For the third week in a row, the XFL encountered direct competition with the USFL, which had two of their Week 3 games overlap with them on Saturday and Sunday.
XFL 2023 Playoff TV Ratings On ESPN
Saturday’s South Championship Game on ESPN, which saw the Arlington Renegades upset the Houston Roughnecks to earn a berth in the XFL Championship Game on Saturday, May 13th, averaged 675,000 viewers. The 7 pm ET telecast was rated 12th out of 150 Cable TV shows in the 18-49 adult demographic.
- The USFL on FOX aired directly against the XFL on Saturday night in the 7-10 timeslot. The Houston-Memphis game averaged 776,000 viewers.
Sunday’s XFL North Championship Game which saw the D.C. Defenders soar past the Seattle Sea Dragons to earn a spot in the league championship game, averaged 478,000 viewers on ESPN. The 3 pm afternoon telecast was rated 22nd out of the top 150 cable TV programs in the 18-49 demo.
- The USFL’s 4 pm NBC broadcast pitting the Michigan Panthers and New Jersey Generals averaged 563,000 viewers. The game overlapped with the final two hours of the XFL’s North playoff contest.
Both leagues had to contend with the enormous audience the NBA generated on ABC for Warriors-Kings (nearly 10 million viewers on average).
Playoff TV Rating Analysis
The XFL got a slight boost in the Divisional Championship playoffs when their South playoff game was shifted at the last moment from ESPN2 to ESPN on Saturday. However, the same splintering we have witnessed with the USFL the previous three weekends limited their overall viewership.
Head-to-head on Saturday, the USFL averaged 776,000 viewers on FOX, to the XFL’s 675,000 viewers on cable with ESPN.
On Sunday, the USFL on FOX, which overlapped for two hours against the XFL from 4 to 6 pm, averaged 563,000 viewers. The XFL averaged 478,000 viewers on ESPN. Both leagues limited each other’s audience.
It’s been the same tale since mid-April. The XFL has taken a hit in their ratings average since they went over a million viewers on their sole Network Television telecast on ABC in Week 8 and averaged 760,000 viewers across four games that weekend. That week of 4/8-4/9, they also produced the league’s highest cable rating on ESPN since Week 1 (868k). But since the USFL returned, the league has dipped a bit due to the competition for eyeballs.
There’s been a strong contrast between the XFL’s over-the-air network games and their cable outings this season.
For the 2023 season. The XFL averaged 1.088 million viewers on ABC. The league averaged 502,000 viewers on cable during the regular season.
On FX and ESPN2, the XFL was either the first or second highest-rated show weekly for both second-tier cable networks during the season. The league has drawn over 600,000 paid fans to their games. But their reach has felt minimized in 2023, either through a modest promotional approach by the league’s new ownership or through its TV coverage.
The XFL enters unique territory in May; they will have a week off the schedule before their championship game Saturday, May 13th, in primetime on ABC. From a rating standpoint, how the league produces in its biggest game of the season will be a good barometer for its potential promise moving forward.
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