With two competing spring football leagues scheduled to be in action in 2023, one glaring question is the broadcast schedule. Obviously both leagues will be playing on the weekends, but how will this look for fans looking to catch the games on TV?
Prior to kicking off this past spring, the USFL reached a deal with NBC that let them run 21 games on the NBC family of networks. With the league already backed by Fox, the USFL games aired exclusively on NBC and Fox channels with games being played on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday’s. The USFL’s ratings steadied at around 650,000 average viewers after the opening weekend games chartered around 1.5 million average viewers.
Meanwhile, the XFL signed a five-year contract with ESPN/Disney to broadcast all games on their networks. The inaugural season will consist of 40 regular season games, two playoff games, and one championship and will appear on ESPN, ABC, and FX. The league is wasting no time getting started either as they plan to kick-off on Feb. 18, 2023, just a week after the NFL’s Super Bowl game is played. The USFL plans to start sometime between April 14-16, the weekend following The Masters. Which means these two leagues will be going head-to-head for approximately three to four weeks. It is expected that these ratings will range similarly based on the performance of the XFL in 2020, and the USFL’s ratings performance this past spring.
Another factor that will play a part in comparing these two leagues is game attendance. With the USFL announcing that they will be playing their second season with ‘two to four’ hub cities, both leagues will be hosting fans across the country at various sites. This past season, the USFL only hosted regular season games in Birmingham, Alabama at the Protective Stadium, and hosted their playoff games in Canton, Ohio. A huge knock on the league this season was that their fan attendance was very low, and it was apparent to viewers watching at home. Choosing Birmingham as the hub-city most likely is the core reason for poor attendance since Alabama is not a premier destination and is in a very rural part of the country with no nearby major cities. The USFL would benefit immensely from selecting more populated areas for hub-cities like Houston for the Gamblers and Philadelphia for the Stars.
As for the XFL, Dwayne Johnson announced on May 16 that “Our XFL will soon humbly take the fields in stadiums across our country”. The XFL was reported to be toying with the idea of using a central location like the USFL did, but ultimately have decided to go ahead and play games at multiple sites across the country which is great news for fans. For the most part, the XFL 2.0 (2020) did not have any major concerns with attendance. While cities like Tampa and Los Angeles did struggle compared to other teams, there was never a game with less than 12,000 fans in attendance. With those two cities no longer having ties to the new XFL, it is clear that the league wants teams playing in major sports markets across the country that are within close proximity of each other.
As of now, there appear to be no major roadblocks preventing these two leagues from being successful simultaneously in Spring 2023.
How do you think things will shake out between the USFL and XFL? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below or join the conversation on Discord.