Manchester City v Liverpool short of global appeal but Premier League still wins | premier league

Jhe American network has encouraged its Twitter audience to engage on the subject of Manchester City v Liverpool. The cable channel, whose tagline is ‘here for the characters’, will air the top-flight Premier League clash on Sunday morning, US time, and it has issued a call for gifs of characters ‘fierce enough to compete on the pitch in such an iconic game”.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a channel that airs much of reality TV, the witty answers weren’t too forthcoming. There were only eight responses in total, and five of those came from accounts on other channels owned by NBC, which owns the rights to the Premier League action.

“Peacock” suggested Ron Swanson, of Parks and recreation, would make a “perfect uncompromising defender”. ‘SyFy’ named the hunky Tate of monster-studded comedy Astrid and Lilly save the world. “E!” picked Paris Hilton for “galloping into our hearts and onto the pitch,” which made more sense when you learned the channel had new episodes of Paris in love every Tuesday evening.

A game effort by a number of social media managers, but perhaps the responses indicate where the big game is in terms of global interest right now. We are used to hearing that the Premier League is an international product, that it is watched in “188 of the 193 countries in the world recognized by the United Nations”.

We also know of fan clubs in places away from the Etihad and Anfield (and for those in Delhi this weekend, Manchester City’s supporters group will be watching live at the “reality-led entertainment gaming center virtual “Smaaash at the Radisson Blu). But will this game stop traffic in Mumbai? Will the match be on everyone’s lips in Guadalajara?

Pep Guardiola (right) and Jürgen Klopp have taken their teams to the top of English football. Photograph: Martin Rickett/Reuters

This is a question that is not easy to answer. The Premier League does not share international viewing figures for its matches. He prefers to talk more broadly about their reach and the cumulative viewership of over 3 billion for all games in all countries in a season.

These big figures are calculated by Nielsen, the TV audience expert, who conducts audience research for the Premier League. Approached by the Observer for an estimate of City’s likely global viewership against Liverpool, Nielsen Sport gave a slightly more down-to-earth figure. As “one of the most-watched matches in recent seasons”, it was likely to exceed 20 million live viewers across the world. That’s about five million more than the season six finale of Course of action ran on BBC1 last year.

To draw a footballing comparison, Fifa claims that the 2018 World Cup final was watched by 884 million people at home on their TV screens (with 232 million more away or online).

Another instructive comparison might be he classic. La Liga likes to say that the reach of its biggest game is around 650 million people (i.e. those who might catch some of it at any given time). Actual live viewing is closer to 100 million, still well above the total City and Liverpool are expected to reach.

Throwing a single league game against the World Cup final, the most-watched sporting game on the planet and a global event, is perhaps no contrast. El classicmeanwhile, is a match of historical significance, regardless of the position of Real Madrid and Barcelona in the standings.

The discussion of where the competition between Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp ranks in the list of major Premier League rivalries is a reminder that City v Liverpool hasn’t always been the biggest game in the English top flight, there isn’t even not five years.

Liverpool fans in a San Francisco bar watch their team in the Community Shield against Manchester City in 2019.
Liverpool fans in a San Francisco bar watch their team in the Community Shield against Manchester City in 2019. Photography: Sachin Nakrani/The Guardian

Deloitte’s authoritative money list of the biggest clubs in world football made headlines this year when it put City top of the league table, after raking in revenues that totaled 645 million euros (540 million) in the 2020-21 season. But another telling stat from the report was one that tallied up City’s social media followers, as close to a proxy for global support as is publicly available.

On Facebook and Instagram, City had 70 million followers, fewer than any other club in Tottenham’s top 10 bars. The biggest English clubs in this calculation were Chelsea and, far ahead with 130 million Facebook and Instagram followers, City neighbors and 20-time champions Manchester United.

This all brings us back (roughly) to NBC’s cross-channel promotional campaign in the Premier League. The broadcaster, which has 13 subsidiary channels but is also one of the big three traditional commercial networks in the US, recently committed £2bn to renew its Premier League rights until 2028. Perhaps needless to explain, the US broadcaster has paid the most for foreign “soccer” rights and has come after stiff competition from rivals, including Disney-owned ESPN.

So it’s no surprise to see the broadcaster using all of its channels to promote the Premier League product. But it is also true that NBC would not have committed such an amount if the investment had been defined by a single device.

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The Premier League in its entirety is the compelling product and it’s not just American broadcasters who think so. In the coming years, revenue from Premier League overseas television rights (formerly distributed free of charge) will exceed domestic revenue for the first time. Manchester City v Liverpool may not be the most watched game in world football, but the Premier League is a global hit every weekend of the season.

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