Fox Sports officially announced their plan for Bundesliga a little over two weeks from the start of the season on Friday August 14. Reports from philly.com‘s Jonathan Tannenwald and World Soccer Talk show that the updated plan for Fox’s Bundesliga is far and away better than what seemed like the original plan when all games were going to be relegated to Fox Sports 2, a channel that about half of the cable/satellite world still doesn’t get and even fewer have it in HD, Fox Soccer Plus, which charges around $15 depending on cable/satellite provider and Fox Soccer 2 Go, which is a separate internet channel that costs $19.99/month or $99.99/year.
We at 32 Flags, like many other fans, were highly critical of Fox’s plan and that it gave the impression Fox was treating the Bundesliga like filler programming in between UFC replays and programming for days when Fox wasn’t showing NASCAR racing instead of making the Bundesliga a cornerstone of programming like NBC has done with the Premier League. That wasn’t to say people were expecting Premier League like coverage of the Bundesliga because that is more of the exception than the rule for any sport, much less soccer, but seeing the original plan in addition to Fox’s inconsistent history with soccer coverage and people start to worry.
This new schedule should alleviate some of those fears. Fox has announced that 58 games will be shown on FS1 and 60 games on FS2. In addition, the Bayern Munich/Hamburg opening game on August 14 will be shown live on YouTube and regional Fox Sports networks in addition to FS2. Every game will be on Fox Soccer 2 Go so that’s still the place to go if you want to guarantee watching every game of your team but this is a nice compromise that Fox gave to fans so that Fox can market Fox Soccer 2 Go and raise subscriber numbers with Bundesliga, give FS2 more live content and hope soccer fans call their cable/satellite provider to demand they carry FS2 to rise subscriber numbers there as well and then give most everyone a chance to watch games on FS1.
In addition, Fox will have a half hour pregame show and halftime show on their FS1 games and most FS2 games. Fox just hired beIN’s Ian Joy, who also commentates NYCFC games, and he will be joined by Fox’s mainstay Eric Wynalda, who had experience playing in Germany in the mid-90’s.
Philly.com also noted that since News Corp (parent company of Fox) also owns Sky Deutschland (German broadcaster for Bundesliga games), Fox will have access to a wealth of off the field content to round out the game coverage as well as highlight shows in the middle of the week.
Fox also released the first seven weeks of their Bundesliga schedule. The great thing I see is that games not featuring Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund are also on FS1. Out of the 15 games on FS1 in the first seven weeks, Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund is only featured in five of those games. Some of this is also dictated on time slots so maybe Fox would have wanted to have those big name teams on FS1 a little more often, but having a great mix of teams on FS1 for fans who may only know those two big name teams will get to see many other teams they never watched before and may cause new fans to root for more than just Bayern and Dortmund.
What seemed like a dire situation for Bundesliga fans in America (especially after GolTV), Fox is turning things around with this schedule. Having said that, realize that Fox is a business and this schedule isn’t set in stone going into the future. We complained, other media outlets complained and fans complained and it appeared as if Fox listened. At the same time, if the viewership isn’t there, games on FS1 won’t last for long. This may be tough to hear but this is why Fox sometimes shows a Camping World Truck Series practice session instead of an FA Cup game. When the Truck practice gets double the viewership and Fox can put commercials on that than in a soccer game that’s commercial free except for pregame, halftime and post game, it’s a pretty simple business decision. Fox is giving the Bundesliga a legitimate shot by putting games on FS1, it’s now on the viewers to pay that back and show Fox that they made the right decision.