Similar to the XFL, it’s a mixed bag for the USFL. Before getting into TV ratings analysis, there are a couple of factors to take into consideration:
– The USFL competing head-to-head with the XFL isn’t ideal. With the XFL establishing itself earlier in the year, and the spring football community only fitting so many people, ratings are split between the two.
– Streaming numbers are not included. This would include Peacock (USA/NBC).
USFL TV Ratings Analysis
Let’s be honest: these aren’t the most encouraging numbers, mainly from a cable perspective. But again, there’s plenty of factors that play into what transpired this weekend. First and foremost – the two games on OTA networks (FOX, NBC) performed up to par with 2023 standards. Those ratings, in particular, are very similar to what we saw for most of the 2022 season on those channels.
However, the cable TV ratings dropped drastically. USA Network saw its debut in week two, and posted a measly 133,000 viewers – the lowest number we’ve seen in the modern spring football era.
One has to wonder if the hub model is impacting cable viewership. Neither Houston or New Orleans are playing in their home cities. On top of that, this means that hardly any fans were in the stands – which is certainly a turnoff for some people at home.
The two cable games on FS1 and USA were comprised of 75% non-hub teams. The USFL is wisely putting the games in Memphis, Detroit, and Birmingham on over-the-air networks. However, cable is certainly taking a hit because of that decision.
USFL vs. XFL
The USFL won the battle a week ago for total viewership. This time around, it was the XFL who had more success.
For the second week in a row, the #XFL2023 and #USFL went head-to-head. Total viewership:
When it comes to OTA networks, it’s arguably a win-win for both entities. There’s not much of a difference on that end.
However, the XFL takes the cake from a cable perspective. Saturday afternoon featured an XFL game on ESPN (636,000) – while USA’s USFL outing knotted 133,000. Now, ESPN and USA Network aren’t even close when it comes to average ratings. So a comparison between the two isn’t entirely fair to the USFL. Both channels are “cable”, but ESPN holds much more weight being a popular sports network.
Sunday night gave us the best look at head-to-head cable ratings. Both leagues played games starting at 7pm ET. The XFL had 378,000 viewers on ESPN2. Meanwhile, the USFL’s matchup between Michigan and Philadelphia on FS1 posted 211,000.
The XFL has a clear advantage. All eight teams are playing in their home markets, which automatically means that cable viewership will be higher.
Is 589,000 combined viewers on cable enough for either league to survive? Time will tell. Both leagues have completely different infrastructures, TV deals, and goals.
The kicker here is: what does FOX Sports genuinely think of these TV ratings? If they are satisfied with the lower cable numbers for non-hub teams, then the USFL will be just fine.
There is plenty of room for improvement here. The drop off, especially for USA Network, is pretty severe after one week (compared to last year). However, the USFL is taking their time to get into all eight markets. They’re building from the ground up, ensuring they do not get ahead of themselves financially.
Also, they’re in a much different position than the XFL. FOX Sports owns the USFL. They are getting a bunch of air-time – basically for free – with game replays on FS1 and FS2. Essentially, the league exists to give FOX content that they can use more than once.
At the same time, it’s obvious that the XFL is getting in the way. Both organizations have eaten into each other’s viewership pool. When the XFL wraps up their season, the door opens up once again for the USFL to be the only league on TV playing professional football in the States.
What are your thoughts on the USFL TV Ratings? How do they stack up against the XFL? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!