FOX goes all in on Bundesliga with 8 live games scheduled for FOX network in 2016


After struggling with poor TV viewing figures for live Bundesliga games so far this season, FOX Sports has decided to throw a “Hail Mary” and show 8 Bundesliga games live on the over-the-air FOX network in 2016.

The games will be shown from January through May in the second half of the 2015/16 Bundesliga season.

The bold move by FOX will hopefully resuscitate the viewing figures for Bundesliga games on US TV, which so far have averaged less than 50,000 viewers per live game on English-language television. The outlier was the Bayern Munich-Augsburg game from September 13, which generated 926,000 viewers when it was shown on tape delay on FOX on the opening weekend of the NFL season.

Whether the pressure to put the 8 games on the main FOX network is a result of disappointment from the Deutsche Fussball Liga or internal pressure within FOX to fix failing numbers, it’s unclear. But the bold move means that the Bundesliga will get more live games on the over-the-air network than any other soccer league FOX has broadcast before in the United States.

SEE MORE: Poor Bundesliga TV ratings illustrate a bigger problem for FOX Sports.

The TV schedule is as follows:

Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016
12:00 PM – 2:30 PM ET

Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016
12:00 PM – 2:30 PM ET

Saturday, March 19, 2016
1:00 PM – 3:30 PM ET

Saturday, April 2, 2016
12:00 PM – 2:30 PM ET

Saturday, April 9, 2016
12:00 PM – 2:30 PM ET

Saturday, April 16, 2016
12:00 PM – 2:30 PM ET

Saturday, May 7, 2016
9:00 AM – 11:30 AM ET

Saturday, May 14, 2016
9:00 AM – 11:30 AM ET

The DFL hasn’t yet announced which games will be played during those times. Unfortunately for FOX and the Bundesliga, the March 4th game between Dortmund and Bayern Munich won’t be on the over-the-air FOX network.

SEE MORE: View the Bundesliga TV schedule for viewers in the US.

The biggest challenge that FOX Sports has faced this season with the Bundesliga is that the schedule overlaps with the most-watched English-language soccer league in the United States, the Premier League, which is shown on NBC Sports. Most soccer fans respect the German league and have an interest in watching it, but when faced with a choice of watching a league that fans have invested themselves in for several years, the gap is too much to expect soccer fans to change their allegiances and to watch the Bundesliga instead.

Having said that, FOX Sports and the Bundesliga have made the wise decision to select the Noon-2:30pm ET timeslot on Saturdays. While the Premier League hasn’t announced which February-May kick-off times will be changed to accommodate TV, the likelihood is that the big Premier League games such as Chelsea-Manchester United and the Manchester derby will be moved to Sunday kickoff times. This ensures that the Saturday Noon-2:30pm ET timeslot for the Bundesliga will be up against less high-profile games from the Premier League.

SEE MORE: Read Susie Schaaf’s weekly Bundesliga column.

The winner in all of this is the soccer fan in the United States. During the first and second quarters of 2016, if NBC Sports Group schedules games on the over-the-air NBC network, there will be several Saturdays where two of the major five commercial over-the-air networks will be showing soccer at the same time.

By making these moves, FOX is putting its best foot forward to change people’s behaviors and, more importantly, to try to win over the mainstream to watch Bundesliga games. Having the games on the FOX network for almost every week from April through May will certainly help build an audience. Putting them on live instead of tape-delay will help, too.

The announcement today declares that FOX Sports is serious about the Bundesliga and that the network is trying to give NBC Sports and the Premier League some real competition. How well the TV ratings do will depend largely on which Premier League games will be shown at the same time, and whether NBC Sports decides to show the games on the over-the-air NBC network or NBCSN. But, for now, FOX has made the first bold move. It’s now up to NBC to see what they decide to do.

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