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


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).


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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