This weekend marked the start of English Premier League soccer with fans on both sides of the pond in a football frenzy. In the U.S., NBC Sports Group kicked off its exclusive coverage on Saturday with three live matches: Liverpool v Stoke City and Arsenal v Aston Villa on NBCSN, followed by Swansea City v Manchester United on NBC. The latter face-off gave NBC a .8 overnight rating, the highest ever for a Premier League opening weekend match in the U.S. Combined, the three matches averaged a .5 in the overnights for a 67% increase over last year’s three openers on ESPN and Fox Soccer. On NBC Sports Live Extra, more than 4 million minutes of action was streamed. In the UK, BT has challenged dominant football broadcaster Sky by acquiring rights to 38 live matches. In its broadcast on Saturday of Liverpool v Stoke, BT Sport averaged 447,000 viewers for a 5.1% share and peaked with 764,000 and a 7.7% share. Later in the day on Sky Sports 1, Swansea v Manchester United was seen by a peak of 3.09M viewers for a 17.4% share. Across Sky Sports 1, Sky2 and Pick TV, the game averaged 2.11M for a 12.5% share.
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