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Review of FOX’s coverage of the Bundesliga from 2015/16

fox-bundesliga-coverage

FOX Sports coverage of soccer can be measured two ways.

1- Against previous poor FOX Sports and FOX Soccer efforts, or

2- Against the superior coverage provided by NBC or ESPN for similar competitions.

In this analysis, we’ll attempt to weigh both sides of this equation. Has FOX Sports improved its coverage versus the past and are they now comparable to ESPN or NBC Sports?

With FOX acquiring the global rights for the Bundesliga beginning with the 2015-16 season, hopes were high that a league that has suffered from underexposure in the United States would emerge as a strong rival to the Premier League in terms of interest among the growing number of fans of soccer in the country.

The high-hopes that many entered the summer of 2015 with were quickly dashed when World Soccer Talk reported that FOX planned to dump many of its biggest games the first two months of the season on to FOX Soccer Plus, a pay TV channel. To their credit, FOX quickly shifted gears and moved many games to FS1 and FS2.

SEE MORE: Schedule of Bundesliga games on US TV and streaming

In the second half of the season FOX over-the-air showed a number of games, though some affiliates like WSVN in Miami/Fort Lauderdale (typically a top ten market nationally for the Premier League on NBC) opted not to show matches on Saturday afternoons. Also, FOX had originally planned to show the early March clash between the top sides in German football, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich on FOX Soccer Plus but fan backlash forced the game to be moved to FX, a smart move but one that was accompanied with little promotion.

Here are the takeaways from FOX Sports’ coverage of the Bundesliga:

 

Good:

Ian Joy

FOX Sports demonstrated it would actually upgrade its soccer studio talent with someone that knows German soccer by bringing Joy onto the team last summer. The former FC St Pauli player, who was capped over 30 times at the youth level for the United States, provided a needed depth of knowledge and professionalism to the FOX studio team. As a presenter, Joy was solid and, where needed, he mixed in analysis as well.

Eric Wynalda

The always-controversial Wynalda might not be the favorite of many MLS and US Soccer fans, but when analyzing the game he doesn’t pull any punches. Wynalda may not always be as well-prepared as NBC’s studio hosts are about the Premier League, but he always brings cutting-edge opinions.

FOX over-the-air games

The ratings weren’t great but they were not terrible either for the Saturday afternoon FOX over-the-air broadcasts. The use of John Strong on many of the games as a play-by-play voice was also a positive as was FOX’s more serious studio efforts around these matches.

 

Mixed Bag:

Showing of Bundesliga produced magazine shows

While it was great FOX showed these programs, they were normally bumped to FS2 at an odd hour in the middle of the week. The content of these programs, if shown in conjunction with games or at a regular time slot, could help build more viewership and interest in the Bundesliga product. But FOX failed to replicate the NBC playbook of using ancillary programming that built identification with players and teams to help drive interest in the Premier League. Already at a disadvantage versus the Premier League in the United States, the Bundesliga really needed FOX Sports to make this commitment. Perhaps they will next season.

Multimatch 90

This was a neat feature the final two matchdays of the season, but ultimately meant one or more critical game wasn’t aired because FOX Sports, unlike NBC, doesn’t have overflow TV distribution platforms for those who want to see games in their entirety. Plus, while MultiMatch 90 can be a great way to follow games, the TV ratings for MultiMatch 90 have been extremely poor.

 

Bad:

FOX features

Generally done at a low-level and often patronizing to hard-core fans, most of the FOX Sports features in pregame and halftime segments were quite frankly throwaways.

Annoying graphics

FOX Sports’ graphics were often mistimed or even just filler. In some cases, they even were giving information overload on simple topics.

FOX Sports 2

Some of the biggest games of the season were bumped to FS2 because of conflicts with other sports or the FA Cup. The distribution for FOX Sports 2 (50 million homes) is less than what Fox Soccer Channel provided (72 million homes) at its dissolution in 2013. In other words, for many of the biggest matches of the season, FOX provided subpar FSC distribution for the league.

FOX Soccer Plus

For most cable or satellite subscribers, you get NBC’s Premier League Extra Time overflow channels for free. If you are on your computer, Apple TV or Roku and you’re an authenticated subscriber, you can watch every Premier League game via NBC Sports Live Extra.

In contrast, FOX has dumped all its excess capacity for the Bundesliga onto FOX Soccer Plus and FOX Soccer 2Go, premium products that remind us of a time when fans of this sport had pay an arm and a leg to watch matches or venture out at ungodly hours to local pubs.

FOX Soccer Plus is a relic of the past, and FOX’s inability to find a better distribution mechanism than this for the league is worrying if they ever want to grow the product.

Bottom line

Unless you’re being heavily spun by FOX Sports HQ, their failure to deliver large audiences for the Bundesliga ultimately means the efforts of the network failed badly. Several times this season, Bundesliga games would be beaten by a ten-to-one margin or even more when matched up head-to-head with a Premier League match on either NBCSN or USA Network.

FOX’s soccer coverage has no doubt improved and the addition of Joy has given the network a needed boost in terms of studio professionalism. However, the failure to build the Bundesliga brand, the lack of promotion the league was given on other FOX Sports platforms and properties plus the unwillingness to show ancillary programming at regular intervals all meant that FOX has once again fallen well below the levels of ESPN or NBC Sports when they cover competitions of this magnitude.

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. gargoyle

    May 24, 2016 at 6:47 am

    Bundesliga coverage at Fox is merely a way to keep their toe in the water until WC 2018. All they care about is WC 2018. They will cut corners and cover BL as cheaply and clownishly as possible – anyone expecting anything different hasn’t been paying attention.

  2. toby

    May 23, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    You can’t polish a turd. Fox can only do so much. The fact is Bundesliga is a terrible league for broadcasters. How can Fox promote an uncompetitive league with teams from places Americans don’t care about to an audience used to watching competitive balanced sports leagues? They can’t and the German League has always been less popular than the English, Italian and Spanish leagues around the world for this reason too. Fox gambled on the Bundesliga being the dominant League in Europe and it hasn’t materialised and Bayern have turned the league into a corporate monopoly and not a sports league any more.

    The Premier League is just a superior product and that is why it is successful. It has a competitive league, where every team has a marquee player and all teams play an aggressive attacking style of soccer that is more appealing not only to American eyes, but world eyes.

    Fox regret paying too much for a bad product and are just trying to cut their losses on Bundesliga. The fact Fox tried to outbid NBC for the Premier League rights show they no longer value the Bundesliga.

  3. Tom

    May 22, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    Fox’s coverage of the Bundesliga comes down to one word…respect. NBC shows that they respect the Premier League by giving it the same quality of coverage that they give all of their other properties, like the NHL. Fox doesn’t do the same with the Bundesliga. Many weeks the Bundesliga is merely an afterthought. They are clearly the third FS1 option if NASCAR or the FA Cup are on that week. Fox needs to show they are serious about showing these games by giving them a steady timeslot on one channel (not FS2), regular promotion on other Fox channels, dedicated pre and post game shows for every game televised ( no more Friday matches televised like the Fox Sports World days with disembodied voices as the “game host”). Basically if Fox isn’t going to respect their own product then why shoukd they expect the viewer to do be any different?

    • toby

      May 23, 2016 at 4:01 pm

      It is nothing to do with respect, the truth is the Bundesliga is a terrible property for Broadcasters no only in America but around the world. The Bundesliga gets great coverage around the world, but is still less popular than Italian, Spanish, English and even French football because the Bundesliga is a boring predictable league. People watch sports because it unscripted unpredictable drama. Maybe the German football fanboys love the Bundesliga, but to non-hardcore niche fans, it is boring seeing Bayern win 5-0 every week. The Bundesliga doesn’t get good ratings in Africa, Europe, Asia and South America, so why would America be any different? It is actually quite sad how Bundesliga teams are trying to buy American and Mexican players to boost viewing figures in USA, because they know their product isn’t good enough to sell itself.

    • Tim

      May 24, 2016 at 7:50 am

      You have to be joking….Its called ratings. All other sports out draw the Bundesliga on Fox by a wide margin. NBC’s other big property is the NHL and they do not conflict so clearly they can pay more attention as they have less big sports. Hell on one of the last days of the Prem season they were showing matches on USA rather NBCSN because of NASCAR and no one bitched about that.

  4. daniel

    May 22, 2016 at 3:37 am

    no reason why they couldnt put a double header on fx. i mean whats on the would trump a double header on saturdays? fx doesnt do college football or basketball,why not have a double header? the fox soccer to go is just a way to gouge the fans. no way nbc would do that if they had the champions or europa league.

  5. Ivan

    May 21, 2016 at 10:29 pm

    I choose to look at Fox’s coverage of the Budesliga season as glass half full – I got to watch plenty of exciting Bundesliga games this season.
    Yes, Fox continue to annoy me on a weekly basis, they would dump games to FS2 for NASCAR, but at least I got to watch Bundesliga football this year unlike years past (goltv, anyone?)…
    Is coverage as good as NBC? Not even close.
    Is the coverage as good as ESPN? No.
    But, it’s their first season, hopefully they will learn from mistakes, and Fox’s football coverage is generally so poor, with the bar set so low, the only way is up…or is it?
    Ian Joy was great, the highlights show was great, I do get FS2 in HD so no issue there. Hopefully they will show more high profile games on Fox proper next season, that should certainly help the profile of the league. And let’s face it, the Bundesliga is facing an uphill battle in an already crowded Saturday morning schedule of Premier League and La Liga games. Can’t really expect miracles and crazy ratings from a league that has been peripheral to US football fans for a few seasons.

  6. Jon Jung

    May 21, 2016 at 7:59 am

    You guys are ridiculous think about how hard it was to watch the bundesliga last year. It has been a major upgrade. Far from perfect but a major upgrade. Give them some time it was the first full season. Plus the have an online subscription only package, EPL doesn’t have that.

    • Chris

      May 21, 2016 at 5:56 pm

      Just want to add that sure FOX has an online subscription option, and as a current subscriber I can say it is the worst platform and video quality out of all the others I use (NBCSN, FUBO, BeIn, WatchESPN, MLSLive). Fox needs to majorly overhaul FoxSoccer2Go

  7. Azer

    May 20, 2016 at 11:09 pm

    I don’t know where to begin, Fox’s Bundesliga coverage was awful.
    Having lived in Germany for 6 years and a big supporter of Borussia Dortmund since I was little, I had big hopes when the news came that FOX would broadcast the league and not GOLTV anymore. Fox disappointed me and millions of others.
    In the very beginning, they would use the world feed, then FOX switched to using commentators from BT Sport from the UK which was odd, Rupert Murdoch does not own BT Sport.
    All of a sudden, FOX started using it’s domestic crew from LA, John Strong, Keith Costigan and the rest of the crew. FS2 & FS Plus never had a pregame show. The Highlights show was never shown on FS1, maybe I missed it? Instead of promoting the league, Fox would promote other upcoming games. The screen/picture on the local FOX network didn’t look the same, It didn’t look like a Bundesliga game, FOX would use it’s ugly graphics they use for the MLS. The majority of the games were shown on FS2. GOLTV at least cared to show the league, FOX doesn’t.
    Think about it, your favorite club is playing and you have to listen to Brad Friedel doing commentary for 90+ minutes. No, Thanks FOX, I’ll switch to NBCSN and watch the EPL instead.
    FOX’s Bundesliga coverage was a complete failure from top to bottom.

    • Tim

      May 24, 2016 at 7:52 am

      Millions? The ratings were well under 100k most of the time.

  8. Rob

    May 20, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    Ian Joy and Thomas Hitzlsperger were the only upgrade its studio talent. From there on I give their presentation as a failure. FOX had a chances to make up for their past and go up against their competitions. Did anyone notice that when games were on FS2 there was no studio coverage at all? It seems like they used the Bundesliga to promote other sports and soccer coverage. Were NBC had Neil Ashton to discuss ongoing EPL topics, FOX puts on Grant Wahl to promote MLS, Copa America and US mens/women’s national team upcoming matches. As for the soccer commentators used I enjoyed at the beginning of the season as they used the world feed because they were impartial. But when Bundesliga matches were on FOX they put on John Strong to promote MLS. And whenever their was a South American, Mexican or American playing he would use that as a opportunity to plug Copa America. Stuart Holden didn’t offer any input felt like he wa just there. FOX didn’t focus on the big teams or players. By their local the bet players were not Robert Lewandowski or Pierre Emerick Aubameyang NO it was Jordan Morris who may or may not play in the Bundesliga and Christian Pulisic? Next FOX didn’t build up any drama or excitement to come back next week. The race for Champions League or relegation battle didn’t seem to be important to highlight. I couldn’t tell which were the biggest match to see and what impact on the league it would have unless I looked it up myself. NBC kept me up to date with Leicester’s monthly schedule But FOX couldn’t Bayern Munich? Would like to hear everyones opinion.

  9. D. Shallenberger

    May 20, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    Since I am a Fan of Die Mannschaft, I enjoy following several bundesliga teams. Typically, I watch Bayern Munich (Thomas Muller!) during the live game time, then I watch in my free time, Dortmund, Schalke, Gladbach and Leverkusen games. I’m just glad that fox soccer 2 go has replays of these games, and also Included Champions League and Europa League games! My German son in law tells me that $100. for the year is a steal compared to what he pays in Germany…. A definite improvement over goltv last year, even though it cost more, I was able to get my money’s worth.
    Sooo looking forward to the Euro’s…

  10. Fsquid

    May 20, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    I’m still wondering how Fox Soccer Plus is a thing still.

  11. Jon Jung

    May 20, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    I don’t know what you are talking about. This year was a big success. The viewership was way up. And was second too the premiere league. Last year this league was on goltv so we had to watch it on iPads with the fubo app. The graphics are part off the bundesliga. And NBC does those stupid docu-shows too. Some of the broadcasters aren’t as good as NBC. But sounds like you are a EPL snob if you ask me. The leverkusen games and the Dortmund games were fun. Compared to where the bundesliga was last year this is light years ahead.

    • Christian

      May 20, 2016 at 12:33 pm

      Hey Jon, I’d be happy to support Fox and their efforts to show a fantastic league if they made it as easy as NBC does. Sorry if I’m an EPL snob to you but thanks to NBC I can enjoy my league a lot easier that you can. Enjoy searching for FS2 or Fox Soccer 2 Go.

      Ta

  12. Christian

    May 20, 2016 at 11:59 am

    Other than Ian Joy this production has to be viewed as a failure. I was so excited to watch the league this year and had hoped Fox had learned from their mistakes in the past. They haven’t.

    Fox will always fall behind their competition until they treat the beautiful game as well as NBC and BeIn. Imagine how much better the FA Cup and Champions League football would be on either of those platforms.

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