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Discontentment with FOX’s Bundesliga coverage continues

If it’s not MLS, it seems that FOX Sports isn’t interested in giving other soccer leagues it has the rights to much coverage or publicity. That’s the message the TV network is sending to soccer fans in the United States.

After FOX Sports lost the rights to the UEFA Champions League, FA Cup and Europa League all inside the last 12 months, the only European soccer league the U.S. broadcaster has the rights to is the Bundesliga, which FOX has had since 2015. While not broadcasting any other European club soccer competitions, you would expect the broadcaster to be able to focus more attention on the top-flight German league than ever before, but the opposite has been true.

Frustratingly for soccer fans in the United States, the past few weeks have seen FOX Sports broadcasting more Bundesliga games on FS2 than usual. While the number of games on FS2 is on a par with last season, FOX Sports has eliminated much of the typical pre-game, half-time and post-match studio analysis that we’re used to seeing on the network. It’s reached the point where soccer fans switch on a Bundesliga game not knowing if there’ll be any studio coverage at all.

So far this season, there’s only been one Bundesliga game televised on the over-the-air FOX network. Presumably there will be a few more games televised on big FOX before the season ends, but in comparison to the 2015/16 season when FOX televised more than eight matches on over-the-air FOX, it seems that the level of commitment by FOX to the Bundesliga is sinking.

We reached out to the Bundesliga and FOX Sports for comment, but before we get to that, there’s other concerning news.

As is the norm for every major broadcaster in the United States that televises soccer, the broadcaster’s public relations (PR) department will reach out on a weekly basis with updates on coverage, schedules and press releases to encourage the soccer and TV industry media in the United States to promote the coverage of a league. However, that isn’t the case anymore with FOX Sports’ coverage of the Bundesliga.

The last time FOX Sports issued a press release to promote their coverage of the Bundesliga was more than 18 months ago when it distributed a media alert on August 14, 2017.

And since 2015, the amount of press releases issued by FOX about the Bundesliga coverage has dropped from a high of 13 in 2016 to zero in 2018. At the same time, while the FOX Sports PR department has effectively given the Bundesliga the cold shoulder, the PR department has been focusing all of its soccer-related efforts in trying to pump up MLS, US Men’s National Team and US Women’s National Team (see chart below).

Number of soccer press releases issued by FOX Sports:

The irony is that this Bundesliga season has been the most entertaining one in years with a more open title race, an influx of American youth getting valuable minutes as well as many exciting high quality games.

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

FOX’s seemingly decreasing interest in promoting their coverage of the Bundesliga hasn’t gone unnoticed by soccer fans in the United States.

World Soccer Talk reached out to the Bundesliga for comment to find out what the league is doing to try to encourage FOX Sports to broadcast more of the league on FS1 and over-the-air FOX.

“We have a very positive and open partnership with FOX who have been key to increasing coverage of the Bundesliga in the USA,” said Bundesliga Executive Vice President Strategy Arne Rees. “With such a competitive marketplace, especially within the US, we are always pushing our media partners to do more in terms of coverage, marketing and promotion. We understand that all of our partners have their own strategic priorities, but rest assured we are working hard to ensure the Bundesliga gets the coverage it deserves as we continue our drive to reach as many fans as possible across the world.”

FOX Sports declined to comment.

The challenge for FOX Sports is that the Bundesliga isn’t a top priority for the broadcaster. When the rights were acquired for the start of the 2015/16 season, it was part of a global deal that was thrust upon the executives in the United States. FOX Sports in the United States didn’t proactively acquire the rights for the region, so there hasn’t been the buy-in since day one from the executives in Los Angeles.

At the same time, FOX Sports has treated the Bundesliga as filler. For example, prioritizing wall-to-wall coverage of NASCAR over the German league. As a result, almost all of the Bundesliga games televised on English-language TV during the past few weeks have been slotted on FS2, which has a much smaller distribution as well as not being available to many cable subscribers in the United States.

The Bundesliga and FOX Sports find themselves in a catch 22 where viewership for NASCAR is greater than the Bundesliga on FOX Sports. So from a business point-of-a-view, it makes perfect sense to broadcast the NASCAR over the Bundesliga on FS1. The challenge, however, is that it’s a vicious circle for the German league. The Bundesliga can’t grow its audience if it continues being cast aside on FS2. And timing is an issue too. Oftentimes, the most exciting time of the season is January and February when the races for the title and Champions League qualification heat up. But for the Bundesliga and FOX Sports, it’s also the time of the year when NASCAR monopolizes much of the TV time on FS1.

If there is a light at the end of the tunnel, the actual studio talent (when used) and commentators have been working diligently to make the Bundesliga coverage as strong as they possibly can. When the talent is on-air, their commentating and analysis have been better than they’ve been before on U.S. television. But the studio talent and commentators can only do so much. Without the help of the FOX Sports company itself trying to increase the awareness of the coverage, the Bundesliga will continue to be overlooked and underserved.

The Bundesliga just isn’t a good fit for FOX Sports, and FOX is not a good fit for the German league.

FOX’s current contract for the US rights to the Bundesliga ends in May 2020.

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28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Oliver Tse

    March 2, 2019 at 10:15 am

    Bundesliga is a LAME DUCK for FOX Sports (US). With Sky Sport Deutschland now under Comcast ownership, there is no synergy to be realized between Sky Deutschland and FOX (US).

    Bundesliga is a now a relatively expensive product thanks to FOX Sports (US) overpaying for it (5 times what GOLTV used to pay.) FOX Sports (US) was able to past on the cost of U.S. rights to Bundesliga to each FS1 subscriber, as each FS1 subscriber is paying $0.01 per month.

  2. Ben

    March 1, 2019 at 9:45 am

    Pleease go to ESPN+ or something.. The league is too damn good to be stuck with FOX. Sorry.

  3. joe

    March 1, 2019 at 6:11 am

    Doubtful ratings would soar with better promotion, as things stand I get 5 to 6 matches per week. Would love Fox to hold onto this league. Probably won’t happen and I won’t be paying somebody $10 a month to stream, so I’ll continue to enjoy this league while I can.

    • Edwin

      March 1, 2019 at 11:57 am

      ^This….. Ratings definitely aren’t going to soar with more promotion it is what is the numbers are what they are. At it’s peak Bundesliga won’t pull anymore on Fox than what Serie A does on ESPN. 125-150k. I’m sure I’ve offended a Bundesliga or Serie A fan with my observation of observed fact that they’ll take as a personal insult. We as soccer fans need to understand it’s still a niche sport iin this country. Gone are the days of the late 2000s where we saw main networks going all in and trying to fulfill a seeming infinite number of soccer fans. Networks have realized the resources needed to win rights to these leagues with seemingly constant revolving TV contract windows of every 3-4 yrs isn’t worth it on the TV side.

      There are too many leagues wanting mainstream US broadcasters to broadcast their leagues and pay at the premium they’ve come accustomed to getting in Europe while there isn’t a big enough base TV wise to consume/subsidize it yet. If it feels to you too like winners and losers are being chosen it’s because they are. Networks are looking at the TV DOLLARS on both sides of the spectrum out/in and are deciding what leagues they can make a profit or break even on and what they should cut loose. On Network TV/Basic Cable we’re seeing the trimming of the fat so to speak. With the league that a profit can be made off remaining on traditional TV and things soccer related that are harder to make a profit of going behind paywall. The thinking is that those leagues while niche have enough loyal followers that while 125-150k on regular TV may not be enough to be profitable for a network that’s a decent subscriber base if you can get them to pay $100-150 yr to follow their team or league.

      This has been the biggest elephant in the room that most in the soccer media aren’t talking about and addressing. Maybe it paints the soccer revolution in a bad light but this is what’s happening. This issue along with tribalism factions is the biggest issue facing the sport in the US. As it only divides a already niche thing into even nicher subsets.

      • JP

        March 1, 2019 at 1:42 pm

        You make valid points, there are only so many matches one can watch and often the start times for each league conflict with others. Once someone has the mindset they like EPL (as an example) then they won’t seek out other leagues if it means missing an EPL match.

        However, do think there are fans who are open to watching more leagues and marketing could bring them in. Noticed last night NBCSN had promos for this weekend’s EPL matches during the Bruins/Lighting hockey game. You’d never see this for Bundesliga on Fox for non soccer events, they’d only mention sometimes during HT of post game of UCL matches when they had it.

        NBC’s marketing is above and beyond what the other networks have so EPL captures the casual fan as well. I don’t have the numbers to back me, but seems like their is greater consciousness of EPL since moving from Fox Soccer/ESPN to NBC. Fox never made such an effort with Bundesliga.

        beIN does great with the leagues they show, but doesn’t have NBC’s advantage of owning multiple media properties to use for marketing, so beIN is mostly preaching to the choir.

        ESPN only uses their marketing heft for NBA and college football.

  4. Daniel

    February 28, 2019 at 2:43 pm

    It doesnt help their games are at 830am central

  5. Joey

    February 27, 2019 at 4:21 pm

    Maybe if anyone watched the games or gave a sh*t they would have higher ratings, thus putting games on FS1 or Fox…?? Soccer fans in this country are too busy being posers watching the EPL, calling each other “mate” while using their best David Beckham accent. Bundesliga obviously hasn’t caught on because the soccer poser crowd is having tough time learning German.

  6. JP

    February 27, 2019 at 3:22 pm

    English language rights…..

    Would hope that anyone would be smart enough to demand both when bidding after seeing Univision make B/R Live virtually unnecessary for Champions League.

  7. JP

    February 27, 2019 at 2:52 pm

    With La Liga and Bundesliga rights both expiring in 2020 we may have a shell game between beIN and the streaming services (ESPN+, DAZN). If beIN thinks they’ll lose La Liga maybe they bid for Bundesliga. If La Liga remains with beIN then Bundesliga probably goes streaming.

    On a side note, find hard to justify La Liga leaving beIN since NBC and Fox don’t appear as if they’ll be bidding and ESPN might provide less exposure (mostly streaming and the one off match shown when if fits ESPN’s packed schedule of college sports). It’s not the case where Serie A was treated as second status to La Liga on beIN so they saw a benefit to ESPN.

    • Eddie

      February 27, 2019 at 3:16 pm

      What about Telemundo and Univision of la liga in 2020

    • JN

      February 28, 2019 at 7:26 am

      La Liga coverage is beIN’s bread and butter, so assuming they have the finances to keep running (that is a big “if”), I doubt they will let go of it that easily. There are more games on the main channels now since they are not spread so thin trying to cover another major league.

      One thing they may need to do is to resolve their differences with one of the major carriers, Another thing they could do is to offer beIN connect as a stand alone service in addition to having it available with standard cable/satellite carriers and streaming services.. Connect still needs work though. Yes, they have modernized and have broken away from that Silverlight garbage (Microsoft Silver light to HTML 5 standards), but it still has issues.

      • JP

        February 28, 2019 at 8:42 am

        Yes! When my carrier was without beIN weeks before the La Liga season began I was wondering why they just couldn’t offer it as a stand alone for something like $5-10 a month like an HBO Now.

  8. A Specht

    February 27, 2019 at 2:17 pm

    They also appear to gotten rid of the Bundesliga Wraparound on the Fox sports app, which at least showed the highlights for the early Saturday games. I am hoping it is just a glitch with the app, but I doubt it.

  9. Eddie

    February 27, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    Dazn or Espn plus could get Bundesliga

  10. fsquid

    February 27, 2019 at 12:48 pm

    I have access to those channels, so I haven’t had an issue watching the Bundesliga games that I want.

    • Rover

      February 27, 2019 at 2:06 pm

      True, if you have access to FS1/FS2/FSplus/FoxDep and UniDep you get to see a good selection of the 9:30 am games on Sat. Actually better than what NBC offers up in the 10am window, which is usually 1 lopsided EPL matchup

  11. Dan

    February 27, 2019 at 12:23 pm

    Also, when FOX got the Bundesliga (a year or two before it actually began televising games), three things hadn’t happened yet:

    1. Big Ten football and basketball, which arrived in 2015-16, and now usually splits the 12:00 Saturday slot with NASCAR or Big East basketball or Big 12 football (whichever’s in season) for most of the year.

    2. FOX letting the Champions League and Europa League go in August 20 both because Turner doubled the previous rights fee and because FOX’s then-new FSI programmers wanted to build up the TV/radio talk simulcasts they had paid big money (fewer preemptions).

    3. Sky being sold, ultimately to NBC/Comcast. As the article noted, this was a multi-country deal for Murdoch-owned broadcasters (including Sky Germany/Austria).

    Add it up and the Bundesliga just doesn’t fit with FOX at this point. I definitely think it’s headed to another broadcaster in 2020-21, possibly on a deal similar to Serie A.

  12. Azer

    February 27, 2019 at 12:09 pm

    Edwin
    I disagree with you about the Bundesliga going to ESPN plus or any other streaming service. The league deserves to be on TV. The Bundesliga is the best league in the world.
    Fox Sports needs to bring back the Fox Soccer Channel and continue with the Bundesliga.

    • Edwin

      February 27, 2019 at 12:37 pm

      I understand your angst and that is a debatable opinion I say La Liga is the best. I’d also wish Fox Soccer Channel would come back. However concerning the Bundesliga despite opinions reality matters here.

      The honest Reality is that the numbers aren’t there, a big problem with soccer in the US is perception. Folks in the media and fans alike are in a battle to form perception of the leagues they choose to like and follow. This has harmed Bundesliga as the perception pushed in social media here is the Premier League is the best league and only worth watching in numbers. Bundesliga however had 8 games on Big FOX in it’s debut season more than MLS has ever gotten and the numbers where not good. World Soccer Talk posted many articles and derided the topic of poor Bundesliga ratings in the US and on FOX thru the years. The reasons from World Soccer talk have ranged from Bundesliga exec arrogance to FOX poor coverage in general. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, In all reality FOX is poor with all its soccer coverage Bundesliga/USMNT/MLS, compared to other channels the ratings reflect this.

    • Payasos

      February 28, 2019 at 8:44 pm

      The league DOESN’T DESERVE to be anywhere, whether you think it’s the best league in the world is irrlevant, I don’t get why the people who run this site and most commenters don’t realize the decisions aren’t made on emotion. The demand is not there, as shocking as it is to Chris, Kartik and people on here there is a much greater demand for NASCAR than there is for Fortuna Wolfsburg, advertisers will pay more for the indy 500 than Schalke Freiburg, I know that’s outrageous to some on here but it’s the truth.

      • Azer

        March 1, 2019 at 8:56 am

        Who are you to tell us ”the league doesn’t deserve to be anywhere”? Internet tough guy. When the contract with Fox Sports expires in May of 2020, the Bundesliga is going to find a home whether you like it or not. Fox might keep it or if it goes to a different network or streaming service, I’ll be fine. As far as NASCAR or Indy 500 It shows how far back the USA has fallen behind other countries. Did you ever watch Formula 1 racing? Check it out, ESPN has the rights to it. There is no Fortuna Wolfsburg, the club is called Fortuna Dusseldorf. Please educate yourself before you start posting nonsense. Join the civilized world, we’ll help you.

        • Ben

          March 1, 2019 at 9:44 am

          THANK YOU Azur!!

        • Jim

          March 1, 2019 at 3:15 pm

          Azer he means Fortuna v Wolfsburg or Schalke v Freiburg. Your passion is great but you’re just so thick sometimes.

          • Azer

            March 1, 2019 at 10:25 pm

            Oh, please stop with name calling. Off course I knew what he meant.

  13. Curtis Williams

    February 27, 2019 at 11:58 am

    #BoycottBundesligaOnFox

  14. Edwin

    February 27, 2019 at 11:46 am

    Christopher where do you see the Bundesliga better served? I think a deal with ESPN similar to Serie A deal with the bulk of the games being shown on ESPN+ with a game here and there on ESPN would serve the league well and its fans.

    • Edwin

      February 27, 2019 at 12:17 pm

      It’s either that or B/R Live or DAZN at this point with ESPN being the better option the thing is while it was a global deal the US media market hoped for success was a big part of the $100 mil yr plus deal Bundesliga deal. As you’ve noted the business point of view from FOX is to make money, FOX Sports actions have showed they’d rather air re runs of old Nascar races to remunerate their lost money from Bundesliga deal than to try and stick it out and grow the league. In short cut their losses while they can.

    • R.O

      February 27, 2019 at 3:26 pm

      Geeze, I hope not (going to streaming)! While streaming is an option for some, far more people watch via TV if they have the channel(s). I finally got FS2 on Comcast in my area plus FoxDeportes and UniDeportes. I don’t do streaming (I only have DSL available to me). I’m not paying even more $$ to get ESPN+ & others on top of Cable. Plus nternet providers doing slow down speeds after data limits are reached.
      I’m okay if streaming is available for those that want it, but all the games being streamed should also be shown on TV.
      On Serie A, ESPN only shows one game per weekend and it’s usually the game at 3:00 am (PST). Who the heck is going to get up at 3am to watch Serie A? Not me.

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