The USFL TV Ratings are in from Week 3. The Week 2 figures saw a 60 percent decline in viewership from its opening week, as the four games on the schedule averaged 658,000 viewers. The Week 3 games for the USFL averaged 752,000 viewers. A slight increase from week 2’s results.
With two USFL games in Week 3 scheduled on FOX, one in primetime on Saturday night. And only one game on cable TV this past weekend. The expectation was that the overall numbers would increase after an expected but steep decline from a week ago.
As a reference point, here are the USFL TV ratings from weeks 1 and 2.
USFL Week One TV Ratings
- Saturday, Apr. 16: NJ Generals vs. Birmingham Stallions (FOX): 1.757 million viewers, 0.56 rating/(NBC): 1.310 million viewers, 0.42 rating
- Sunday, Apr. 17: Houston Gamblers vs. Michigan Panthers (NBC): 2.153 million viewers, 0.69 rating
- Sunday, Apr. 17: Philadelphia Stars vs. New Orleans Breakers (USA): 771,000 viewers, 0.25 overall rating, 0.11 in the 18-49 adult demo. The USA network USFL game was ranked 13th out of the top 50 cable telecasts.)
- Monday, Apr. 18: Tampa Bay vs. Pittsburgh (FS1): 268,000 viewers, 0.09 overall rating, 00.6 in the 18-49 demo. The telecast ranked 90th out of 150 cable shows.
USFL Week 2 Ratings
* Friday, Apr. 22: NJ vs. Michigan (USA): 363k, 0.12 rating
* Saturday, Apr. 23: Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh (FOX): 1.056m, 0.34 rating
* Saturday, Apr. 23: Birmingham vs. Houston (FS1): 402k, 0.13 rating (172-minute duration)
* Saturday, Apr. 23: Birmingham vs. Houston (FS2): 88k, 0.03 rating (36-minute duration)
* Sunday, Apr. 24: New Orleans vs. Tampa Bay (NBC): 757k, 0.24 rating (Updated figure courtesy of Nielsen)
USFL Week 3 TV Ratings
- Saturday, April 30: Tampa Bay Bandits vs. Houston Gamblers (FOX) averaged 825,000 viewers.
The USFL’s first game of the weekend on FOX ran head to head with the tail end of day three of the 2022 NFL Draft. Considering the competition, the 4 pm telecast between the Tampa Bay Bandits and Michigan Panthers held up reasonably well. Day three of the NFL Draft, which aired on several networks simultaneously, 12 noon ET on ABC averaged over a million viewers. (1.092 million viewers). The other day 3 draft telecasts aired on NFL Network and ESPN.
- Saturday, April 30: Birmingham Stallions vs. New Orleans Breakers (FOX) averaged 1.144 million viewers. A slight increase from last week’s 1.056 million viewers in Week 2’s afternoon telecast. The game scored a 0.22 18-49 rating.
The USFL flexed the hometown Stallions into this prime time slot. From a TV viewing and competitive standpoint. It made perfect sense to have the league’s two unbeaten teams square off in a setting that guaranteed some form of attendance from spectators. The bump in the rating from 1.056 to 1.144 can be viewed as a positive. But anything less would have been very disappointing for the league.
- Sunday, May 1st: Michigan Panthers vs. Pittsburgh Maulers (USA) averaged 292,000 viewers. Down from last week’s 363,000 viewers on USA. The game was ranked 91st out of the top 150 cable telecasts. Drawing a 0.05 in the 18-49 adult demo.
Sunday, May 1st: New Jersey Generals vs. Philadelphia Stars (Peacock): The final game of Week 3 in the USFL, which saw the Generals defeat the Stars 24-16, aired exclusively on NBC’s streaming service. There is no viewership data for this game. The Generals will be back on Peacock this coming weekend.
Analysis: The USFL viewership figures and TV ratings, where they currently stand, are acceptable in the current sports TV landscape. Especially for a brand new league that is still attempting to establish its own identity.
The real question becomes where will these numbers level off. Have they already? Having two network games average under a million viewers (969,500) per telecast isn’t a major surprise. But having the league reach that level so quickly after three weeks, creates some pause moving forward.
Not being in actual markets has hurt the USFL from a TV rating standpoint. But also as a TV viewing product. With the exception of the Stallions, who are drawing in the neighborhood of 10,000 plus fans in Birmingham. Albeit, with ticket giveaways and low pricing. The majority of USFL games have little to no atmosphere, which makes for a less than ideal tv viewing experience. The games to casual viewers sampling the product, look like scrimmages.
The USFL will make it to year two, based on their financial model. But what shape will they be in when they get there? And most importantly, will the USFL be able to scrap its bare-boned financial approach and head into markets to become a fully-fledged and traditional pro football league.
Recent history suggests that a spring pro football league getting to year two is cause for popping open a champagne bottle. However, there have been alternate pro football leagues like the United Football League, which did make it beyond years one and two, that failed to garner attention or viability. The question is what kind of interest and shape will the USFL be in when it arrives at that destination.
USFL Week 4 TV Schedule
Week 4 will get underway this Friday, with the Michigan Panthers (1-2) squaring off with the Philadelphia Stars (1-2). The game will be televised on FS1 at 10:00 pm ET.
Saturday’s games will include the Pittsburgh Maulers (0-3) against the New Jersey Generals (2-1) at 2:30 pm ET with streaming coverage via Peacock and the unbeaten (3-0) Birmingham Stallions facing the Tampa Bay Bandits (2-1) at 7:00 pm ET on FOX.
Week 4 action in the USFL concludes on Sunday, May 8, with the New Orleans Breakers (2-1) and the Houston Gamblers (1-2) at 3:00 pm ET, and NBC will televise the game.