As the tagline says in comedian Jason Sudeikis' spoof of American ignorance about soccer: It's football, just not as we know it.
But a large number of Americans appear interested in watching NBC Sports' coverage of English Premier League football as demonstrated by the network's strong numbers for its opening weekend coverage.
According to NBC Sports, more than 3.4 million U.S. viewers watched its seven Premier League telecasts on Saturday and Sunday across three networks: NBC, NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and mun2.
That was the biggest audience ever here for the Premier League's opening weekend. The five English-language games on NBC and NBCSN drew a total of 3.3 million viewers, a 52% increase from the five games shown across ESPN and Fox Soccer last year, according to Nielsen Fast National Ratings ordered up by NBC.
NBC's live Saturday telecast of defending champion Manchester United's match against Swansea City averaged 792,000 viewers, making it the most-watched opening weekend match ever in the U.S. The game's 0.8 overnight rating was also the highest ever. Washington D.C. posted the highest local TV market numbers, with the game pulling a 2.2 rating in the nation's capital.
The five games on NBC and NBCSN averaged 443,000 viewers, a 78% boost from the ESPN/Fox Soccer average last year, said the network. On Wednesday afternoon, NBC continues its Premier League coverage with Chelsea-Alston Villa on NBCSN (3 p.m. ET).
Soccer is often talked of as the next big televised sport in the U.S., but it never seems to gain traction except during the Olympics and World Cup. To get U.S. viewers interested, NBC employed some clever marketing tactics.
Mr. Sudeikis' spoof of an NFL/College Football-type American coach trying to take over Tottenham Hotspur quickly became a viral hit.
NBC also wrapped New York City subway cars in the dueling colors of rival clubs Manchester United and Manchester City, and Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, to goose viewers in the Big Apple, the country's largest TV market, in to giving the Premier League a try.