United Football League off to a strong start after Week 2

UFL TV ratings
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Pro football is back in the spring once again with another iteration that’s a combination of the XFL and USFL. The United Football League combines interesting elements from both leagues, but what matters for the future are UFL TV ratings and overall interest in spring football.

It’s certainly beneficial that the UFL is partnered with ESPN and FOX. In the last iteration of spring football, when the XFL and USFL were fighting for viewership, results weren’t great. The XFL outdrew its counterpart, with games broadcast on ESPN, ABC and ESPN2, while a majority of USFL games were on Fox Sports 1 and USA Network in 2023. With games broadcasted on ESPN and FOX, there’s an opportunity for higher UFL TV ratings.

Related: UFL rules

With all of that in mind, we’ll be tracking UFL TV ratings in 2024. For now, let’s dive into the data.

UFL outpacing XFL, USFL

UFL TV ratings
Credit: Chris Day / USA TODAY NETWORK

There is usually always a steep drop off in TV ratings after the season-opening games for spring football. Fans check out the new league in Week 1 and that’s followed by around a 30 percent drop in viewership the following week. However, the UFL enjoyed even better numbers than anticipated last weekend.

UFL Week 2 averaged 842,000 viewers for its four games on Saturday across FOX, ESPN and BAC. That marks a 38 percent increase from the viewership for Week 2 of the XFL and USFL seasons. Here are the game-by-game numbers for each network.

UFL TV ratings Week 2

  • Renegades vs Battlehawks – ABC – 908,000 avg. viewers
  • Stallions vs Panthers – ESPN – 903,000 avg. viewers
  • Roughnecks vs Defenders – FOX – 849,000 avg. viewers
  • Brahmas vs Showboats – ESPN – 718,000 avg. viewers

While no game averaged over 1 million viewers for its broadcast, two games surpassing 900,000 with all four clearing the 700,000 mark is a positive sign for the UFL. If there’s enough sustained interest in the weeks to come, ESPN and Fox will want to remain partners and the UFL will have even more revenue to build from moving forward.

UFL television ratings: Week 1

UFL TV ratings Week 1
Credit: Joseph Buvid-USA TODAY Sports

There is always more interest from the TV audience for the start of a spring football season. When the USFL debuted in 2022, it averaged 1.52 million viewers on NBC and 1.43 million viewers on FOX. For the XFL’s 2023 season, two of its games averaged over 1.5 million viewers with three surpassing 1.1 million. Going even further back to 2019, the Alliance of American Football had its two games average over 3.4 million viewers.

Related: UFL schedule

Here are the UFL TV ratings from Week 1.

  • St. Louis Battlehawks vs Michigan Panthers – FOX – 1.35 million average viewers – 0.7 rating
  • Birmingham Stallions vs Arlington Renegades – FOX – 1.18 million avg. viewers – 0.7 rating
  • D.C. Defenders vs San Antonio Brahmas – ESPN960,000 avg. viewers – 0.48 rating
  • Memphis Showboats vs Houston Roughnecks – ESPN – 703,000 avg. viewers – 0.35 rating

Fox obviously fared much better than ESPN, with both of the network’s games averaging over 1.1 million viewers whereas ESPN’s broadcast only had a single game crack 900,000 average viewers tuning in. Before diving into our analysis, we’ll take a quick side-by-side comparison.

Related: College Basketball TV ratings

Week 1 UFL TV ratings vs AAF, XFL, USFL

League Avg. Viewers (Million)
UFL (2024) 1.05 million
XFL (2023) 1.3 million
USFL (2023) 1.57 million
AAF (2019) 3.9 million*
The Alliance of American Football (AAF) averaged 3.9 million viewers in its inaugural Week 1 game

The television ratings for the UFL across four games are clearly down from its predecessors. What will be monitored moving forward is how much of the audience ESPN and FOX retain after the season-opening week. In 2023, the XFL’ went from having dropped by nearly 50 percent to 655,000 viewers. As for the USFL, its two games on cable in Week 2 averaged 761,000 viewers. If history repeats itself, the UFL TV ratings will drop by at least 30-40 percent this coming weekend.

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