USFL projects 3 million viewers for opening night simulcast, streaming audience

USFL Week One - Philadelphia Stars v New Orleans Breakers
Getty Images

The USFL debuted on Saturday night, commandeering a pair of three-letter networks and a major streaming platform. That exposure resulted in, according to USFL projections, a total audience of three million for the game between the Generals and the Stallions.

The projected number, per the USFL, peaked at nearly 3.5 million at 10:45 p.m. ET.

By way of comparison, the AAF drew 2.9 million for its CBS debut on a Saturday night in 2019. The XFL debut in 2019 racked up 3.3 million on a Saturday afternoon in 2020.

There are three points to consider. First, the AAF and XFL Week One contests aired only on one major network, not two. Second, how would other programming in those spots have done? Third, these are projections by the USFL, not official numbers from whoever or wherever the currently-accepted official numbers come from. As the world continues to shift and change in viewing habits and devices, it’s apparently becoming much harder than it used to be to track reliable numbers.

Whatever the measurement employed, however they’re made, and whether the numbers from any source ever reflect the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth as to the actual audience metrics, the question becomes whether people will keep watching the USFL. Sunday’s three-pack of games on NBC, USA, and FS1 was delayed for roughly an hour by weather, and the images from Birmingham repeatedly featured a complete and total lack of fans in the stands.

For any alternate football league, it becomes much harder to persuade people to watch it on TV when they see that few in the vicinity of the event have bothered to show up to watch it in person. Whether the solution is to give tickets away, give food away, give both away, refrain from showing images of empty seats, or play the games in a venue that has no stands, the impact of wide swaths of nothing can’t be ignored.

40 responses to “USFL projects 3 million viewers for opening night simulcast, streaming audience

  1. Can’t grow a fanbase when you don’t play in front of your fans. Sports has always been about regional pride. How many games do you expect people of Birmingham to attend.

  2. I can say one thing. All that background noise and talking from all the microphones on the field got very annoying. I turned the channel after a while because it was “unprofessional”. That drone camera? Worthless. Player cameras? No big deal to me. Yes, there may be some new ideas that are good/better, but many aren’t. They gave a few things a tryout, now go back to what works better. Course I am only one opinion. What do others think?

  3. The number of people in the stadium for the New Orleans Breaker game was maybe 1000. Maybe give tickets away to give the impression that anyone gives a darn. Very bad look for a new league opening weekend with a virtually empty stadium. Maybe Easter weekend was a poor choice.

  4. How many times have these second rate leagues started and failed? It’s getting old. Why exactly will this time be different?

    Einstein was right.

  5. The game did get fairly stale after the first initial TDs by both teams. Also the NBA playoffs were starting right about that same time. Today’s NBC game was pretty good and I will keep watching… because you know, football.

  6. I am watching and I like it!! I was especially fond of the national anthem. I’ll keep watching as long as they keep standing.

  7. Started watching Gambler’s game..HORRIBLE!!!.. and probably not a thousand fans in stands… won’t survive 1 season… but was hoping!

  8. ticket prices are right….10 scoots for GA and 25 for super premium seating

  9. The only alternate league that succeeded was the AFL. Now 1696 players make up the NFL rosters. Another league is too watered down

  10. In addition to the other arguments made, it was also Easter Sunday, with all games in Birmingham Alabama. Southerners take Sunday, and especially Easter Sunday way more seriously than the big metropolitan coastal cities do. Pretty much all of my favorite BBQ restaurants in the south are closed on regular Sundays.

  11. You’d think with the cgi technology today that they’d just draw the fans into the stands. Make them a mix of The Simpsons and South Park……

  12. Tell me the numbers 3 weeks from today, then we will know how interested people still are.

  13. The USFL is off to a great start. The games have been competitive and exciting. Keep tuning in America. Don’t miss out. If the league does well enough, the teams can play in their home cities next year. Get all your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers to check out the USFL. Bandits vs Maulers on Monday night.

  14. I didn’t get a chance to watch the game, but saw the highlights of a few and thought it looked decent. I’m going to try and watch a game or. Two next weekend. I know it was Easter weekend, but they need to figure out a way to get some fans in the stands. The generals/stallions had a decent showing, but when I watched the highlights of the other games, I barley saw anyone in the stands. It looked like and sounded like the Covid season. The drones at times were annoying, but if they get fans in the stands to drown out their sound, they might not be as bad.

  15. Always a tough sell for a spring football league. NBA playoffs,NFL draft,MLB,Nascar and everyone is out golfing and mowing their yards. I do feel for the players that are trying to get noticed for one last shot at the NFL.

  16. I saw the game and thought it was pretty cool. I’ve seen a lot worse games in that shield league.

  17. Weather delay earlier in the day didn’t help, then the night game was canceled outright because of another weather delay (rescheduled to Monday night I think). I’ll still check it out as I want to see all ventures succeed, but the challenges are mounting.

  18. Wasn’t the best football, but so far all games where pretty close at the end so it was entertaining. I didn’t mind all the mics and hearing all the player’s pads making all the noise. But the drone drove me crazy! Terrible camera angles and just a bad camera at that, plus the freaking noise of it even when not using that camera! Loss the drone and even the player interviews during the game.

  19. I was watched all games and came to this realization: Baker Mayfield is gonna have a tough QB competition if he wants a starting job.

  20. So you think the greater Birmingham area is going to come out in droves to watch 3 consecutive 3rd rate football games featuring teams representing other cities?

    It makes no sense – the only people in the crowd would be relatives of the players or team employees.

  21. I remember it used to be called Unsuccessful Summer Football League, now just add Part II to that

  22. The innovation of using technology is great. The copious NEW camera angles give the viewer a new perspective. Helmet cams have improved & the mic’d up players lend to the feeling of ‘being there’. The atmosphere was FUN and first person experience was very good. NFL will adopt some of their new production tricks. Fans in the seats matter a little, but football is a game built for TV and to mix metaphors, the USFL hit a homerun.

  23. Playing the entire season in one stadium makes it easier for logistics, but it’s a poor way to build a fan base. The fans showed up for the Saturday night game, but they aren’t going to turn out for 4 games every weekend. No city in the country can support 40 games in 10 weeks.

  24. saturn22 says:
    April 17, 2022 at 8:34 pm
    I can say one thing. All that background noise and talking from all the microphones on the field got very annoying. I turned the channel after a while because it was “unprofessional”. That drone camera? Worthless. Player cameras? No big deal to me. Yes, there may be some new ideas that are good/better, but many aren’t. They gave a few things a tryout, now go back to what works better. Course I am only one opinion. What do others think?


    I didn’t mind the extra mics….wasn’t that big of a deal for me. I also LOVED the drone footage on plays where they got interesting anglee (like the clothesline tackle). Player cameras were an interesting idea….would like to see more replays from those on plays.

    “Works better” is subjective, and it’s clear you’re an old-school type.

  25. Meh, i tried watching and turned it off. Very bush league but maybe it will get better? The weather was a factor and I had to go to USFL twitter to see what was going on with the delays

  26. 3 million cumulative viewers are spit in the ocean. The gimmick will fail.

    Product is garbage

  27. I assume that when a league schedules all of their games to be played in one city in one stadium including three in a single day and only featuring a team “from” that city, that attendance is not something they were counting on. I am sure they were well aware that on Easter Sunday in the deep south that not many people would attend a football game between the Philadelphia Stars and the New Orleans Breakers.

  28. No exaggeration, saw like 100 fans in the stands in the Philadelphia/Memphis game.

  29. This is very simple. This is a television owned league. If it does as well in the ratings as their typical Saturday night fare when College football and the NFL are dark, it will stay around. If not, it won’t.

    It costs a lot of money to produce a regular TV show. It is most likely cheaper to field this league than to film a season of CSI. That’s why it’s here.

    ……….and also gambling.

  30. The only chance for a spring football league is to sign start players. The XFL should’ve made good on their threat to sign current college players to their rosters. To sign Tebow or Kaepernick would get eyeballs on the games, regardless of their actual talent.

    The 1st USFL from the 80’s had a college draft & signed star players like Brian Sipe, Herschel Walker, Steve Young, Reggie White & Jim Kelly. Theses spring leagues have no chance if they don’t do something similar.

  31. I watched, and hearing the players and coaches chatter constantly got old before halftime. Was neat at first but I don’t need to hear that all game.

  32. Congratulations to Jeff Fisher though. Not many can say they are tied for most all-time coaching losses in two different leagues.

  33. Pretty sure that all the cities that are now in the USFL hve venues that could have hosted their teams either for free or at a discounted price considering the econmic benefits to be had by those cities. Pretty sure that all those cities have college stadiums that wold have gladly said okay! You can’t build a fan base when you are like the rest of the country trying to learn your team’s faces and names?

  34. They were exciting games, someone is going to get an opportunity for the NFL from it too.

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