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.

55 thoughts on “Gus Johnson Fails to Give FOX Sports 1’s Soccer Ratings a Boost”

  1. Hey Gaffer:

    Press me before you watch the match if you can’t stand Gus or Eric W.


    Your TV’s mute button.

  2. I’m shocked! Are you saying that a bunch of people who don’t watch Soccer end up not watching Soccer just to hear Gus Johnson’s voice?

    1. Not sure if that was tongue-in-cheek, but I will say that is why NBC is doing it right. They are using announcers from the U.K., and apparently we are just eating it up.

  3. Love him on basketball and American football. But on soccer, this is an unmitigated disaster. Thank god Fox Soccer 2 Go has the world feed, and not him.

  4. Stone confirmed on twitter that if Adam Silver’s press conference runs long, the game will start on FS2 today.

    So we’re spared the studio show.

    Considering Adam Silver was a 30 minutes late for Sunday’s presser, you can bet the entire 1st half will be on FS2

  5. Never mind my previous post.

    Boy, I’d love to see what happens at 2:45 if Silver is still not there yet or is still explaining things.

  6. Why would someone watch or not watch based on who is commentating?

    Gaffer, who do you have a personal vendetta against this dude? Has he wronged you in the past?

    Sure, he sucks, but so does Tim Howard on NBC and no one says anything about him. Because ultimately who cares? The best commentators are the ones you dont even notice.

    1. I agree with you that some of the best commentators are the ones you don’t even notice. With Johnson, it’s incredibly difficult to listen and enjoy the game because he often says something incorrect and shows an obvious lack of understanding of the game.

      I’m sticking up for soccer fans who want the best experience when watching games.

    2. The big difference between Gus Johnson and Tim Howard is that Howard knows the game and actually I think he did a good job with Steve Bower.

      1. I actually dont mind tim howard for the most part. Hes definitely got potential as a colour commentator, although he does make rookie errors from time to time.

  7. Having someone this bad detracts from the viewing experience and spare me te mute button argument.. This attempt to Americanize a European tournament has failed miserably.

    These guys are way out of their depth and this wait and he will get better attitude from Fox is insulting to fans. This is te most skilled football tournament on the planet an Eric Shanks is using this as a training lesson for a World Cup that’s years away.

    Make him your American voice .. Plug him in on MLS games but keep him away from the best tournament in the world.

    Eric Shanks it’s time to swallow your pride and admit your decision has not worked out. Do it now before the advertisers start dropping off your sub par product. You can still salvage the final. If not, a lot of people are getting real comfortable with the “alternative methods”


  8. NBC sports pr says the Chelsea-Liverpool game got 940k viewers … For a pre 10am game ET.. Tells you Fox is not doing something right if they can’t get similar numbers for a Real-Bayern matchup.


  9. Too bad we can’t determine how many of the 511,000 watched the game on MUTE.

    I keep the sound on. But that’s because Johnson and Wynalda are so laughably horrible, it’s almost entertaining. Maybe a bit masochistic, I know.

  10. Want to know a good reason Champions League live broadcast numbers are lower? Most of us working Americans are not home yet. 3 pm kickoff on the east coast is too early for me. Thats 2 in CT, 12 PT. If we are at work (most of us at least), we are not tuning into the game.

    1. …which is why I included a Premier League match on a Monday afternoon as a comparison, which still had a greater viewing audience than FOX’s Champions League game.

  11. Johnson’s commentary is atrocious. Wynalda is a clown. I ditched over to Fox Deportes for the Spanish commentary. Johnson is unbearable. “He dishes it off”….really?

    How the suits at Fox have overlooked the huge success of Ian Darke at ESPN and the smart NBC decision to have British commentators only escapes me.

    The audience does not need to be reminded what minute the game is in every 5 minutes. The clock is ON THE SCREEN.

    We also don’t need to be reminded that Real Madrid play in all white when at home.

    The whole thing is insulting on so many levels.

    Fox Fail

  12. Dark days ahead when Fox takes over the World Cup broadcasts. Maybe for the second commentary team they can get Jerry Remy and Dick Vitale.

    1. Dick Vitale. Please make it happen. Purecomedic gold (until i throw the remote thru the tv after 10 minutes)

    2. “Dark days ahead when Fox takes over the World Cup broadcasts.”

      Well, yes and no. I’ll do what I did in the past when ESPN and ABC were horrible (pre 2010) watch it on Univision. I understand some Spanish but don’t really need to listen to commentary. When attending a live game, their is no announcers or commentary, just watching the game is all one needs.

  13. I just hope Fox realizes Johnson has been a huge failure and this amateur hour experiment needs to end. I think its safe to assume Johnson will be in the booth for the Champions League final. Hopefully that match will be two finals in one; end of Johnson and end of Champions League season.

  14. Excellent. Hopefully these disappointing numbers will see fox give up on the champions league and hand it over to NBC or ESPN. Then I can start watching again.

  15. To be honest the English clubs drive viewing figures for the UCL globally. Just proves while Real Madrid have great brand awareness English teams are the still the most popular in the world.

  16. It would be great if Fox’s #1 soccer announcer actually had such a love for the sport that he has a foundation of knowledge to draw upon, with which to embellish his commentary. Historical perspective, a knowledge of the culture, the rivalries, players from yesteryear, pivotal events, and all the little things in between that let the audience know that he has the depth of understanding required to instill confidence in him as am announcer. But he doesn’t have any of that. I don’t want Martin Tyler announcing Red Sox games. I do NOT want Gus Johnson anywhere near a football pitch ever again.

    1. Anytime I hear Gus Johnson, it is a sigh of disappointment. His play-by-play style is such that I expect to hear “2 balls and one strike …” at any moment.

      Here’s a more fundamental question: What problem was Fox trying to solve by removing the original feed commentary and inserting their own crew in the mix? Saving Money?!!! Were viewers demanding baseball style commentary from the UEFA soccer matches? Does anyone know?

      1. They’re trying to Americanize the coverage of the sport and believe that having American voices announcing the game will translate into greater advertising revenue as a result of greater TV ratings.

  17. You mean a horrendous broadcaster has not improved Fox’s soccer rating? Why I tell I am shocked, shocked I tell you :).

  18. I know I’m starting to sound like a fan boy, but if Fox would just use John Strong all this commentary would disappear, providing they didn’t saddle him with an idiot color man.

    Americans don’t have a problem with American commentators doing European soccer/football. We have a problem with incompetent Americans doing it.

    There is a world of difference there that Fox just doesn’t get or care about.

    1. Well, Fox has a well established history of not respecting it’s audience. From the glowing puck when they had the NHL to sticking with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, to this Gus Johnson fiasco. It’s just what Fox does.

      I do want to mention that nobody seems to have any ill will towards Johnson, the guy is very likable, actually. But he’s simply not suited to do this MASSIVE job. He is clearly out of his element! If he’s been holed up and studying the sport for the last year in preparation for the last three matches of the Champion’s League, he simply cannot fall back on basketball terminology when calling a football match. But it’s much more than that. When Real were setting up a wall for a Bayern free kick, the camera closed in on the Madrid players. A good time for Johnson to prove that he knows who those players were- “Ronaldo…Bale…” It might seem that I’m cherry picking things that annoy me, and maybe if these things happened once or twice a game, he’d be tolerable. But it’s the TOTALITY of his commentary that makes him so unbearable.

  19. Not that it will matter much, but I finally lodged a complaint to fox sports. I pay extra hard-earned dollars to get champion’s league coverage, yet why do I get a subpar product in return? Gus-Wynalda have been atrocious and nigh-unlistenable; they sound like high school or college students learning the trade on no-ratings broadcast. I can’t believe that Fox isn’t embarrassed by this, especially as NBC rocks their coverage of the EPL. Am I overreacting by feeling like Fox is insulting me with this? But I feel like they’re stealing my money and giving me some fake garbage in return.

  20. Thank GOD for Fox Deportes. I didn’t understand one word, but the passionate commentary more than made up for what Gus offers

  21. Gus’s main issue is he doesn’t know the HISTORY of the game. He has no idea what happened in the sport 3 years ago, much less 30 years ago. All his knowledge comes from what the stats guys provide him during the broadcast. I’ve been watching the matches on Fox Deportes. Even though my system only carries it in standard definition they at least give you the British feed of the match. I’d rather watch it in crappy SD and enjoy the announcers than watch in HD and listen to Gus.

    1. I watch the crappy SD and listen to the Spanish broadcast…sucks, but it BETTER than watching HD with Gus Johnson ruining the occasion.

    1. That the problem with Fox and American media in general. It’s all about the personality. Do people really watch Nightly News because Brian Williams is the host? Or do they just want to see the news? It’s laughable, and insulting to the viewer, when Fox thinks it can attract viewers with someone who has no business covering the sport. I guess they need to learn the hard way like ESPN did after WC 2006.

  22. Gaffer, not sure if you’re following this threat these days, however do you know if the suits at FoxSports are tracking just how awful this experiment has been on the greater population of soccer followers? Or are they still tuning us out and hoping to attract a new set of viewers? It would be unbelievable to think that they don’t notice the angst this Gus Experiment has caused. (if they do notice it, then I guess they don’t care)

  23. I will not listen to any game called by Gus Johnson when an alternative is available. For the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, that will mean Telemundo or another English-language feed. This experiment is a complete travesty and a disservice to viewers.

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