga this season after five seasons on Fox, which averaged 57,500 for 187 telecasts on FS1 and FS2 last season before the disruption of the novel coronavirus. ESPN plans to televise only four-to-eight Bundesliga matches on its networks this season, mainly to drive awareness, with the overwhelming majority streaming on ESPN+.
“The idea here is to make sure that soccer fans and sports fans understand that the Bundesliga’s home in the US is ESPN+ both in English and Spanish,” said Scott Guglielmino, ESPNs senior vice-president of programming.
ESPN+ replaced BeIN Sport as the primary U.S. outlet for Italy’s Serie A starting in 2018-19, the same season it gained England’s FA Cup from Fox, and ESPN averaged 76,000 for 42 Serie A matches on ESPN and ESPN2 last season. ESPN+ also streams the Dutch Eredivisie and Spain’s Copa del Rey.
ESPN would not divulge specific audience figures for programming on ESPN+, but Russell Wolff, its executive vice-president and general manager, said it had 8.5 million subscribers.
“It’s certainly been a shift of moving content from one place to another,” Wolff said. “We worked hard for ours to be net, new content.”
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Ronald Blum, The Associated Press
Premier League asking for changes to football's handball law .
LONDON — The Premier League is asking football’s lawmakers to allow more flexibility and leniency for referees assessing handballs after being told by players and managers that the current regulations are too harsh. England’s top division has fielded complaints after a number of incidents in the opening rounds of the season, including that Eric Dier should not have conceded a penalty for Tottenham against Newcastle on Sunday when a ball came off his outstretched, raised arm. Despite facing away from the ball, Dier was penalized because his arm was adjudged to be in an unnatural position after jumping to challenge Andy Carroll for the ball.