The USFL debuted (or as the case may be returned) in 2022. The first regular season is in the books, and the TV numbers are in.
Via Ben Fischer of Sports Business Journal, the 36 games televised by Fox, NBC, FS1, and USA Network averaged 715,000 viewer. Of that number, seven games averaged more than one million viewers. (Omitted from these figures is the average audience for games that were available via streaming only.)
The average suggests a downward trend as the season unfolded. Indeed, the final game of the regular season, televised last Sunday by FS1, bottomed out at 181,000 viewers.
Even so, the USFL has shown that it can hold its own with other spring sports, such as the Premier League, the NHL regular season, Formula One, and Major League Soccer.
Jon Miller of NBC, which televised half of the game, described the product as “profitable.” Mike Mulvihill of Fox said that the USFL (which is owned by Fox) proved that it can compete in the category with other spring sports.
Next year, the XFL returns. It begins earlier than the USFL, and it benefits from a partnership with ABC and ESPN.
To little surprise, ESPN ignored the existence of the USFL, much like it did with the NHL before it acquired the TV rights. (Again, it’s The Worldwide Leader in Sports . . . That We Televise.) Next year, with ESPN propping up the XFL and ignoring the USFL, how will the USFL fare?
Over the long haul, the ongoing spread of legalized wagering is the key. People want and need things on which to bet. And when the technology is implemented that projects real-time images to phones and screens at home, the potential for in-game, per-play betting could be another way to boost interest and, in turn, viewership.