After one month of no Bundesliga soccer due to the annual winter break, German soccer returned to US airwaves last weekend with a match between Bayern Munich and Hamburg. The game was shown live on FOX Sports 1. There was very little competition on other networks. Plus the game had the advantage of being shown during a historic snow storm across the United States, which meant that many more people were off work at home with nothing to do.
Yet the Hamburg-Bayern game failed to crack 100,000 viewers.
For the 92,000 people who watched the game on US television, it was another example of a very entertaining and open match — a game that soccer purists and mainstream sports fans could both enjoy. But if the most supported German team in the United States can’t surpass 100,000 viewers for one of their games, what hope does the Bundesliga have on US TV?
As it was, the Hamburg-Bayern wasn’t the most watched Bundesliga game on US TV last weekend. Hoffenheim against Bayer Leverkusen was. A total of 52,000 watched Saturday’s game on FOX Sports 1, while 78,000 watched it on FOX Deportes. But even with the Chicharito factor in play, it still took two networks showing the game to crack 100,000 viewers which should be setting off alarm bells at FOX Sports studios in Los Angeles, California.
So what is it? Is the Bundesliga not generating the interest level among soccer fans, or is FOX Sports doing a poor job at marketing it? The answer lies somewhere in between.
This Saturday, FOX Sports unveils the first of eight live Bundesliga matches it’ll be televising on the over-the-air FOX network. But if you hadn’t read the numerous articles on World Soccer Talk about it, you’re unlikely to know that the first game is being played featuring Stuttgart-Hamburg. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen zero promos, advertisements, press releases and interviews promoting this weekend’s game. It’s almost as if FOX knows that by doing nothing to promote this game, they’ll still get an audience of 900,000+ watching because it’s on over-the-air broadcast television. Those numbers will help juice up their future press releases, but it does little to grow the game or the league in this country.
At the same time, the Bundesliga is doing FOX Sports no favors. The simple fact is that the vast majority of Bundesliga games kick off at the same time as the Premier League, and with the Premier League being one of the fastest growing properties on all of US television right now, the Bundesliga coverage keeps on hitting a brick wall.