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Leagues: Bundesliga

FOX and Bundesliga dealt blow with Leverkusen-Munich ratings


The overnight TV ratings for Saturday’s dueling broadcasts between Leverkusen-Bayern Munich on FOX and Southampton-West Ham on NBC are in, and the Bundesliga/FOX duo have been dealt a crushing blow as their game failed to beat NBC’s coverage of the Premier League. NBC delivered an overnight rating of 0.56 compared to FOX’s rating of 0.33.

If the Bundesliga with the ‘Chicharito Effect’ and Bayern Munich can’t beat the Premier League on US TV, it may never will.

With the box office appeal of Javier Hernandez, the most marketable footballer in the US after Messi and Ronaldo, combined with the nationwide appeal of Germany’s most popular team Bayern Munich, you would have bet that the viewing audience on FOX would have been far greater than Southampton against West Ham United, two clubs who have proud histories but lack the marketability in the United States.

With Leverkusen-Munich and Southampton-West Ham kicking off at the same time (Saturday, 12:30pm ET) on broadcast television in the United States, it was a golden opportunity for the Bundesliga to demonstrate how the league — with the benefit of FOX — is a major player on US television. However, the fact that Southampton-West Ham got a better overnight rating is a devastating blow to the league’s chances of growing in popularity in the United States. Plus, NBC was able to retain most of its audience with an overnight rating of 0.52 who watched the critically-acclaimed Behind The Badge: Crystal Palace documentary after the Southampton-Hammers game, which was still greater than the 0.33 rating for Leverkusen-Bayern.

SEE MORE: Review of FOX’s Leverkusen-Bayern Munich TV coverage.

Given the disappointing numbers for FOX and the Bundesliga, you have to wonder why more soccer fans would watch a Premier League game instead of a more high-profile Bundesliga matchup. NBC’s world-class coverage is certainly a factor, but FOX also delivered a quality broadcast on Saturday for Leverkusen-Munich, which was one of their better ones in recent memory.

Another factor is FOX Sports’ unwillingness to promote its Bundesliga property. Before Saturday, there was little to no advertising or publicity driven by FOX Sports to promote the game, while NBC Sports made their talent available for interviews to preview the weekend coverage.

On paper, the Leverkusen-Munich game was a far more attractive proposition than watching Southampton-West Ham. With the Premier League, NBC has one of the fastest growing properties across all of US television. Through hard work and consistency, NBC has developed an audience that is emotionally invested in watching the Premier League and all of the storylines and ramifications that happen during a season. Even if their team is not being shown, the viewers will tune in to watch other Premier League teams because it is part of their ritual. 

For the Bundesliga and FOX to crack the US market, they both need to put far more effort into changing people’s habits.

The final TV viewing numbers will be made available on Thursday.

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  1. Morocco Mole

    February 9, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    FOX Deportes averaged 318,000 viewers for Leverkusen vs Bayern, by far the biggest audience of the season for a Bundesliga match on FOX Deportes.

    Leverkusen vs Bayern on FOX Deportes was the #4 live sports event on U.S. Spanish-language TV on Saturday, behind 3 Liga MX matches (2 of which featured Club America and Chivas Guadalajara.)


    I am guessing about 700,000 to 750,000 average viewers for Leverkusen vs Bayern when the audiences for both FOX Network and FOX Deportes are added together. That would be good for #2 among live soccer matches on U.S. TV that day, behind Club America vs Santos Laguna (which aired on both Univision and UDN.)

  2. Rob

    February 8, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    To Mr. Christopher Harris, Lets start with the Production quality on Fox. From the first minute the Host on FOX made it all about themselves. Look at this goal I scored, look the that goal and how good is does that hair look? The NBC crew don’t make it about themselves, they start with each week with what matches are happening and the ramifications of what can happen. The FOX crew isn’t talking about the the team fight to avoid relegation. NBC will talk about teams getting into the Champions League and they don’t have the TV rights.

    Now lets go to the commentators on each network. One has their crew on location and the other has their commentators calling the game off a monitor. John Strong and Stuart Holden drowned out the atmosphere. The same atmosphere they promote on the few promos they air during MLS games. Schalke vs Wolfsburg aired on FS2 with the world feed. You could barely hear the commentators because the atmosphere was off the charts.
    Finally the Bundesliga title race over unlike in England. My theory is that world feed will say that Bayern Munich will win. So FOX puts their own guys to control what you hear. John Strong and Stuart Holden keep maintaining that Bayern have a “slim” lead on top of the table. FOX’s host crew said the race was over after Bayern will win after they beat both Wolfsburg and Borussia Dortmund. But now with games being on main FOX they don’t say that.

  3. Azer

    February 8, 2016 at 11:54 am

    Talk about the Bundesliga ratings or promoting the league, I just checked the football calendar. On February 20th & 21st, Fox Sports has FA Cup games scheduled for both days, at around the same time the Bundesliga is on. There are some big games coming up on those two days. It’ll be interesting to see what FOX does with the Bundesliga, whether they put in on FS2 or Fox Soccer Plus which half the country does not have access to it.

  4. JJ

    February 8, 2016 at 11:46 am

    Take all the good games off fox sports 2 and let them play on FS1 ratings will go up. Definitely can’t judge off one game but if they played more BVB this wouldn’t be a problem lol #BvB let’s go

  5. RevSA

    February 8, 2016 at 11:25 am

    Why is this a big surprise? EPL is a more popular league than the bundesliga everywhere outside of Germany. Here NBCs coverage is much more established than Fox, they have games on the main network throughout the season not just some special 8 selected games or however many it is. NBCs coverage is also always top notch every week not just because its on the main network channel do they decide to improve it and use their main play by play person.

    Also the chicharito fans would most likely watch on fox deportes, if you can understand spanish their coverage is much better, they are not awful like fox in English generally is.

    The chicharito fans would most likey go to fox deportes also, if you can understand Spanish the coverage is usually much better

  6. Christian Hartman

    February 8, 2016 at 11:23 am

    Here is why Fox is failing:

    1. PRODUCTION QUALITY – NBC clearly has invested in the production quality as there is a big difference when watching the lower quality Fox production. NBC provides better camera angles, commentary, and analysis in a studio production.

    2. ACCESS – NBC provides access to their content via several cable and internet platforms. Of note…NBC has a dedicated app on my Roku and Fox does not. I would have watched the Fox broadcast over the weekend had it been available on Roku.

    3. FAMILIARITY- Many EPL players/teams are known to US soccer fans. German teams are not as well known at this time.

  7. Morocco Mole

    February 8, 2016 at 10:46 am

    0.33 overnight, which will probably translate to 0.25 final rating for FOX, would yield about 450,000 viewers +/- 50,000.

    Not a disaster for FOX, but not a good number either.

    (Remember that the FOX O & O duopolies in some cities buried Leverkusen vs Bayern on the weaker station so that the primary station was able to make money with airing local news. San Francisco/San Jose is one example with Leverkusen vs Bayern dumped on KICU-DT 36.1, a channel that practically no one watches regularly.)

    One thing to remember: programming executives hate to lose. FOX Sports lost with Leverkusen vs Bayern Munich to NBC Sports’ West Ham vs Southampton. Losing to Man Utd, Arsenal, Chelsea, or Liverpool is one thing. Losing to West Ham vs Southampton is deflating to say the least.

    The viewership on FOX Deportes will be key. If Chicharito can’t deliver 100,000 viewers on FOX Deportes, then FOX Deportes has a problem. Not that FOX cares too much about the U.S. Hispanic market anymore, having dumped Liga MX completely two seasons ago and divesting its 50% stake in what was the MundoFOX network (now MundoMax) to Colombia’s RCN Television. FOX Deportes’ only unique event programming (not duplicated on English-language channels) these days are Coipa Libertadores, Copa Sudamericana (no Mexican teams), most Bundesliga matches involving Bayer Leverkusen, and boxing.

  8. Toby Schumacher

    February 8, 2016 at 10:19 am

    Fox needs to put vastly more resources in promoting Bundesliga. No cross promotion with Fox Sports radio personalities (Dan Patrick doesn’t sound earnest when doing it, but he reads NBC PL promos on his radio show.) NBC even has Al Michaels push it a bit during Sunday Night Football. Is there a Fox Sports (US version – not world English feed) produced Match of the Day equivalent? How about Download? Breakaway? Or end of transfer window show? Two or more broadcasters per match? I started watching NBC’s coverage when they had that introduction show with Rebecca and Kyle a few years ago. I kept it on NBCSports after an Indycar race and happened to catch it. Briefly explained the teams, rivalries, stadiums. Has Fox done this type of show?

    The head to head wasn’t a total failure for Fox, it took a big chunk of their usual audience (~0.8-0.9 rating). Probably more concerning to NBC however, that there currently might be a total number to the soccer audience. Would have hoped to see NBC + FOX be more than a typical NBC only number. Fox’s audience wasn’t additive, just took away from NBC. That might be the plan if we don’t see any real investment from Fox Sports. In the big picture, Fox thought of themselves as the #2 rival to ESPN. With PL and NASCAR and soon the Olympics, NBC Sports is looking like the #2 rival.

  9. Sajid Anwar

    February 8, 2016 at 10:03 am

    Why does Bundesliga need to beat EPL in ratings in order to “make it” in America? Plenty of sports properties in America don’t even come close to the popularity enjoyed by the NFL and yet still keeps chugging along. Due to about 20 year head start enjoyed by EPL along with the fact that both countries share a common language will probably mean Bundesliga will never catch up to EPL when it comes to popularity in this country. But that doesn’t mean it still can’t be a valuable property for a TV network as secondary or even tertiary league behind La Liga.

    • Pierson

      February 8, 2016 at 10:59 am

      Agreed. NBC paid roughly $900 million for the current Premier League contract, if the rumors are to be believed. That’s because the Prem will always be bigger in America, at least for the foreseeable future. They expect to beat the Bundesliga on American TV, and would usually expect to win decisively.

      When Americans think of soccer, they think of the English Premier League, of Manchester United and Arsenal, of English supporters chugging pints and hollering at the pub. Even if it’s a smaller team that an American hasn’t heard of, they speak the same language, and have probably heard of the city or county where the EPL team is from. Huge structural advantages for the Prem that were always going to make it a bigger deal in the USA.

      Nonetheless, the numbers are disappointing. Bayern vs. Leverkusen, with a fairly high-quality broadcast, at a time when there was no NFL action and no NBA action, should bring AT LEAST a 0.40 share.

      Of course, that would have just meant more people watching a boring-ass, scoreless draw, with Mueller uncharacteristically blowing two good scoring chances. Maybe we should be happy it didn’t get higher numbers?

      • Tim

        February 8, 2016 at 1:21 pm

        This is everything that is wrong with EPL fans. More about being posers and less about the game itself.

        • Pierson

          February 8, 2016 at 2:38 pm

          Maybe. But then I’m a Bayern supporter with no German blood, so maybe I’m a poser, too.

    • RevSA

      February 8, 2016 at 11:33 am

      Great post, this is the first year it is on a main network channel. The access to matches in multiple leagues is better than all other countries I have lived including England and Germany.

  10. Colin

    February 8, 2016 at 9:19 am

    You sure draw an awful lot of conclusions off of one game. The issue, and you said it yourself, is one of promotion and viewing habits. Fox did a terrible job promoting this game. This is also the Bundesliga’s first year on major US television, and fans have yet to get into the habit of waking up on the weekend and turning on Fox or FS1, like they have with the EPL on NBCSN. Give Fox a year or two to rev up its promotional machine and develop viewing habits. If low-profile EPL matches still crush star-studded Bundesliga matches, then we can talk about how the Bundesliga “may never” catch on in the US.

    • Christopher Harris

      February 8, 2016 at 9:21 am

      Colin, saying that “this is the Bundesliga’s first year on major US television” is not true. People forget that the Bundesliga used to be on Fox Soccer Channel.

      • Brian

        February 8, 2016 at 10:48 am

        Would “first year of a TV contract with greater reach” be more accurate? Regardless, I think at the moment English football is still more popular than German football even if the latter has a more appealing matchup in a given slot.

      • The Money Team

        February 8, 2016 at 6:39 pm

        To be fair, the #1 pick of Bundesliga matches hadin’t air on FOX Soccer Channel since May 2004. For the 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 seasons, Setanta Sports USA was the primary U.S. rights holder to the Bundesliga (FOX Soccer Channel had #2 and #3 picks.)

        FOX invested big in the Bundesliga on a global basis because 1) Sky Sport Deutschland needs cornerstone sports programming, and 2) FOX Sports Asia, FOX Sports Latin America, FOX Sports Brasil, etc. all need relatively “cheap” soccer programming (compared to EPL and La Liga, both of which have been bid up by competitors around the world.) Adding U.S. rights as well, even if the cost were around $10 million/season, would be “incremental” to FOX in terms of the big picture.

      • Mitre Ultimax

        February 9, 2016 at 1:10 am

        How True! Fox has always been a drip compared to Rebecca Lowe pumping me up for my roll out of bed every Saturday and Sunday morning for the best football coverage I’ve ever seen. This says it all — — about how NBC Sports has captured the character of British football from the Men In Blazers quick humor to game articulation of the Two Robbies, Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe — Don’t know what I’ll do without Rebecca when she goes on leave in April to have the baby…so sad ;-(

        When Max Bretos left Fox Soccer Channel for ESPN in 2010, Fox lost it’s best and only colorful soccer analyst. If Bretos was still at Fox, they’d fare much better. He’d be one hell of an anchor for Fox soccer coverage. I can’t understand why he puts up with being a mere reporter at ESPN. Since NBC Sports is having so much success with it’s Premier League programming, perhaps Bretos should join them if Fox doesn’t hire him back which is desperately needed.

  11. Gabe

    February 8, 2016 at 9:05 am

    To be fair I think we need to see the Fox Deportes numbers before making a final judgement.

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