LONDON: The voice of Peter Drury has been synonymous with the Premier League for over 20 years. Beginning his first season as NBC’s play-by-play announcer, his new bosses made one thing clear — don’t change style.
“That’s a very strong message I’m getting,” Drury said as he prepared for the opening weekend of the Games. “I don’t necessarily think I speak to a different audience than I have over the years. My job is simply to tell the story of the game. That doesn’t change whether I’m in the UK or America or anywhere else in the world.
“It’s very clear that the American audience doesn’t want a condescending Englishman to belittle him or her because he or she assumes the game needs to be explained to them. The relationship has gone far beyond that.”
Drury takes over for Arlo White, who has been calling NBC’s coverage of England’s top flight football league since acquiring the rights in 2013. White is the main announcer for the LIV Golf Series and announces some games for the Chicago Fire in Major League Soccer.
While casual observers may not know Drury, he is well known to die-hard fans. He has been listing the top Premier League games since 1998, most recently in the league’s World Feed. Drury was also the main announcer for CBS Sports’ coverage of the Champions League.
Pierre Moossa, the coordinating producer of NBC’s Premier League coverage, described Drury as an incredible wordsmith who can teach audiences to appreciate and understand what’s going on during the game.
“He has such a warm, welcoming and inclusive voice and way of storytelling that I think people are going to really enjoy it, especially in the wee hours,” Moossa said.
Drury will team with Lee Dixon and Graeme Le Saux for three games in the opening weekend. They will broadcast Friday’s opening game between Crystal Palace and Arsenal on USA Network, Everton host Chelsea on Saturday (also in the US) and Sunday’s game between holders Manchester City and West Ham streamed on Peacock.
NBC will not be broadcasting any games this weekend as they cover the Women’s British Open. Their first game comes on August 13 when Brentford host Manchester United.
Most weeks, the US has at least four games, with one on NBC and the rest on Peacock only.
It’s also a milestone season for NBC as it begins its 10th season with the Premier League. NBC last November agreed to a six-year extension of the broadcast rights. The deal is valued at an average of $450 million per season, well above the three-year $250 million deal signed in 2012. The previous six-year deal, which began in 2016, was valued at $1.1 billion, averaging $183.3 million per season.
Last year’s games averaged 507,000 viewers per televised game slot on NBC, USA, CNBC and NBCSN, the second highest average for the US Premier League. A record 12 games averaged at least 1 million viewers.
Studio host Rebecca Lowe said the biggest difference she’s seen is that soccer no longer feels like a niche sport in the US.
“It’s mainstream now. We’ve all known for many, many decades that America says football is coming, football is coming. Football is here now,” said Lowe. “When I moved in 2013, I might have seen a football shirt or two in a park or airport. Now I would say that in my daily life here in Northern California I see Premier League jerseys on a daily basis. A Man City fan just walked into the Starbucks where I’m sitting. It happens all the time.”
Former US national team goalkeeper and NBC analyst Tim Howard, who played for Manchester United and Everton, pointed out that football is consumed differently than in other countries.
“So like we’re learning about the game at NBC now, we teach the game, we show the game, but before that I had friends in the NBA and I still have, and friends in the NFL, they play a video game and they jump up a plane in the off-season and go to Chelsea to watch football games,” he said. “When we look at our coverage, people get up at any time of the day to watch us. It’s become our thing. It’s very American and we’re doing it the right way.”