Would an 'NFL Redzone' type programme work as a format in the Premier League?

Would a Premier League equivalent of RedZone work?
Would a Premier League equivalent of RedZone work?

The NFL season is back and with it so too is the ever-popular Redzone programme that hits our screens every Sunday.

"Every touchdown from every game" is proudly declared as the show guides viewers through the big events involving every single game.

The format is simple. Rather than broadcast just one game, the programme jumps between various games when a scoring play is about to happen. It's where it derives its name from - the scoring area of the pitch.

Coverage starts five minutes before the 'early' games in the day and finishes shortly after the 'late' fixtures have reached their conclusion.

It's an easy sell. Watch all the things you want to see without having to wait around for it to happen.

It appeals to fans and non-fans alike. For fans, it's a great way of keeping track of all the action from across the league and for those not into the sport it still provides entertainment without the delays in between.

I fall into the latter of the two categories. I have nothing against American Football and the NFL, there's always a willingness to try and get involved in it, but it's just too stop-start for my liking.

The average NFL game is said to take three hours and 12 minutes to complete. However, while the game clock is a total of one hour, it's estimated that the ball is in play for just eleven minutes.

It's like the theme park's latest attraction. The rollercoaster everyone wants to go on. It's great when you're on, but the two-hour queue beforehand is enough to put people off waiting.

It's why RedZone is perfect to cut all that out. There's enough games going on at once to pick out action from somewhere - while they remain at games close on the scoreboard with moments remaining.

Scott Hanson is the face of NFL Redzone
Scott Hanson is the face of NFL RedZone

It got me thinking about what else this type of format could do. There's no denying the entertainment it brings, but would we be able to bring that across to football?

The main criticism of RedZone seems to be that it takes away from the original full coverage of a game. There's also those that say that you won't be able to see good defensive plays in other areas of the pitch.

With football though, the big issue would be that of timing. The NFL provides the stoppages to allow coverage to begin at that game. An attacking team setting up ten yards away from the opposition line? There's a good chance of scoring there.

You wouldn't be able to hit that same level in the Premier League. You could cut between teams on the attack, those in advanced positions on the pitch, but then a show intent on bringing all ten games on one screen will end up showing Manchester City for 85 minutes in some cases.

There is always the possibility from set-piece situations. A team with a free-kick in a dangerous position would be an attack worth following, the same could also be said if someone has seen a succession of corners.

Even then you're not going to hit the same amount of goals scored as touchdowns shown.

USA Today revealed that an episode of RedZone in 2013 showed 36 of the 60 touchdowns scored on a Sunday. In the Premier League, a team can expect to score from less than 5% of the corners they'll take all season.

There is a case for penalties though. An average of 2.7 penalties were awarded each game week in the Premier League during the 2019/20 campaign - that'll provide an opportunity to cut across for coverage.

One of the many touchdowns shown on Redzone
One of the many touchdowns shown on RedZone

Of course there is similar in this country already with Soccer Special showing live goals from the Sky Bet Championship in their midweek programmes.

The problem with that is, while it's a great programme to watch, the frequency of serious action actually happening during the live broadcast segments is quite low.

It's almost surprise as much as excitement when they actually have a goal during these sections. Often the coverage there is to accompany the reporter providing their latest update from the game.

BT Sport also tried similar with their Champions League coverage. A screen showing all games was available with a game with a goal becoming the preferred coverage.

That was delayed though and a live goal was a rarity. The box flashing in the bottom corner for potentially a few minutes before actually crossing and seeing the incident that had happened.

It's not massively comparable to RedZone though. Both shows provide updates but the NFL version has a huge edge in live action entertainment.

Another issue with a Premier League version would be the timing of fixtures. There's never enough games on at once to make a big enough programme out of it, although that could change with recent broadcasting deals.

The main area where this type of concept could work would be with Amazon Prime's recent acquisition of two rounds of fixtures - with the streaming giant holding exclusive rights.

One of those rounds includes the Merseyside Derby at Anfield, while the other will see the Boxing Day fixtures available to watch online.

With the majority of fixtures happening on one day, and if the future truly is with streaming companies as opposed to traditional broadcasters, then maybe this type of show does have a future in the Premier League.

Fixture timing is a key part though. The NFL seeing near all 32 teams playing on one day creates the content to watch.

With the Premier League possessing just the 20 teams, the need for a well-organised fixture schedule to compact the games into one time slot becomes almost imperative.

That's not necessarily a bad thing though. It creates consistency for supporters, a regular slot to expect to watch your team with Saturday 3pm becoming increasingly a rare treat, while there is also an argument to say it'll support the English teams' chances in European competition.

The ability to watch all of the fixtures at once, as opposed to being spread across the course of a weekend, is seemingly an inevitable outcome as modern media adapts to a greater online presence.

This is where there is the potential. All games happening simultaneously, to go where the action is, where the entertainment is, and avoid the many dull moments as Burnley play out a 0-0 draw with West Ham at Turf Moor.

Manchester City celebrate Kevin de Bruyne's early strike against Burnley
Would a Premier League equivalent of RedZone be popular in the UK?

Is a Premier League equivalent of RedZone a plausible concept? Absolutely. Is it likely to be a regular feature in the near future? Well that's unclear.

There is always the problem of the nature of the game and the opportunity to cut across for action. It's clear when we're likely to see points scored in the NFL but the same can't be said for the Premier League.

That said, there were reports in the summer of DAZN's interest in creating a similar type of programme for the NHL in a couple of years' time.

Ice hockey is considered the fastest team sport on the planet. A game that goes from one end to the other in a matter of seconds with an average of 60 shots taken per game.

If there is a belief that a show can be created where the goals are shown in that sport then it's surely a possibility in the Premier League - a game which provides crucial extra seconds in the build-up to an attack.

There would have to be change in numerous areas to make a 'Premier League RedZone' a reality. Fixtures would all have to move onto one day and they would also have to kick-off at fairly similar times.

That's not an unrealistic ask though, albeit it's an unlikely outcome at this current point with numerous broadcasting deals in place.

With the popularity of American sports increasing in the UK there may well be that demand to consume games in this manner in the future.

The NFL estimated its fan base in the UK to be around 13 million in late 2018, of which the Los Angeles Times quotes Mark Waller, the NFL's executive vice president of international, as saying that four million are "avid, dedicated fans who watch regularly, have a favourite team and a passion for the sport."

With near 20% of the population holding an interest in the sport, while 6% are "avid", it could be a case of our sports media shifting to a more 'American type' model.

We could even see an NFL franchise based in the UK soon. It's 7/1 on a UK-based franchise being announced before January 1st 2021 - such is the level of popularity now. Sky Bet fancy the London Jaguars at a price of 6/4, although the 12/1 London Bulldogs catch my eye as a stereotypical British name.

In the short term though, if we were to see a more American approach in the way we enjoy the Premier League, a RedZone type programme should be near the top of the demands list.


Odds correct at 1500 BST (09/09/19)

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