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USFL News: Week 2 TV Ratings See Expected But Sharp Decline

Week 2 of the USFL season is in the books. This past weekend, the league’s TV ratings saw an expected decline from its impressive opening week debut. But was it too steep this early on for the new league?

Here are the TV ratings from Week 1 of the USFL season for those who missed it.

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.

Final USFL Week 2 TV Ratings

From Week 1 to Week 2, the USFL saw viewership down 58%.

Final USFL Week 2 Ratings: (Persons ages 2 and up…).

Friday, Apr. 22: NJ at Michigan (USA): 363k, 0.12 rating

Saturday, Apr. 23: Philadelphia at Pittsburgh (FOX): 1.056m, 0.34 rating

Saturday, Apr. 23: Birmingham at Houston (FS1): 402k, 0.13 rating (172-minute duration)

Saturday, Apr. 23: Birmingham at Houston (FS2): 88k, 0.03 rating (36-minute duration)

Apr. 24: New Orleans at Tampa Bay (NBC): 757k, 0.24 rating (Updated figure courtesy of Nielsen)

Week 2 in the USFL kicked off with a Friday night tilt on the USA Network between New Jersey and Michigan. The 10-6 victory by the Generals’ over the Panthers averaged 363,000 viewers. The telecast scored a 0.07 in the 18-49 adult demo, ranking 72nd for the night out of 150 cable shows.

The Week 2 USFL schedule continued Saturday afternoon on FOX. The noon ET kickoff saw the Philadelphia Stars top the Pittsburgh Maulers 30-23, averaging 1.056 million viewers, scoring a 0.68 in the 18-49 demo. Down from the 1.757 million viewers, the league drew in the league’s opening night game on FOX.

The Saturday evening Birmingham Stallions-Houston Gamblers contest initially started on FS2 for 36 minutes before switching over to FS1; due to a delay from MLB action on the network. The game on FS1 averaged 402,000 viewers across both cable networks. Scoring a 0.24 in the 18-49 adult demo.

The FS2 portion had 88,000 viewers.

Courtesy of Nielsen, The weekend’s final game in the USFL saw the New Orleans Breakers soar past the Tampa Bay Bandits 34-3. The telecast averaged 757,000 viewers Sunday afternoon at 3 pm ET on NBC, a drop from the 2.153 million viewers the USFL had on NBC a week prior. The Week 2 NBC scored a 0.49 rating in the 18-49 demo.

Week 2 USFL TV Ratings Analysis

The glass half full analysis for the USFL’s sharp decline from week one to week two is that the numbers are comparable with other sports entities that garner similar results in the landscape. However, the issue is, has the USFL seen their floor for viewership? Or will a tumble in interest continue?

Will the USFL ratings continue to bottom out, or will they reach a respectable leveling off as the weeks’ progress?

The PR for the USFL coming out of week one wasn’t great. For the most part, the mainstream sports media unsurprisingly hasn’t embraced the league. Empty stadiums lacking crowd energy haven’t helped the league’s image. And the controversy surrounding RB De’Veon Smith’s release over his response to cafeteria options hasn’t endeared the football community to the USFL.

The other argument favoring the USFL’s numbers is FOX and NBC’s expectations. The cable figures, while slightly disappointing, are still in line with some other sports leagues in the landscape like MLS, etc.

But the bottom line is that the USFL can’t be pleased if their big network games continue to dip rapidly. The Spring League, which ran Saturday afternoons on FOX in 2021, peaked at over 400,000 viewers. The USFL can’t afford to be in that territory, and they can survive the financial perils that typically plague these spring pro football leagues. Simply because of its barebones economic model and structure. But it’s the barebones element, primarily due to the league’s Hub setting in Birmingham, which is a turnoff for the casual crowd.

Week 3 USFL TV Schedule

The USFL returns to action with a Week 3 Saturday afternoon doubleheader on FOX.

At 4 pm ET, the (1-1) Tampa Bay Bandits will square off against the (1-1) Houston Gamblers.

The second half of the doubleheader, 8 pm ET at Protective Stadium in Birmingham, will be a battle of the unbeaten as the hometown Stallions face off with the New Orleans Breakers. From a TV rating standpoint, this contest will attempt to match the 1.7 million viewers FOX averaged in primetime in the opening week’s debut game.

Week 3 closes out with two games on Sunday, May 1st.

The USA network has a 2:30 pm ET start time, featuring two winless teams, the Michigan Panthers and the Pittsburgh Maulers, initially scheduled for Saturday night on FOX.

The final game at 8 pm ET on the Peacock network will see the New Jersey Generals battle the Philadelphia Stars for sole possession of first place in the Northern division.

The USFL is already exercising the option of flexing games to their major networks by shifting the Birmingham game to Saturday night. Moving forward, the USFL could implement a weekly flex schedule to feature some of its better games on network television. One of the league’s advantages is having all their teams play in the same setting every weekend.

After all, from an attendance and TV product standpoint, the Stallions have been the league’s best draw in their hub setting. It makes sense for the league to put their best bet in Birmingham on center stage. The USFL could continue to feature the Stallions in their most prominent weekly telecasts as the season progresses.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. 4th&long

    April 26, 2022 at 12:28 pm

    Mike the NOLA score was 34-3 – Just fyi.

    It will be hard to tell on Saturday night, but I do think putting Birm on TV, the smallest TV market and NOLA the second isn’t savvy. The Philly/NJ game has Household mkt share 8 x NOLA/Birm. Granted NYM v Phillies on ESPN may also be driving that but putting a game with biggest markets on Peacock – not sure if that’s wise.

    Over all I think that TSL over performed and USFL will do fine, but need to be realistic esp in Rd 1 of NBA playoffs and MLB starting later.

  2. Mike Mitchell

    April 26, 2022 at 1:00 pm

    Thanks for the correction. Silly since I have now watched the Breakers-Bandits game three times.

    The league’s nearly invisible attendance at non-Stallions games is hurting their perception, especially amongst the casual viewer. Some of the games don’t look like must-watch viewing because of the lack of crowd energy or a crowd at all. The games look like scrimmages without fans in the stands.

    Having two major network games in week 2 averaging under a million viewers combined is not a positive. I think Birmingham is getting the primetime treatment because they will actually have fans at the game who will be invested in the action and outcome.

  3. 4th&long

    April 26, 2022 at 2:54 pm

    I’m not on same page with the crowds vs teams but that’s just a diff of opinion. The TB blowout was not going to hold over a 1mm, lets see what this week brings.
    2 weeks down 8 to go!
    The Peacock game vs FS1 Mets Phillies should be interesting Sunday.

    Do you think the flex sch is also hurting and not having times/dates set pre-season?

  4. Desert Dweller

    April 30, 2022 at 7:11 pm

    How on earth did they think they will ever garner a fan base in the cities that have given their names to teams when they never play in those cities? And oh yes Birmingham Alabama is definitely a hotbed of professional football. I knew this thing was doomed from the get-go but of course no one was asking me.

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