FOX Sports has a Bundesliga problem. For the first five gameweeks of the 2015/16 season, live Bundesliga games on the network are averaging just 42,000 viewers. Of immediate concern is the fact that the last two gameweeks have recorded two of the worst weekly averages for live games the league has seen on FOX Sports since the opening weekend: 29,333 and 47,000 respectively.
The spin from FOX Sports is that, according to its press release, the tape-delay game between Bayern Munich-Augsburg shown on the over-the-air FOX network on Sunday, September 13 “drew 926,000 viewers up against stiff NFL competition, making it the most-watched Bundesliga match ever televised in the U.S.” Yes, it was indeed the most-watched Bundesliga game on US television, but putting the game next to NFL programming was a marketing ploy to artificially boost the numbers and hope that the network could draw new fans to watch the Bundesliga in future weeks.
What was the impact on the next Bayern Munich game shown live on FOX Sports 1? Very little to nothing. An average of 63,000 viewers watched the game against Darmstadt live on FOX Sports 1 last Saturday between 9:30-11:30am ET.
No offense to the Bundesliga, but FOX Sports could have put any game from any soccer league next to the opening weekend of the NFL on the over-the-air FOX network, and it would have done as well as or better than the 926,000 number.
In trying to boost the Bundesliga in the US, FOX Sports faces numerous issues, and most of them aren’t their fault:
• The Bundesliga schedule mirrors the Premier League schedule almost identically. Faced with a choice of watching the Premier League or Bundesliga, the vast majority of soccer fans in the US are watching the games on NBCSN, not FOX.
• Not one Bundesliga live game has broken the 100,000 barrier so far this season. The closest FOX Sports got was the 90,000 who watched Hamburg vs. Stuttgart on Saturday, August 22. The main reason for that record-number for a live game? There was no Premier League match on at the same time.
• FOX Sports 2 is not the issue. While the barren wasteland that is FOX Sports 2 is generating dismal numbers, when games are shown on FOX Sports 1, the viewing numbers aren’t that much greater.
• There aren’t as many Bayern Munich fans as we thought. But when they are watching Bayern play on FOX Sports 1, the number of people watching a concurrent Bundesliga game on FOX Sports 2 is embarrassing. For example, just 1,000 people watched Bayern Leverkusen (starring Javier Chicharito) against Darmstadt on FS2, while FS1 was showing Bayern-Augsburg. So far this season, FOX Sports 2 hasn’t been able to get 10,000 viewers for a game on its network when Bayern Munich is being shown live on FOX Sports 1 at the same time.
The numbers make for some depressing reading, and they’re not going to change as long as the Premier League maintains its dominance on English-language sports networks in the United States.
Plus, the reality is that many soccer fans are emotionally invested in watching the Premier League. Even if the quality of soccer on the pitch is better in the Bundesliga than England, the Premier League numbers are a result of more than a decade of US soccer fans watching games every weekend, following their teams both on and off the field, and creating so many great memories of following the English variety of the sport. With the Bundesliga on GolTV for the past few years, the league was practically invisible to the soccer public. And now, the Bundesliga is unfortunately paying the price.
It can be argued that FOX created the popularity of the Premier League in the United States, and then NBCSN took it to the next level. That success that FOX generated for the Premier League has created an environment where it’s incredibly difficult for the Bundesliga to thrive. Yes, FOX Sports missed the boat with their last-minute marketing efforts to promote the Bundesliga this summer, but at this point the best bet for FOX is to try to show more games on tape-delay when they aren’t competing with the Premier League.
SEE MORE: View the Bundesliga TV schedule for USA.
Average weekly TV viewing audience for LIVE Bundesliga games on FOX Sports:
Gameweek 1: 39,500
Gameweek 2: 52,000
Gameweek 3: 47,333
Gameweek 4: 29,333
Gameweek 5: 47,000
The TV viewing figures for Bundesliga games LIVE on FOX Sports thus far are:
Friday, August 14
Bayern Munich vs. Hamburg, 2:30-4:30pm ET, FOX Sports 2, 32,000
Saturday, August 15
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hoffenheim, 9:30-11:30am ET, FOX Sports 2, 34,000
Borussia Dortmund vs. Borussia Monchengladbach, 12:30-2:30pm ET, FOX Sports 2, 42,000
Sunday, August 16
Wolfsburg vs. Frankfurt, 9:30-11:30am ET, FOX Sports 1, 50,000
Saturday, August 22
Hoffenheim vs. Bayern Munich, 9:30-11:30am ET, FOX Sports 1, 71,000
Cologne vs. Wolfsburg, 9:30-11:30am ET, FOX Sports 2, 6,000
Hamburg vs. Stuttgart, 12:30-2:30pm ET, FOX Sports 1, 90,000
Sunday, August 23
Ingolstadt vs. Borussia Dortmund, 9:30-11:30am ET, FOX Sports 1, 76,000
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Mainz, 11:30am-1:30pm ET, FOX Sports 2, 17,000
Friday, August 28
Wolfsburg vs. Schalke, 2:30-4:30pm ET, FOX Sports 1, 85,000
Saturday, August 29
Bayern Munich vs. Bayer Leverkusen, 12:30-2:30pm ET, FOX Sports 2, 53,000
Stuttgart vs. Frankfurt, 9:30am-11:30am ET, FOX Sports 2, 4,000
Friday, September 11
Borussia Dortmund vs. Hamburg, 2:30-4:30pm ET, FOX Sports 1, 49,000
Saturday, September 12
Bayern Munich vs. Augsburg, 9:30-11:30am ET, FOX Sports 1, 40,000
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Darmstadt, 9:30-11:30am ET, FOX Sports 2, 1,000
Frankfurt vs. Cologne, 12:30pm-2:30pm ET, FOX Sports 2, 14,000
Sunday, September 13
Hoffenheim vs. Werder Bremen, 9:30-11:30am, FOX Sports 1, 35,000
Schalke vs. Mainz, 11:30am-1:30pm ET, FOX Sports 1, 37,000
Friday, September 18
Mainz vs. Hoffenheim, 2:30-4:30pm ET, FOX Sports 1, 36,000
Saturday, September 19
Darmstadt vs. Bayern Munich, 9:30-11:30am ET, FOX Sports 1, 63,000
Sunday, September 20
Stuttgart vs. Schalke, 9:30-11:30am ET, FOX Sports 1, 49,000
Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayer Leverkusen, 11:30am-1:30pm ET, FOX Sports 2, 40,000
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