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FOX’s record-breaking Bundesliga number for Stuttgart-Hamburg

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Congratulations to the Bundesliga and FOX Sports on the record-breaking audience of 468,000 who watched Stuttgart against Hamburg on the over-the-air FOX network last Saturday.

The 468,000 number is the biggest audience ever on US television for a live Bundesliga match. With it being the first of 8 live Bundesliga matches that FOX will be showing this season, the game won’t hold the record for long. This Saturday’s game between Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich will certainly smash it.

But having said that, what perspective can we gain from the 468,000 number? And how does that compare to other leagues?

Granted, Stuttgart against Hamburg is hardly a must-see Bundesliga fixture, and the empty swaths of seats at the Mercedes-Benz Arena were a testament to that. But hats off to FOX Sports for pulling out all of the stops to make the broadcast as enjoyable as possible. There was pre-match coverage featuring an interview with Jurgen Klinsmann about his playing days at Stuttgart. There was commentary by John Strong and Stuart Holden, plenty of hype about the Bundesliga from the team of Alexi Lalas, Ian Joy, Eric Wynalda and Jovan Kirovski (which was almost exactly the same spiel as the pre-match routine they gave at the beginning of the season). Plus, the build-up to the game was interspersed with video promos from the Bundesliga to add to the excitement.

While the match was played in very sloppy conditions, the second half certainly was entertaining to watch.

But putting the 468,000 number into context, the viewing figure was poor. There was almost no publicity or advertising to promote the fact that FOX was showing the game. And the only other major game being played at the same time was Liverpool versus West Ham in a boring 0-0 FA Cup game that was relegated to the nether regions of FOX Sports 2 (and watched by 126,000 people).

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With Stuttgart versus Hamburg being shown on FOX (a channel that is available in 112 million households in the United States), FOX and the Bundesliga could spin the 468,000 number as “a promising start,” but the fact is that the number should be greater. Consider, for example, that 350,000 people watched Arsenal versus Burnley on FOX Sports 1 just two hours prior on a network that is in 37 million fewer households than FOX.

While Stuttgart-Hamburg are no giants in world soccer, the viewing audience for FOX’s first-ever FA Cup game on the over-the-air FOX network between West Ham against Manchester United was 887,000 viewers. And that was three years ago before NBC Sports has vastly helped increase the amount of soccer viewers in the USA.

Watching the Stuttgart-Hamburg coverage, it was blatantly obvious that FOX was targeting mainstream America with its coverage. While it wasn’t as condescending as they’ve done in previous years, it was certainly directed at introducing the concept of the Bundesliga to American audiences as well as educating them on the benefits of what the league has to offer in contrast with other soccer leagues.

The ultimate measure of how well FOX’s coverage does is by the number of fans who are introduced to the league and then continue to watch it on FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports 2 and FOX Soccer Plus. It’ll take weeks or months before we get a clearer picture of whether the strategy is working. But in the meantime, the 468,000 number takes the pressure off FOX Sports’ poor Bundesliga TV ratings so far this season ahead of Saturday’s Leverkusen-Bayern Munich game.

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Rob

    February 5, 2016 at 11:07 pm

    To Christopher Harris, I would like to give you my thoughts and would love to hear your thoughts. This was the half way into the season so why are we educating the fans now? Is this a mid term review? Fox loves to do “Soccer for Dummies” And they never miss a opportunity to remind their viewers how unaware of the sport they think they are. With the Super Bowl happening this Sunday will there be a NFL for dummies for the millions of new people watching the NFL for the first time? I don’t understand why FOX thinks Americans are stupid and will always remind them that they are stupid. Maybe you have the answer Christopher.
    The TV ratings will continue to be low without advertising. If only Fox had a big soccer event last summer the where 25 million Americans watched. That could have been a opportunity to get the world out. But Fox only promotes soccer during other soccer events during the pre and half time breaks. During midweek FS1 airs Colin Cowherd Live show before Bundesliga, FA Cup replays and UCL matches but won’t promote any of them. He will just say “Coming up next is sooocccceeeeerrrrrr.” which to me feels like a warning to non-soccer fans to get away. No team names will be mentioned or what type of competition will be named.
    Next the players in Bundesliga. In Fox’s Soccer for Dummies Read mid term review the only important players where the one on the German national team and the three Americans that play in the league. I guess Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are not important, just the top two goal scorers. One more point, Philipp Lahm has been retired from international football for a almost two years but they showed his face with the rest of the Germans.
    I would like to hear your thoughts on this Christopher and everyone else. Is it just me or everybody?

    • Christopher Harris

      February 7, 2016 at 9:56 am

      One of the differences between FOX and NBC is that when games are televised on the over-the-air network, FOX sometimes dumbs down its coverage to appeal to the mainstream America to the detriment of the hardcare soccer community. With NBC, they’re not condescending, and try to elevate the discussion.

  2. Anthony

    February 5, 2016 at 9:47 am

    The only way the bundesliga will beat the EPL in tv ratings in the US

    1) Javier Hernandez continues to thrive and German clubs sign more Mexican Players

    2) Julien Green and Pulisic live up to their hype and shine for Munich and Dortmund respectively

    Otherwise, The Bundesliga does not have a chance her in the US. Champions league finals Viewership was the lowest ever when Munich & Dortmund played. Its nothing against the Bundesliga, but causal soccer fans are drawn to The EPL or Liga MX. It’s a fact

  3. Firas Shadad

    February 5, 2016 at 7:54 am

    Here are the two themes I read here regarding Bundesliga ratings:

    1. When they are poor, here are 10 reasons why they are poor. Rinse and repeat, copy and paste and produce the same info every two months or so.

    2. When the rating are good, here are 10 reason why they we should not believe them. Rinse and repeat.

    Well done, sir. I am looking forward to reading your next piece which will fall in those two categories.

    • Christopher Harris

      February 5, 2016 at 9:28 am

      Obviously you’re letting your own prejudices get in the way of the truth.

      • Firas Shadad

        February 5, 2016 at 3:24 pm

        Not at all sir. I am actually looking forward how you will spin the next piece when the ratings of Bayern – Leverkusin will rival any other soccer match this weekend.

        • Christopher Harris

          February 5, 2016 at 4:00 pm

          There’s no spin. Just the facts. The Leverkusen-Bayern should crush all of the other games.

  4. Blue Lou

    February 4, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    Wow, a commentator who has frequently shown disdain for both the Bundesliga and Fox is striking a negative note here. Shocking.

    You yourself admit that they didn’t promote this game at all…and it was between a pair of lower half of the table teams. Yes, it would have been nice to have a bigger number, but it is a minor miracle it was as high as it was.

    You are certainly correct on one thing: the ultimate measure of the success of putting 8 games on broadcast TV will be an increase in numbers on FS1 (FS2 numbers should be tossed out as so few people get it). The fact this was an entertaining match (FAR more so than the FA Cup match I watched online at the same time) can only help.

    • Christopher Harris

      February 4, 2016 at 6:39 pm

      That’s BS. I’ve shown plenty of time and interest in the Bundesliga (including several articles over the December month). And I’ve given plenty of positive reviews of FOX’s coverage of the German league.

      And I agree that the game was far more entertaining than any of the FA Cup games I watched.

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