October 7th, 1777 is one of the most important dates in the history of Western Civilization.
That day ended the Battle of Saratoga; a victory for the American Colonies over General Burgoyne and the British Empire. This battle decisively turned the war in favor of the Americans, aided by the French, for good. From that day forward, Britain would inevitably lose the war.
Years from now, when assessing the history of broadcast television, we may deem August 17th, 2013 the Battle of Saratoga of sports media. Certainly for television sports media, as we’ll see both the launch of Fox Sports 1 and the beginning of NBC Sports English Premier League coverage. The former is obviously the more important of the two events, so Fox Sports 1 is the American rebellion. The latter is less important, so NBC would be the French in this case.
However, I’ll explain later just how huge it is that NBC is bringing Premier League to the United States. Obviously, ESPN is Great Britain in this analogy. I guess CBS would be the Hessians and Turner Sports the Native Americans in this conflict.
Just like Britain still retained their empire after General Cornwallis fell at Yorktown in 1781, though England lost the American colonies, ESPN will retain it’s dominance when Fox Sports 1 launches. At least for awhile.
Right now, ESPN is to sports media what Google is to search engines. They’ve ruled the world for three decades now, and this will be their first true challenge.
However, next Saturday both Fox and Sports Execs are sending a message that says "I'm going to man up, just watch me go. Time to stand up and steal the show!" (CC The Book of Mormon)
Their on-air talent roster includes Bears legend Brian Urlacher, Blackhawks icon Chris Chelios, Michelle Kwan, Julie Stewart-Binks, Picabo Street, and Charissa Thompson. Also, Regis Philbin, for whatever reason that is.
Because any time you can look at pictures and photos of Alex Morgan, you don't pass up the opportunity.
NASCAR has some of its package with Fox right now, the rest with ESPN. The ESPN holdings have just been sold to NBC Sports, who have proudly proclaimed “hey, we’re getting in the game now too!”
They’re putting their chips in. And on August 17th, NBC begins their ambitious and comprehensive Premier League coverage. NBC Sports Group will make available in the United States all 380 games from the Premier League. That’s more than anywhere else on the globe (including the U.K.). They’ve been running this witty promo with Saturday Night Live’s Jason Sudeikis. And as lead announcer Arlo White pointed out, NBC Sports will have the attraction of Manchester United going for them now.
United is by far the world’s most popular sports team. Some outlets estimate their fanbase as being approximately 353 million fans. However, The Guardian newspaper places it around 670 million fans. Manchester United certainly has the most Facebook fans with 27 million. The Dallas Cowboys have 5 million; tops in the NFL. With the Man U fanatics, NBC has a built-in audience which is as loyal as a television executive could ask for. Automatic viewership for EPL provides a springboard to bigger things. NBC could be a legitimate #3 in a race that has been ESPN #1, #2 and #3 for way too long.
So Premier League might eclipse the NFL as the most popular sports league in the world; it just depends on what metric you’re using. Brits love their football just like America loves its football. However, the rest of the world loves futbol; and calls our football “the game of the empire” or “futbol imperialismo.” Even if EPL is more popular than the NFL, the American establishment game is nearly twice as profitable. According to AskMen.com, EPL turns a profit of $513 million, while the NFL had $984 million. It's nearly double. But the Peacock will now have their fingers in both of the world's favorite sports leagues.
Fox Sports 1 has to be given the edge over NBC Sports Network for second. However, NBCSN has the English Premier League coming later this month along with Formula 1 obtained this year in addition to the NHL, IndyCar and the Olympics. Of course, NASCAR is speeding towards NBCSN in 2015.
Three sports properties will be up for bid, MLS, the NBA and the Big Ten between now and 2017. ESPN and NBC currently hold MLS, ESPN and Turner have the NBA and ESPN/ABC and CBS have the Big Ten contracts in football and basketball. With three active bidders for each property, the three leagues can expect huge windfalls if the new contract for NASCAR is any indication.
And that's how the war will be decided. Whichever of the three players gets the most valuable of those league broadcast properties. Of course, obtaining those will be quite expensive, so they'll have to find enough lucrative sponsorships to make it profitable.
Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net, a Fox Sports affiliate. He is also an analyst for 95.7 The Fan, and writes on Chicago sports media for Chicago Now. President Obama follows his Twitter account (@paulmbanks)
Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.