NBC is having a big summer. Between the late starting, highly rated Stanley Cup Final, to the announcement that they had acquired NASCAR starting in 2015, along with the goodwill the network has received from its promotional push for the Barclays Premier League, which debuts on Saturday, Aug. 17.
You don't often get a free chance to pick the brain of network television executives, so when I saw Jon Miller on the infield dirt of Yankee Stadium on Thursday at the announcement of the NHL's two Stadium Series events at the House That George Built on Jan. 26 and 29th in the Bronx, I jumped at it. Miller, the president of programming at NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network, mused on a bunch of different topics, including the NHL's upcoming season, the acquisition of more motorsports, and the combination of MLS and the Premier League upon the news of Clint Dempsey's move to Seattle.
I tried to ask some things that you hadn't seen the answers to before, so if you're looking for thoughts on rival networks, or basic questions on the network's EPL plans or their NHL broadcasts, you can probably find the info elsewhere on this site.
Steve Lepore: With the [Stadium Series], are you worried about diluting it at all?
Jon Miller: On the contrary. We think, the way it's set up, it's going to be perfect. We think it lays out well, the strategy of doing two games here at Yankee Stadium, having a game in L.A. Saturday night preceding it, gives us a promotional platform. But nobody promotes the way the Yankees do, and the combination of that along with the NHL marketing machine, I think it's going to be great.
SL: With the NHL season coming up, do you have to sort level off your expectations a little bit for a longer season, whereas, last year you came right out of the gate after football was done?
JM: I think clearly it's going to be an adjustment that we're going to have to make, and it'll be incumbent on us to make sure that we do everything we can coming out of the blocks to make sure. We have a great schedule. Wednesday Night Rivalry -- last year, I think we had 12 or 13 rivalry games, now we have 24. The NHL and their scheduling folks worked really well with us to help build a major, major night, and that's huge. I think that we're cognizant of it, but we're going to work hard to make sure there's no falloff.
SL: And with an Olympic year ...
JM: The Olympic year's gonna' be great. Having the NHL players at the Olympics is going to make it a lot of fun, and we have a couple of things we're going to announce in the next few weeks that are really going to build on that as well, which are going to help make the season bigger and better than ever before.
SL: You still planning to do [Hockey Day in America]?
JM: Oh, sure. Hockey Day in America will follow the Olympics, which is good, and we've got the other outdoor games, and big plans, so we'll take advantage of all of that.
SL: You've got the Premier League coming up in 10 days ...
JM: Cannot wait, counting the days down.
SL: For NBCSN, the games are more about volume, is there any plan to sort of make the NBC game each week stand out?
JM: Sure. We've got a 21-game schedule right now on NBC. We start with Manchester United in the opening game next Saturday. Because of the way the schedule laid out from the Premier League, we have unbelievable, marquee matchups every weekend for the first month. For the first time ever, every game is going to be available to every Premier League fan which, if you're a Premier League fan is going to be heaven.
We think it's coming out of the box really well. Our promotion and marketing has been well received. Obviously, the billboard in Times Square with Gareth Bale was huge, and then the video with Jason Sudeikis, or Coach Lasso I should say, has gotten close to three million views. All of that stuff has been pretty good for us.
SL: Does Clint Dempsey coming over to MLS maybe help cross-promote Premier League and MLS?
JM: I think the MLS guys have done a great job. I think the acquisition of Clint Dempsey for Seattle was really, really smart. Don Garber and his team, really, are making all the right moves, and growing the sport the right way, and we're excited. The idea that you've got Clint Dempsey in Seattle, the idea that you're going to have a new team in New York City, affiliated with Manchester City. The fact that you're going to have a new stadium in Washington, D.C. for D.C. United -- these are all the move that a burgeoning league needs to do, and they're doing it really well.
SL: You do the MLS Breakaway [a league-wide, whip-around show that has aired twice on NBCSN] show, have you thought about doing that for other sports?
JM: You know, that's something that down the road, we make look into doing for the Premier League. It's fun to do, the fact that we have such a huge volume of games with the Premier League makes it something fun to take a look at.
SL: Finally, how big an acquisition was NASCAR?
JM: Huge, for us. We had NASCAR for six years (2001-2006), we had a great relationship with it. Bringing it back is a big acquisition for us. We have 20 Sprint Cup races, we have 19 Nationwide [series] races. Our guys are excited, a lot of the production team that we had is still in place, and we're gonna' make a big deal out of it. NBC's going to be a big part of that as well as NBC Sports Network, but we're uniquely positioned to bring all these different things together.