NBC Sports Reflects Lessons Learned During Project Restart for Upcoming Premier League Fixtures
The broadcaster is continuing its enhanced crowd audio, COVID-19 safety guidelines
The U.S. has celebrated the first weekend of NFL football since February, but another kind of football also occupied the minds of Americans. Fans flocked to their television sets for a full slate of Premier League fixtures on NBC Sports, and the production crew responsible for these matches is moving forward with valuable information gathered during Project Restart.
“I think it’s important to recognize the success of Project Restart both on and off the pitch,” says NBC Sports Coordinating Producer Pierre Moossa. “As we look towards the 2020-21 season, we want to build on that success and momentum.”
In June, when last year’s schedule resumed, NBC Sports decided to implement enhanced audio to all games on linear television. With stands and pitches still at zero audience, the network is committed to using fake atmospheric noise for fans watching at home.
“It’s a continuation of the production plans and workflows [from Project Restart],” notes Moossa. “Our audio offerings will include added sound effects. When technically possible, we will offer the option for natural sounds on our digital platform.”
Unlike the U.S., the UK has considered bringing fans back to stadiums later in the season. Some reports suggest a return as early as Oct. 1, but Brighton & Hove Albion participated in a pilot program that allowed roughly 2,500 supporters into their preseason friendly against Chelsea. With the prospect of fans onsite making natural noise, Moossa is more than excited to reflect their energy in the broadcast.
“Fans are such a huge part of the fabric of the Premier League,” he continues. “They are the soundtrack of a football match, so we miss their involvement in the viewing experience.”
Safe and Secure Facility: Stamford Crew To Maintain COVID-19 Guidelines
Although health and safety protocols were a new concept for the production team to deal with after the resumption of the season, the guidelines will still be in place at the Sports Production Operations Center in Stamford, CT.
“The most important lesson [that we learned] is the support from NBC’s health and safety team to be able to put us in a safe working environment and to allow us to be able to do our jobs, albeit in a different way,” says Moossa. “When you’re facing challenges, it’s awesome to see the production and technical teams rise to the occasion.”
For anyone who will be in the facility, extensive measures like one-way traffic and separate workspaces will still be enforced. To limit potential cross-contamination and to unclutter this enclosed area, Moossa and company will continue to rely on remote-production workflows from offsite locations.
“Most of us are learning new ways of working,” he adds. “Ultimately, every part of this new workflow has worked out well.”
Bird Is the Word: Network Shifts 175 Exclusive Matches to Peacock
Launched July 15, the broadcaster’s new Peacock steaming service will play a vital role in coverage of the Premier League. With Premier League Pass folded into the new platform, 175 exclusive matches and 1,500 hours of programming will be consumed this season. New to the digital outlet will be Premier League TV, a 24/7, fully dedicated channel for the most avid of fans of The Beautiful Game.
“Besides the virtual channel, there will be original, topical, and timeless content, like Premier League Review and Preview, Fan Zone, and more,” says Moossa. “[Peacock] will also be the home to all 380 on-demand matches, as well as classic matches.”
With the freedom of this new avenue for content, the production team is able to push the normal time constraints of linear television. If the subject warrants an extra minute or two, fewer commercial obligations allow more room to work with.
“When the match is over,” he explains, “there’s no time constraint for getting off the air. If necessary, Goal Zone can go over the allotted time, especially if there’s breaking news or something we want to get into.”
New Face, Familiar Place: Tim Howard Returns in Full-Time Broadcasting Role
Coming into this season, Premier League Mornings will look a little different. With the departure of Kyle Martino, Tim Howard will join the broadcasting ranks on a full-time basis.
“I got my start in television [at NBC Sports] ,” he says, “so I share in the excitement and am delighted to be back here.“
The former goalkeeper for the U.S. Men’s National Team and Everton made his debut on the network in 2013 during a call of Manchester United–Chelsea. Now that he has officially hung up the boots, the production team is looking forward to spicing up the pre/postgame and halftime coverage with his playing expertise.
“He will be able to explain to us whether or not a goalkeeper really is at fault [for a mistake],” says host Rebecca Lowe. “We all have our own opinions, but we’ve never stood between the sticks. To have that chance to find out once and for all whether conceding a goal to the near post from 20 yards out is actually a terrible error is the perspective I think viewers haven’t had and you can’t have unless you have a top-of-the-line former keeper in the studio.”
To round out the Premier League Mornings team, Lowe and Howard will be joined by the Robbies: Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle. In the UK, play-by-play announcer Arlo White and analysts Lee Dixon and Graeme Le Saux will call the action from the gantry.
Week 2 of NBC Sports’ coverage of the Premier League begins with Everton vs. West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, Sept. 19 at 7:30 a.m. ET on Peacock.