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USFL’s Daryl Johnston: Surprised at Viewership Dip and Resolute for Improvement

(Source: “Sports Business Journal” article by Ben Fischer)

The United States Football League (USFL) President of Football Operations, Daryl Johnston, expressed surprise at the slight drop in the league’s second-season TV viewership compared to the revamped XFL’s numbers. In a broad-ranging interview, Johnston pledged to focus on the off-season to ascertain why the Fox Sports-owned league didn’t perform better.

Johnston, puzzled by the ratings, stated, “You put our game on television up against our competition, there is no competition. We are far superior in production value, far superior in on-air talent. Recognizable names, recognizable voices. We’re pushing the envelope with all the technology we have.” He went on to question the parallel ratings with their competitors, stating, “To me, to be on par with our competition from a ratings standpoint in Year 2, I’m still trying to figure out: How did that happen? Because our product, in my opinion, when I watch it, they’re not even close.”

According to figures, the USFL viewership across all games in 2023 dropped 16% from its debut season to 601,000 viewers, which is 3% lower than the XFL’s first season, despite the USFL having a more favorable distribution. The XFL chose not to comment on this.

Aside from viewership concerns, Johnston also highlighted the USFL’s challenge with attracting attendance for teams not playing in their home markets. Despite the USFL’s growth from hosting all games in Birmingham in the previous year to four locations this year, five out of the eight teams still do not play in their markets. Johnston acknowledged the difficulties of a hub model and expressed his commitment to rectify this, “We’re still figuring out the attendance thing in the hub model,” he said. “Until we get everybody into their home markets, it’s going to be a challenge. We all know that. We’re trying to find creative ways to deal with it.”

On a positive note, Johnston acknowledged several wins in the league’s sponsorship and football operations for the season. Notably, sponsorship has been strong, with big names such as FedEx, Gatorade, Henry Schein, Jersey Mike’s, Mars, Molson Coors, Rocket Mortgage, T-Mobile, and Wendy’s supporting the USFL. Upper Deck also produces USFL playing cards.

Johnston praised the league’s small staff for effectively managing the transition to four game sites and handling the replacement of four head coaches who left their teams after the first season. Moving forward, Johnston indicated that the USFL aims to keep teams and their players more visible during the offseason.

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Mark Perry is the founder and editor of USFL News Hub, a premier site dedicated to providing comprehensive coverage of the USFL. Since its inception in February 2022, the platform has grown exponentially under his expert leadership, carving out a unique niche in the world of football reporting. Mark has been covering football extensively since 2018, with his in-depth knowledge and insightful analysis helping to elevate USFL News Hub as a trusted source for all things related to spring football. His expertise spans various aspects of the sport, offering readers a nuanced perspective on the trends and developments in the USFL and beyond. Beyond his editorial responsibilities, Mark is known for his approachability and commitment to fostering dialogue around the sport. He is always open to inquiries and discussions about spring football. He can be contacted directly by emailing His dedication and passion for football make him a vital voice in the coverage of this thrilling sport.



  1. Ken Granito

    July 1, 2023 at 9:58 pm

    Moose and Fox have done a great job. Not only are they the better alt league than the XFL, but they are the BEST officiated league in America. Mike Pereira should be extremely proud if what he has done and the league for allowing him to do what he does best. As I commented earlier in the week, you need to be on the West Coast in increase your ratings. San Diego is the place. To me that is the #1 reason the XFL has higher ratings, because their teams cover more of the country. Let the league grow to 10 teams if it works. This will allow for a Friday or Monday night game and it would make it that much more difficult to have a 4-6 lead the league. Just big league. You have already cultivated the talent to now have enough players for 10 teams. Keep keeping it real, Moose. They will come.

  2. 4th&long

    July 2, 2023 at 11:57 am

    The 3mm simulcast in the 2022 opener skewed the USFL numbers up in 2022

    In weeks 2-10:

    USFL 2022: 606k avg
    USFL 2023: 584k avg

    XFL 2023: 542k avg

    So after the opener, in which XFL got 390k extra on a simulcast on ESPN/FX (smart move but still 2 channels) in week 1 they dropped alot like USFL in 2022. in 2023 the USFL held their avg better than the XFL after opening week.

    What is confusing to me is that DJ doesn’t understand that Feb-April with a trapped winter audience did better than audience competing with summer. In Late spring/summer viewership drops esp in the day time, thats why networks show alot of reruns and no major sport sans MLB is on.
    Also the two leagues are VERY VERY similar from play level to structure and even having ratings and a 4-6 team in championship, salary structure and TV presence. They are interchangeable from an entertainment value to TV viewers.

    Back on USFL Also they need to get their biggest TV markets engaged, Memphis, Birm and NOLA are COMBINED the Neilsen TV size of Mich (1.54%). Philly is much bigger (2.51%) and NJ/NY is by far the biggest (6.26%). Houston at 2.1 is large too.

    Note to All: Fans in stands TV ratings. That’s a myth. Engaging fans, press and media in local markets does help greatly though.

  3. KEITH st john

    July 3, 2023 at 6:47 pm


  4. Ken Granito

    July 5, 2023 at 12:12 pm

    We may have lost some of the marginal fan base based on the TV ratings, but I love to see the increased amount of fans invested in the league and commenting and sharing their opinions. Hopefully this will help drive the league to realize they have REAL fans and will continue to invest in the league. I hope you all had good fun watching the games and many more of our teams will be in their markets.

  5. Mike roth

    July 6, 2023 at 9:43 pm

    When the USFL had a team in Oklahoma, they played in Tulsa. We love going to the games, but the ignorance of moving to fall and competing against the NFL was a big mistake.
    Having a home team and fans is the best. Oklahoma Outlaws was fun to watch!

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