As far as scoreless draws go, you could do a lot worse than Bayern Munich vs. Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday. It was a physical match, with chances at both ends and even a sending off. It isn’t going to be remembered as a classic, but it was still a good game between two of Europe’s top teams. It’s just a shame hardly anyone saw it.
soccer overnight ratings Saturday:
Southampton vs West Ham at 12:30 on NBC: 0.56
Leverkusen-Bayern Munich at 12:30 on FOX: 0.33
— Sports TV Ratings (@SportsTVRatings) February 8, 2016
In terms of viewers this will probably end up being FOX’s highest rated Bundesliga program to date, but for the network, they couldn’t beat NBC. FOX’s broadcast drew a 0.33 percent share of households in the top markets. Meanwhile, the West Ham/Southampton matchup airing on NBC drew a 0.56. That’s going to result in about a 60% difference in viewers. Two mid-table teams in England shouldn’t be drawing more than two of the top teams in Germany, with one of those sides featuring a Mexican international superstar. So what’s next for FOX? Does the network have to shoulder some of the blame for this, or is it simply that the Premier League came to America first, and too many people have already made up their minds?
First and foremost, FOX is partly to blame. Fans of the Bundesliga had high hopes that the league would be given the same treatment that the Premier League has received over at NBC. So far that hasn’t been the case. There have been no giant billboards in Times Square, no comedic sketch featuring Jason Sudeikis, there really wasn’t any mention of the league during the Women’s World Cup either.
Losing out in ratings to a mid-table Premier League match-up will hurt FOX, even though once FOX Deportes is factored in, total viewership should be bumped considerably. The fact is the Bundesliga isn’t as important to many Americans as the Premier League is. A lot of it comes to who was here first, but a lot of it has to do with marketing, and FOX is woefully behind NBC in that regard. Consider that in various parts of the country, local FOX affiliates chose not to air the Bundesliga on Saturday at all. Viewers in Miami were treated to a skin care infomercial, while those in Twin Falls, Idaho got cats.
Fox stations not airing live soccer: WSVN-Miami (pimple cream infomercial), KTVU-San Francisco (news), KSVT-Twin Falls (some cat show)
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) February 6, 2016
Cats are great, most of the time, but not as a replacement programming during a high-level Bundesliga match. It’s not a good look for FOX when their newly acquired sports league is getting bumped by cats and skin cream on the affiliates. FOX has to see that their current marketing strategy isn’t working. FOX has produced very little content for the Bundesliga. Most of their feature shows are made by the Bundesliga and just picked up by FOX. The only real original content the network is producing are the pregame shows. FOX’s segments like the German Joy Ride, that profiles a different city in Germany are fun, but they aren’t enough to get new viewers hooked, just to keep those already invested in the league entertained.
The Bundesliga has plenty of American players they could be marketing, it’s already been talked about. Most American soccer fans want to see their players playing in Europe, and casual fans might be more interested in a league that has a competitive image problem. FOX can’t make Bayern Munich lose the league, so instead they should be using the one advantage the Bundesliga has over the Premier League in regards to American viewers.
Increasing ratings wont happen overnight, FOX can’t just throw games on their network stations and hope every American becomes a German football savant. It’s not easy to change viewers habits, and the biggest issue FOX has is that NBC had a 2 -year head start. But even NBC still doesn’t have ratings that rival sports like baseball, basketball or even hockey. In the US, the NFL is still king of television. Sunday night when the Broncos beat the Panthers over 100 million people tuned in. Soccer in America is unlikely to ever reach that level, but its profile is being raised every year. NBC is doing most of the heavy lifting. FOX is starting to lag behind. If they don’t come up with a way to get more viewers interested in the product, it will be hard to justify the cost to own the rights. That would be a shame for Bundesliga fans, who frankly deserve better than skin cream and cats.