Fox Sports 1 showed 28 UEFA Champions League matches this past season, with an average viewership of 282,000. This is almost certainly a significant increase compared to 2012-13, when Champions League matches were shown mostly on Fox Soccer. Alas, numbers for Fox Soccer are difficult to find. For comparison, NBCSN’s coverage of the English Premier League has averaged 397,000 viewers through its first 152 matches. 23 Champions League matches on Fox Sports 2 drew an average audience of 56,000 viewers.
The breakdown by round:
Group stage (13 telecasts): 156,000 viewers
Round of 16 (7 telecasts) : 325,000 viewers
Quarterfinals (4 telecasts): 365,000 viewers
Semifinals (4 broadcasts): 536,000 viewers
The 627,00 viewers who tuned in for the second leg of Chelsea vs. Atletico Madrid marked the largest cable audience for a Champions League match since ESPN televised the 2009 final.
The Champions League Final, set to be played May 24th in Lisbon, will be broadcast on Fox. It will be the fifth consecutive final to be aired by Fox. The previous four drew audiences of 1.6 million (Inter/Bayern), 2.6 million (Man Utd/Barcelona), 2 million (Bayern/Chelsea), and 1.4 million (Bayern/Dortmund). Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo are two of the biggest draws soccer has in the U.S.; Atletico Madrid, less so. Fox obviously wouldn’t say it, but they were rooting for Chelsea in the semifinal. I’d expect this year’s final to draw more viewers than Bayern vs. Dortmund, but that’s about all.
Though Fox’s coverage of soccer has often been criticized (see Johnson, Gus), they are making a push to increase their broadcast rights to the sport. Fox holds the rights to the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup, and they will begin showing the German Bundesliga in the fall of 2015. It is thought that Fox and ESPN will share TV rights when MLS’s current contract is replaced. Fox already shows the CONCACAF Champions League and Gold Cup. Given CONCACAF’s role in bringing the 2016 Copa America Centenario to the US, Fox is expected to be the front-runner in bidding for the television rights to that tournament.