USFL hurts other ‘football’ in rookie season –

The inaugural USFL 2.0 season is in its final three games, and while the Spring Football League’s televised deliveries will never rob Roger Goodell of a good night’s sleep, the games have held on through the season. one of the most claustrophobic periods of the sports calendar.

According to Nielsen live and same-day data, the USFL’s 10-week schedule averaged just under 695,000 viewers on Fox, NBC, FS1 and USA Network, and while those weren’t results eye-catching, the startup has managed to top a number of legacy leagues. For example, USFL ratings more than doubled Major League Soccer deliveries in 2022 – now $2.5 billion richer, thanks to its new rights deal with Apple TV, MLS currently has in averaged 292,500 viewers per game on the ESPN family of networks – and also made short work of the Ted Lasso Position.

NBCUniversal’s coverage of the 2021-22 Premier League season averaged 507,000 viewers in what is now the English football organization’s second most-watched campaign on US television. Last spring, NBC retained the rights to the Premier League under a six-year deal worth more than $2.6 billion, or $435 million per season.

If nothing else, the soccer-vs-soccer results suggest that FIFA President Gianni Infantino may have indulged in a mild self-serving hyperbole last week when he said the Beautiful Game would be the “No. 1 sport in this part of the world” (i.e. North America) in 2026. If you are an American of a certain age, for example, old enough to stuff your face with Big League Chew since it was first released in 1980 – you’ve heard this kind of talk before.

Can’t blame a guy for trying. While it’s Infantino’s job to take on the role of hype man Flavor Flav for the 2026 World Cup, no one really believes football poses an existential threat to gridiron-style football here in the United States. . Hell, national deliveries for the local version of football can’t even hurt the regional ratings of the best baseball team. In the New York market, the first-place Yankees have created such a stir that their games on YES Network currently average 335,000 viewers. That’s about 42,500 more viewers than MLS is scaring away via ESPN’s coast-to-coast stream. (On Monday night, YES reached a season high in the DMA with an average viewership of 495,000, as Gerrit Cole took a no-hitter bid in the eighth inning at Tampa.)

Speaking of sports that football has still failed to kill, the young USFL offers impressions that are competitive with those recorded weekly by Major League Baseball. Since the start of the season in early April, MLB has averaged 747,378 viewers through its national television partners Fox, ESPN, FS1 and TBS. (For context, the advantage of 54,135 baseball fans over the USFL is about 116 souls less than a capacity crowd at Yankee Stadium.)

Ditch the lower-rated packages in both leagues and MLB enjoys a much more generous lead over the USFL. Strip out Tuesday Night’s TBS games and the 17 outings that have aired on FS1 so far, and MLB’s Fox/ESPN viewership jumps to 1.52 million viewers. Similarly, if we limit our analysis of the USFL to its 20 Fox/NBC shows, the new venture averages 984,381 viewers per game.

The USFL also stood up to the NHL, which during the regular season averaged a hair over 360,000 viewers per game in its first go-around with Turner Sports and drew an estimated 640,000 viewers. on Disney’s ABC/ESPN.

During the regular season, NBC wins the USFL ratings race with an average draw of 1.14 million viewers across eight shows, overtaking Fox on the network front (887,308), while topping the cover of its USA cable sibling (331,444). Fox’s FS1 brings up the rear with an average USFL viewership of 285,000. Although at the bottom of the viewership continuum, that’s not a bad result for FS1, which last spring averaged 144,000 daily viewers.

The USFL’s return for a second season already made the league a winner, and Fox’s relatively inexpensive investment ($150 million in the first three years of operation) helped keep internal expectations in check. At the start of the season, analysts expected the USFL to lose between $25 million and $65 million. .

If all goes according to plan, the USFL will have managed to stay ahead of the spring football curse that sidelined the Alliance of American Football in 2019 and scuttled the XFL’s revival from the year. next. This latest effort averaged 1.86 million viewers over its five weeks, before the pandemic brought down the curtain for good in March 2020. The AAF’s commitment to basic cable reduced its initial television audience to almost nothing, and over its last 18 television broadcasts on NFL Network and TNT, the doomed venture averaged 420,000 viewers.

Low expectations can be a startup manager’s best friend. One of the main advantages of setting USFL advertising rates so low – broadcast units in recent shows could be had for as little as $15,000 per pitch – is that it takes very little effort to make advertisers whole when the audience doesn’t show up in full power.

Those same advertisers are hoping to see a slight uptick in ratings as the playoffs begin. This Saturday, Fox will air the first Philadelphia Stars-New Jersey Generals playoffs, while NBC will host the primetime showdown between the New Orleans Breakers and Birmingham Stallions. The two teams that advance to the championship round will face off July 3 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.

The Stallions (+200) are a slim favorite to win the title, edging out the Generals (+210). Anyone who feels compelled to bet on this game is encouraged to seek advice from a member of the clergy or licensed medical professional.

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