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USFL vs. XFL: Johnston Baffled by Unanticipated Ratings Outcomes

As reported by Ben Fischer in the Sports Business Journal, Daryl Johnston, President of Football Operations for the United States Football League (USFL), recently expressed his surprise over the league’s second-season TV viewership trailing behind the XFL’s figures. The USFL had been expecting higher returns, given their self-perceived superior production value and on-air talent. In what could be seen as a shot at the XFL, Johnston stated, “You put our game on television up against our competition (XFL), there is no competition… Because our product, in my opinion, when I watch it, they’re not even close.

The actual numbers tell a different story. The USFL’s viewership across all games in 2023 fell by 16% from its debut season, drawing 601,000 viewers, a figure that is 3% lower than the XFL’s first season. Interestingly, this was despite the USFL having a more favorable distribution. Johnston’s surprise and the subsequent pledge to identify the cause in the offseason should pique the interest of all XFL fans.

The issues for the USFL are not limited to viewership alone. Attendance for games also emerged as a major challenge, especially for teams not playing in their home markets. Despite the USFL’s expansion to four locations this year, five of their eight teams are not playing in their markets. “We’re still figuring out the attendance thing in the hub model,” Johnston admitted. “Until we get everybody into their home markets, it’s going to be a challenge.”

Despite these setbacks, Johnston insisted on some positives in the league’s second year, including successful sponsorships and efficient football operations. However, the central issue – the unexpected dip in viewership and the attendance challenge – is sure to raise eyebrows in the XFL camp and among its fans. As the USFL grapples with these challenges, it’s fair to say the XFL has an interesting storyline to follow in the coming months as both leagues try to stake their claims in the spring. The XFL has it’s own set us issues losing $60 million in its first season.

The XFL, when approached, declined to comment on the USFL’s ratings. Meanwhile, the USFL championship game between the Birmingham Stallions and Pittsburgh Maulers is set to air on NBC at 8 pm on Saturday.

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Mark Perry, a devoted sports journalist and founder of XFL News Hub, has been a key figure in XFL coverage since its 2018 revival. Launching XFL News Hub soon after the league's return announcement, Mark has established the platform as a primary source for comprehensive XFL updates. Renowned for his in-depth knowledge and commitment to sports journalism, Mark actively engages the XFL community, welcoming interactions at

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. 4th&long

    July 1, 2023 at 9:03 pm

    DJ the most obvious answer is XFL plays in winter early spring while USFL plays in late Spring early summer. When its 20-40 degrees out people tend to be inside vs 60-90 degrees outside.

    DJ needs to focus on the biz part more or shall I say Fox does. NBC is not leveraging ProFootball Talk a major website nor is Fox utilizing website]Outkick or Murdoch owned NY Post.

    XFL had time of year to their advantage, USFL had more broadcasts. XFL stronger cable nets, USFL had two networks. XFL has more big mkt teams. USFL did not work around big NBA/NHL playoffs this yr. USFL in 2 mkts that are combined half the size of DC. In the end that all balanced out.

    Plus the leagues are virtual identical, salaries, # of teams, N/S divisions even 4-6 teams in championship. Sure around the edges they are differences but overall its pretty high quality alt-FB. Plus XFL went first.

    Last year 39 USFL games on TV. This year 86 XFL/USFL games on TV – yet they both held pretty strong.

    Despite all that viewership is nearly identical! Am I surprised hell no. Called it preseason – overshot both slighty but called it as pretty even esp after week 1 for both that IMO both underperformed. So in the end – not so bad for XFL and USFL. Can they both survive? Will the presense of two leagues doom them both? Its possible.
    But 2024 seems a go for both.

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