Week 1 of the USFL saw a ratings win for Fox and its network partners NBC and USA network pulling in millions of viewers during the inaugural weekend. However week 2 saw significantly less eyeballs drawn from the league’s opening weekend.
The USFL saw an approximately 57% drop in its viewership across 4 games in week 2 versus week 1. For comparisons with other Spring league entities, the XFL saw a 34% drop from week 1 to week 2 in 2020 and the AAF saw a 69% dip in their week 1 to week 2 audience. All leagues hosted 4 games each weekend.
TV ratings are a much-discussed aspect of Spring football leagues. They are a barometer for how sustainable the product is and are inevitably compared with competing sporting events including the NBA, NHL, MLB, F1, and MLS.
In an extensive thread posted to his Twitter profile, Fox’s Executive Vice President of Marketing Robert Gottlieb made it clear that the ratings drop or the sparse crowds are not indicative of decreased interest in the league. To the contrary, according to Gottlieb, the USFL, and specifically the Birmingham Stallions, are outperforming expectations.
Gottlieb went on to highlight Birmingham’s infatuation with the Stallions as a mark of the league’s success. Though, there appeared to be less individuals at their week 2 match up with the Houston Gamblers compared to their week 1 game against the New Jersey Generals.
The crowds are even more thinned out at non-Stallions matches to the point where there is little presence in the stands. Gottlieb did express hope for Birmingham residents to appear at more games, but did relent that this is more of a wish than a solid expectation.
Gottlieb is predictably positive in his assessment of the Birmingham citizens partaking in the USFL thus far. This is said despite the home team playing in a 41,000+ seat venue and have yet to even fill it at half capacity.
Alternative football leagues are no stranger to similar ratings drops while attempting to build clout with a new audience. One accomplishment the USFL will attempt to hold over the XFL 2.0 and AAF is to complete a full season regardless of viewership fluctuation. Week 3’s ratings and beyond will continue to be monitored and shed light on the USFL’s continued exposure and presence among casual and football-minded viewers.