As a girl in west London, Rebecca Lowe simply aspired to be like her mother, Judith, and become an actor. So how in the world did Lowe end up as a sports broadcaster on a US television network, with a weekly commute across America?
“I have loved football since I was very, very small, and my dad used to take me to games,” she told the Guardian recently. “That’s what comes from my dad.”
Her father is Chris Lowe, a longtime BBC News presenter before he retired in 2009. So when she wound up landing a job in 2013 as host of NBC Sports’ Premier League coverage, she was following in her family’s broadcasting tradition.
She has been married for nearly four years to Paul Buckle, an English former player and manager who is now the coach of the Sacramento Republic, a club in the second-tier United Soccer League. They have a son, Edward Christopher, or Teddy.
So now Lowe flies from her home near Lake Tahoe to the NBC studio in Stamford, Connecticut, where she anchors NBC’s live pre-game, half-time and post-game coverage, most of it in the mornings because of the time difference.
Her English accent adds authenticity to NBC’s coverage, but she says she is just trying to be herself – neither playing up her nationality nor playing it down. “There’s enough to deal with from changing from British TV to American TV,” she says. “We’re not trying to be something we’re not.”
The Premier League, of course has less of a tradition in the US than it does in England, but she says: “We can teach without being patronizing. I’m pretty proud of what we’ve done. We feel, at this moment, like we’re getting the balance right.”
Lowe has earned high marks for her approach to the job. She signed a six-year contract extension with NBC last year that will keep her in her current job until 2022. She has also been an NBC presenter at the 2014 and 2016 Olympics, and she will participate again in 2018, 2020 and 2022. She says she likes the Olympics because it is different, more mainstream.
But she is still very much the network’s face of the Premier League. Asked if she felt like she was a de facto ambassador for English football in the US, she laughs and says: “The Premier League is the product. It sells itself. It represents itself so naturally. I’m just a messenger.”
This is not Lowe’s first go-round in America. During her gap year between Notting Hill & Ealing High School and the University of East Anglia, she studied at the Mercersburg Academy, in south-central Pennsylvania.
“I’m not a trekker, not a backpacker,” she says.
But she already was a football fan. Her dad was a longtime supporter of Crystal Palace, and he’d often take Rebecca and her brother, Alex, who is now a sports reporter for the Times of London.
But Lowe did not really know she wanted to try becoming a broadcaster until 2002, when she decided to fill out an application for the BBC’s talent search for a new football reporter after graduating. She chose not to reveal then that her father was a BBC news presenter.
“I didn’t know if it would be a good thing or a bad thing,” she says.
After she beat about 650 other applicants to win the search, she recalls a BBC employee referring to her father’s connection with the network and saying: “Thank God you didn’t tell us that. They were actually kind of glad I didn’t tell them.”
She was a football reporter for the BBC for five years, filing reports and features. She was one of three network reporters at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. After two years in a similar role at Setanta Sports, she joined ESPN UK in 2009, hosting that network’s Premier League coverage from England.
When her contract with ESPN UK ran out in 2013, Lowe was not sure she wanted to continue in broadcasting. She says: “I was finding out that I wasn’t really enjoying it as much as I wanted to.”
NBC Sports had announced in late 2012 that it had signed a three-year, $250m deal to televise Premier League games in English and Spanish beginning in the 2013-4 season. The network needed talent. Lowe’s agent called her. NBC had something for her.
he and her husband had only got married in June 2013, with the NBC job requiring them to move to the United States. Her husband stepped down as the manager of Luton Town and, Lowe says, “was forced to start again from scratch.” He became the technical director at the Metropolitan Oval soccer academy in Queens, New York.
Later, Buckle returned to England to coach Cheltenham Town, but his stay was brief and unsuccessful, so he returned to the US. He was hired in Sacramento in July 2015, when Rebecca was expecting Teddy.
One weekend every Premier League season, she does get to return to England for professional reasons, playing host to a version of the US broadcast, only from the side of the pitch, similar to NBC’s NFL telecasts late in the season. This year’s shows were televised from White Hart Lane, Old Trafford and the Riverside.
The Manchester United-Chelsea match, with an 11am ET kickoff, drew nearly a million viewers in the US. Through 26 April, six matches televised by NBC have drawn at least a million viewers. NBC Sports has televised 16 of the top 20 matches aired live in the United States.
She is happy, at least for now. Lowe says: “I’m a real planner. My husband tells me to stop looking too far in the future.”
But she has a general idea of what she might like to do some day: host a morning show. She likes to interview people, and the wider variety of people, the better. She says, laughing: “There are a lot of people who like hearing about the prime minister and chicken pot pie, back to back.”
The Guardian Sport