If ever there was a broadcast to sum up how the Bundesliga TV ratings are doing in the United States, this past Saturday was it. Starting at the same kickoff time of 12:30pm ET, FOX had Bayer Leverkusen (starring Chicharito) against Bayern Munich (Germany’s number one team). On NBC, another terrestrial network, the game was Southampton versus West Ham United.
But as we revealed Monday, the ratings for the Bundesliga game were a disappointment. On the English-language broadcast featured on FOX, the Bundesliga had a 0.33 overnight rating compared to an 0.56 score for the Premier League game on NBC. We won’t know the complete numbers until Thursday, but the short of it is that the Bundesliga failed to live up to expectations.
Rather than facing the music and discussing the reasons for the poor numbers, the news was met with a flurry of excuses from journalists, fans and insiders. Here are just a few examples:
“This is the first time the Bundesliga has been on US TV”
People forget that the Bundesliga has been on FOX Sports before. From 2004 to 2006, Fox Soccer Channel featured Bundesliga matches including games on Saturday mornings featuring commentary by Max Bretos and Allen Hopkins. Fox Soccer Channel’s coverage of the Bundesliga competed with the Premier League on the same network. FOX continued its coverage of the Premier League until the end of the 2012/13 season before it lost the rights to NBC.
While the Premier League continued to grow from strength to strength, the Bundesliga made the wrong bet by selling its TV rights to GolTV in 2007. GolTV retained the Bundesliga rights until the end of the 2014/15 season before they were handed back over to FOX Sports, but by that time the damage had been done. The Bundesliga found itself way behind the Premier League, and was playing catch-up.
But by claiming, as many have done, that the Bundesliga has never been on US TV before shows a complete lack of understanding of the history of the league in the US.
“It’s unfair to compare the Bundesliga TV ratings to the Premier League”
By the Bundesliga signing a worldwide deal with FOX Sports, it’s on the same stage as the Premier League, so it’s quite right to compare the two.
While NBC has a head start over FOX when broadcasting the Premier League versus the Bundesliga, comparing the TV audience sizes that NBC generated in the first year of its agreement with the Premier League would be fairer. In that 2013/14 season, here are numbers for select games that were televised on NBC’s over-the-air network: