The TV ratings are in for Week 4 of the 2023 USFL season. And the results are very positive.
The USFL scored its highest individual game rating since its 2022 League Championship last July, which averaged 1.52 million viewers. And largest overall audience since week 1 of the 2022 season.
Thanks partly to a great strategic move of having the league follow the Kentucky Derby on NBC. The lead-in helped produce the USFL’s most-watched game since last season.
USFL Week 4 TV Ratings On NBC, FOX, And FS1
Week 4 in the USFL started with a 1 pm ET Saturday afternoon game on FOX. The Philadelphia Stars-Houston Gambers matchup averaged 521,000 viewers.
Saturday night’s Michigan Panthers-Memphis Showboats game on NBC averaged 2.063 million viewers. The most watched USFL telecast since the league’s championship game in July of 2022, which scored 1.5 million viewers on average. The USFL faced stiff competition on Saturday night, head to head with ABC’s NBA Playoffs (6 million), but received a great assist from the Kentucky Derby on NBC, which delivered over 14 million viewers.
Immediately following the Kentucky Derby, Saturday’s Memphis-Michigan USFL matchup averaged a Total Audience Delivery of 2.063 million viewers to rank as the most-watched primetime USFL game since the league debuted in 2022 (excludes multi-network simulcast of last season’s opener).
Last year, NBC aired a USFL game immediately following the Preakness that averaged 1.2 million viewers — the largest audience for any regular season game of USFL 2.0, excluding the inaugural weekend.
The USFL was back on NBC on Sunday afternoon at 3 pm ET. The broadcast pitting two of the league’s best teams, the New Jersey Generals and New Orleans Breakers, averaged 828,000 viewers. The game was joined in progress slightly after the three-clock hour due to an MLB game between the Atlanta Braves and Baltimore Orioles running into extra innings.
The final USFL game in Week 4 aired Sunday evening at 6:30 pm ET on FS1. The cable telecast started on FS2 before switching over. The Birmingham Stallions-Pittsburgh Maulers game averaged 545,000 viewers, good for the most-watched USFL game on cable since last year’s opening weekend. The broadcast was rated 34th out of 150 cable programs in the 18-49 demographic.
Week 4 TV Rating Analysis
After three weeks of not seeing any of their league’s games average over a million viewers. The USFL bounced back in a big way in Week 4. Saturday night’s audience delivery was a smashing success.
Prior to week 4, the USFL averaged 618,000 viewers in their first three weeks. This past weekend, the league averaged 989,250 viewers.
The USFL’s network partner strategy of airing the USFL after the Kentucky Derby was a brilliant strategy, and it paid off.
The idea, besides the obvious, is to try and lure in casual sports fans to sample the league’s product. In the short term, it did the trick, especially in the league’s first hour, which averaged over 1.6 million viewers.
In year two, the USFL’s multiple-point strategy is to build off year one, carryover fans from 2022, and hopefully attract sports viewers who are typically on the fence about these leagues to try and come along for the ride.
The USFL’s exposure on NBC and FOX, with three games on broadcast television, certainly helps. But gaining a new audience is the tricky part.
The elephant in the room this week was the absence of the XFL. Both leagues have cannibalized each other’s audience since mid-April with games that aired head-to-head or overlapped in the same time slots. Having the XFL out of the way certainly helped boost the USFL’s weekly average from what, until this point, has been down from the first few weeks of last season.
The XFL returns this coming weekend with their final game of the season, their league championship game on Saturday night. The good news is that neither league’s game will be head-to-head. One can only imagine what this past Saturday night would’ve looked like if both leagues were head-to-head on network television.
We got a taste of what the USFL could look like unencumbered this past weekend. Albeit, with a nice boost from the Derby, nevertheless, it provides a positive outlook for the rest of the season’s viewership possibilities.
USFL Week 5 TV Schedule
Saturday, May 13
Pittsburgh Maulers (1-3) at Michigan Panthers (2-2) (Detroit), 12:30 p.m. (USA)
Houston Gamblers (2-2) at Birmingham Stallions (3-1) (Birmingham), 4 p.m. (FOX)
Sunday, May 14
New Jersey Generals (2-2) at Philadelphia Stars (1-3) (Detroit), noon (NBC)
Memphis Showboats (1-3) at New Orleans Breakers (4-0) (Birmingham), 3 p.m. (FOX)