Excuses won’t help Bundesliga in TV ratings battle between FOX and NBC

Cardiff vs. Swansea, February 8 (2014), 1.24 million
Arsenal vs Liverpool, November 2 (2013), 991,000
Everton vs Chelsea, September 14 (2013), 917,000
Crystal Palace vs Sunderland, August 31 (2013), 865,000
Swansea vs Man United, August 17 (2013), 792,000
Aston Villa vs Liverpool, NBC, August 24 (2013), 789,000

In the first month of its coverage, you can see that NBC made a big splash on its over-the-air network with viewing numbers from 789,000 to 865,000 before climbing into the 900,000’s and over one million.

So far this season, FOX’s two live Bundesliga games have been watched by 468,000 (Stuttgart-Hamburg) and an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 for the Leverkusen-Bayern game (exact numbers won’t be revealed until Thursday). FOX Deportes’ Spanish-language coverage of Leverkusen-Bayern garnered 318,000 viewers. Only when you combine the English-language and Spanish-language numbers for Leverkusen-Bayern Munich does FOX come close to matching the smallest NBC OTA English-language number for its 2013/14 season.

In that first NBC season, the Premier League games averaged 438,000 viewers across all of the games shown on NBCSN, the NBC over-the-air network and other NBC-affiliated networks. For the 2015/16 Bundesliga to date, the average viewing audience is well below 100,000.

“You mean the Bundesliga isn’t going to overtake the EPL in its first year on TV in the US?”

No one expects the Bundesliga to overtake the Premier League in the TV ratings war in the near future, but in isolation, Leverkusen-Bayern should trump Southampton-West Ham. The fact that it didn’t should be causing consternation in the offices of FOX Sports, the Bundesliga and the New York office of Bayern Munich USA.

To many, the fact that a Premier League game featuring two traditional English clubs far exceeded the viewing figures for the two most marketable teams in Germany is astonishing. Even as someone who has religiously followed the top-flight English league for 40 years, I’ll be the first to admit that the Bundesliga is a far more attractive proposition than the Premier League. The match atmosphere in Germany is far superior. The soccer on the pitch is usually better, and the production quality from the Bundesliga is on par with the Premier League. All of the key ingredients are in place to make the Bundesliga a success.

So why didn’t the Bundesliga beat the Premier League last Saturday on a day when the German league had the more attractive proposition?

The number one reason is that FOX Sports is not promoting the Bundesliga.

In the lead-up to last weekend’s Leverkusen-Munich game, not one of FOX Sports’ talent or executives were available for interviews. There was no advertising. There were no promotional videos shared on social media (like NBC is doing for this weekend’s Leicester-Arsenal game). There was no buzz.

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