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Why are Bundesliga US TV ratings so poor?

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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.

Take, for example, last week’s Bundesliga viewing audiences on FOX Sports:

Hoffenheim vs. Leverkusen; 130,000 viewers combined on FS1 and FOX Deportes; Overlapped with Norwich-Liverpool and 6 10am-Noon ET Premier League games.

Cologne vs. Stuttgart; 8,000 people watched the game on FOX Sports 2; Overlapped with same Norwich-Liverpool match and 6 10am-Noon ET Premier League games.

Monchengladbach vs. Dortmund; 23,000 viewers on FOX Sports 2; Overlapped with West Ham-Manchester City (which was viewed by approximately 976,000 people).

Frankfurt vs. Wolfsburg; 105,000 combined on FS1 and FOX Deportes; Overlapped with Everton-Swansea and Arsenal-Chelsea.

Schalke vs. Werder Bremen; 47,000 viewers on FOX Sports 1; Overlapped with Arsenal-Chelsea game (which was watched by approximately 755,000 people).

As you can see from the above numbers, when the Bundesliga is competing directly against the Premier League juggernaut, it’s simply no competition despite how entertaining German soccer is. And that’s the biggest challenge for the Bundesliga. Its schedule almost exactly mirrors the Premier League. And beginning next season, the Premier League will begin playing Friday games, which will overlap with the Bundesliga once more.

That makes this Saturday’s Stuttgart-Hamburg game more puzzling. By the luck of TV scheduling, the only major soccer game it’ll be competing against is Liverpool vs. West Ham in the FA Cup, and that game is being shown on FOX Sports 2 (which most of us know is a network dud in TV ratings). So even though Stuttgart and Hamburg aren’t powerhouses in German soccer, FOX Sports should be doing everything it can to promote this Saturday’s game on FOX. It’s one of the rare Saturdays when there’s no Premier League matches being played, and it’s an ideal opportunity to introduce US soccer fans to the incredible atmosphere and TV production that the Bundesliga excels at.

Yet, there’s nothing from FOX.

Nada.

Zilch.

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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Captain Obvious

    March 9, 2016 at 12:57 am

    Cause there is a league in a near by country, that actually has a title race, with higher quality football on average, shown on a more professional TV network. Simple as that!

  2. aaron

    February 1, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    The core is Fox has failed at this project. If BEIN had it or NBCSN had it. The quality would be 10x better. Also Latin fans are huge Bundes supporters. I hope Fox drops it and BEIN gets it. Then they could put it in Spanish & English, put a few people in Germany and bingo.

  3. toby

    January 31, 2016 at 1:22 am

    What is the shock about the Bundesliga poor ratings? The Bundesliga isn’t popular in football mad countries. In Africa, Asia, Europe and South America it has always been far less popular than the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A, why should America be any different?

    The Bundesliga seems a bit deluded and clueless and seem to think they can be as popular as the EPL with a bit of marketing.

    Bundesliga has always been the 4th or 5th choice league around the world because people don’t relate to German football beyond the football hipster. The only reason Fox have the rights because they speculated in 2013 before the all German Champions League Final that the Bundesliga would become the best league in the world. In the two years between signing off on the rights and airing the league, it has become clear to Fox the Bundesliga isn’t the best league and a floored product due to the lack competition. Fox just don’t care about the Bundesliga and proof of this is the fact they tried to win back the Premier League rights.

    • Ybot

      February 5, 2016 at 1:46 am

      @toby: you clearly have no idea about the competitiveness in European football. cracker-barrel rhetoric…

  4. Davesee

    January 30, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    Today’s game did not disappoint. Great action and atmosphere–looking forward to next weekend’s game already.

  5. Fsquid

    January 29, 2016 at 8:56 am

    If they had any sense at all they would be promoting the living hell out of the Bayern-Leverkusen match on Feb. 6.

  6. Glen

    January 29, 2016 at 7:44 am

    I watch some Bund games on mute because the announcing on Fox is so deplorable.

  7. DB

    January 28, 2016 at 11:32 pm

    As Tony noted, the Bundesliga is just not a competitive league. As I write this, after week 18, there is a 16 point gap between Bayern and the third place team. There’s almost no drama at all in this league, much as in the Spanish league, where only a couple of teams dominate. The Premier League is far more competitive. There is no Leicester City in the Bundesliga.

    Fox’s work is right down to their usually half-assed standards when it comes to soccer. They continue to do things as cheaply as possible, and it shows. Competing directly against the BPL guarantees a solid loss every week.

    My Time Warner system only shows FS2 in SD, squeezed back to half-screen size. Unwatchable.

    And Americans will always more easily identify with the English league because of our shared history.

    Honestly, I have no earthly idea how Fox thought it could make a dime off the Bundesliga.

  8. Tony

    January 28, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    1) Casual US fans have at least heard of teams like Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal. Outside of Bayern, most US fans aren’t aware of German teams

    2) Premier League is much more interesting. It’s exciting to watch Stoke City beat Chelsea on a Saturday afternoon (1.1mn viewers saw it on NBC) given the drama involved. NBC is good about training viewers to understand why every televised game is important (ManU trying to get back in sync, West Ham needing to keep European hoes alive, etc). In comparison Bundesliga is simply uncompetitive, and it is very hard for an average viewer to know the importance of any game.

    3) With MLS, Premier League, La Liga all heavily televised, there simply isn’t a lot of room for Bundesliga right now

    The Premier League is the most followed league globally for a good reason. La Liga will always be followed because they always have the best teams and players. It’s unrealistic to expect other leagues to have global relevance.

  9. Frill Artist

    January 28, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    Because everyone knows Bayern will win.

    • iancransonsknees

      January 28, 2016 at 1:39 pm

      This

  10. the lad

    January 28, 2016 at 11:44 am

    Pretty simple actually. People can not strap on thier fake German accent like their fake English accents and head to the “pub” to watch “football” like its halloween. Now if you can convince the English football posers to learn German then maybe that same fake fandom can be replicated and BOOM the TV numbers sky rocket!

  11. Lou burns

    January 28, 2016 at 11:25 am

    I quite enjoy Bundesliga matches, but my viewing has been limited because my cable provider only supplied FS2 in SD. Recently that has changed, and FS2 now available in HD, so I, for one, will be viewing a lot more Bundesliga matches.

  12. Christian

    January 28, 2016 at 10:34 am

    Fox has done a terrible job with what should have been a great opportunity for them. They’ve learned little from their horrible Premier League days. There is a shining example of how to treat the sport going on daily at NBC Sports that Fox could follow but don’t.

    Whoever thinks putting the mumbling Brad Freidel in commentary was a good idea should have been let go. Ian Joy is the only thing worthwhile and they keep him in the studio rather than doing games. Honestly I have to put the matches on mute any time I watch them.

    This idea that the Premier League is a better league is old narrative that should be thrown out for good. As much as I support my BPL club I realize the better football is being played in Germany and Spain. BeIn does an excellent job with presenting the joy of the game week to week in every league they cover but Fox bumbles about with poor quality.

    Bundesliga deserves better. Football supporters here in the states deserve better. Fox Sports should just give up.

    • toby

      January 31, 2016 at 7:03 am

      What nonsense. Bundesliga doesn’t have better football than Premier League, because only Bayern is playing better football. The rest of the league has lower quality players and the whole world knows it that is why it is 4th of 5th most poplar European League around the world.

      The harsh truth is German football has very little and global relevance and is an inferior product compared to the EPL and Americans know that. The Bayern Harlem Globetrotters beating the Washington General teams of Bundesliga every week is not what Americans call sport. So the close games and stars names of the EPL is what attracts Americans to this league above all because it is the only major soccer league that resembles the NBA or NFL with fast soccer, athletic players and more brutal than other leagues. This is why the EPL is the most popular league on every continent, It is the best league in soccer top to bottom.

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