Tuesday October 3, 2023

USFL, XFL Cannibalize Each Other’s Audiences

  • USFL beats XFL in TV viewers in first head-to-head matchup.
  • XFL was in its 9th week of action vs. Week 1 for USFL.
The USFL season debut beat the XFL in ratings.
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Front Office Sports Today

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October 3, 2023 | Podcast
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Spring football would always be a dicey TV proposition given the failure of previous leagues like the USFL, XFL, and Alliance of American Football.

But spring football TV prospects diminish further when dueling leagues cannibalize each other’s audiences. Just ask about the new iterations of the USFL and XFL.

The USFL came out on top during its first head-to-head competition with the XFL this past weekend. Neither league cracked one million average viewers. The question, as always, is what kind of staying power they will have as their seasons continue.

During its first week of action, the new USFL averaged 784,000 viewers across Fox Sports, FS1, and NBC Sports. That was down 50% from last year’s inaugural weekend, which averaged 1.57 million viewers, according to Sports Media Watch.

But the debut of the USFL’s second season comfortably topped Week 9 of the XFL, which averaged 592,000 viewers across ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2. 

One bright spot for the XFL was ABC’s telecast of the Houston Roughnecks vs. Vegas Vipers. That game drew 878,000 viewers. 

“It should be noted that while the USFL had the top overall audience between the two leagues over the weekend, the XFL took the top two spots in adults 18-49 with Arlington-DC on ESPN (275K) and Vegas-Houston on ABC (231K),” noted Sports Media Watch.

Both leagues also ran into the buzzsaw of the most-watched opening weekend of the NBA Playoffs in 12 years. The league’s weekend playoff slate averaged 4.15 million viewers across ABC/ESPN and TNT.

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