Gus Johnson Fails to Give FOX Sports 1’s Soccer Ratings a Boost

With the way that FOX Sports hyped Gus Johnson, you would expect by now after one year of announcing soccer games that Gus Johnson would be generating scorching hot viewing audience numbers that would help pay for the huge salary they’re giving him. But based on recent viewing figures for the UEFA Champions League, the results have been underwhelming to say the very least.

On Friday afternoon, FOX Sports PR announced that the network posted the most-watched UEFA Champions League matches ever. Hats off to Gus Johnson and Eric Wynalda for a job well done, right? But if you didn’t read the details, you may have overlooked the fact that the 511,000 who watched Real Madrid against Bayern Munich was FOX Sports 1’s best number for the UEFA Champions League, not the best number for a UEFA Champions League game (excluding finals) on US television.

With FOX Sports 1 being in 90 million homes, you would expect the viewing figures for a game featuring Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, two of the biggest names in European soccer, to generate far greater viewing numbers than (1) UEFA Champions League games shown on FOX Soccer, which had less than half the number of subscribers that FOX Sports 1 now has, and (2) Premier League matches shown on NBCSN (NBCSN is in 13 million fewer homes than FOX Sports 1).

However, that isn’t the case.

Here are a few viewing audience figures for comparable games to put the 511,000 people into context:

• 520,000 people watched FOX Soccer‘s 2013 broadcast of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 game between Manchester United-Real Madrid. (Source)

• 592,000 watched the 2012 UEFA Champions League semi-final, first leg, between Chelsea and Barcelona on FX. (Source) (FX is in 97 million homes)

• 600,000 watched the Monday, February 3rd Premier League match between Manchester City and Chelsea on NBCSN.

To be fair, none of the above are apples to apples comparisons, but it does show that FOX Sports 1’s best viewing figure of 511,000 is disappointing given how many homes the network is in.

Looking at previous encounters between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, 308,000 people watched the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg between both teams on FOX Soccer in 2012. But given that FOX Sports 1 is in more than double the amount of homes than FOX Soccer was, last week’s 511,000 number still comes up short.

The bottom line is that viewing figures for UEFA Champions League matches on FOX Sports 1, to twist a Gus Johnson phrase, are NOT ON FIRE.

It makes you wonder what FOX Sports is thinking. By putting a self-admitted novice into the seat as FOX’s voice of soccer, the network has been on the receiving end of a tidal wave of criticism and negativity after Gus Johnson’s consistently below average calls. As a result, Gus Johnson is driving many soccer fans to seek alternative means to watch games elsewhere when Gus is behind the mic, which impacts TV ratings. And, most importantly of all for FOX, it may impact advertisers in the future who don’t want their brand associated with a broadcast that is derided so much on social media and websites.

I understand FOX’s mission to develop its own voice in the lead-up to the 2015 Women’s World Cup and through to World Cups 2018 and 2022, but the network already has several American voices under its nose that have more experience, know and love the game, and won’t damage the network’s reputation among soccer fans or its bottom line — people such as John Strong, Glenn Davis, Steve Cangialosi and Phil Schoen.

While Johnson admittedly has shown small signs of improvement this season from game to game, he’s still a weaker alternative to the world feed. Plus, Gus has been hampered by co-commentator Eric Wynalda who has been getting worse each game, and the fact that NBCSN’s coverage of the Premier League is so remarkable that it makes Johnson and FOX Sports look more inferior than ever before.

FOX Sports will be hoping for better viewing figures for today’s second leg of Bayern Munich against Real Madrid, which will be televised live on FOX Sports 1 beginning at 2pm ET (with a 2:45pm ET kickoff). Today’s announcers will be Gus Johnson and Eric Wynalda.

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