The first weekend of the rebooted USFL is in the books, and the results are…well, not exactly on par with the AAF and XFL.
Per ShowBuzz Daily, the USFL’s first game on Saturday night between New Jersey and Birmingham drew 3.067 million viewers over both Fox and NBC. For context, the XFL’s 2020 debut on ABC drew 3.303 million viewers, and the AAF’s 2019 debut on CBS drew 3.250 million viewers. XFL viewership crttered after Week 1, while the AAF’s took a hit thanks to cable and streaming focused TV deals.
After the Saturday evening premiere, viewership was mixed on Easter Sunday. Houston-Michigan on NBC, with a 1 PM ET kickoff, drew 2.153 million viewers, while Philadelphia-New Orleans drew 771.000 on USA, kicking off at 5 PM ET. Viewership for the Tampa Bay-Pittsburgh game, originally scheduled for Sunday night on FS1 and shifted to Monday evening due to weather, wasn’t immediately available.
The three-game Sunday averages clocks in at 1.997 million viewers without the fourth game (which would have gone head to head with NASCAR and the NBA playoffs), compared to 3.118 million for the first week of the XFL two years ago.
Perhaps the biggest caveat when comparing the AAF and XFL’s viewership to that of the USFL is placement on the sports calendar. The AAF and XFL seasons began in February, a wasteland for live sports outside of the doldrums of the college basketball, NHL, and NBA regular seasons. The USFL season began in mid-April, a more loaded part of the year with the start of both the NBA playoffs and the MLB regular season, along with golf, NASCAR, and NHL live events. The nationally televised MLB games last week were all duds (with only Braves-Padres on Sunday Night Baseball topping a million viewers), but the NBA, NASCAR, and golf all performed quite well over the weekend. The final round of the RBC Heritage on CBS pulled in 3.676 million viewers on Sunday afternoon, NASCAR’s primetime Sunday race on Fox drew 4.07 million viewers, and six of the eight NBA games on Saturday and Sunday topped 3.3 million viewers.
We’ll see how the USFL holds up in Week 2, with a Friday evening game on USA, a Saturday noon kickoff on Fox, a Saturday primetime game on FS1, and a Sunday afternoon game on NBC. It’ll have to deal with the same issues it did this week, with a full slate of NBA playoff games over the weekend, a PGA Tour event, and NASCAR’s Talladega race going head to head with that Sunday game.