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XFL 2023: Week 5 Cable TV Ratings On ESPN/FX

The TV Ratings are in for Week 5 of the 2023 XFL Season. The XFL slate of four cable telecasts on FX, ESPN, and ESPN2 stared directly into the eye of the March Madness storm.

Eighteen of XFL 2023’s twenty games have aired on cable, each airing as well on ESPN+. The league’s only two airings on network television ABC averaged over 1.6 million viewers, with a peak of 2.3 million in week one. The XFL finally returns to over-the-air network TV this coming week on ABC. But the league has a lot of competition for eyeballs.

As evidenced by their viewership numbers in Week 5.

XFL 2023 Week 5 TV Ratings 3/16-3/19

Week Five in the XFL kicked off with a late Thursday night game at 10:30 pm ET on ESPN between the Seattle Sea Dragons and the previously unbeaten Houston Roughnecks. The telecast took a beating in viewership, averaging only 256,000 viewers. The game was rated 48th out of 150 Cable TV shows in the 18-49 demographic.

Friday’s coverage of the NCAA basketball tournament were 21 of the top 22 rated Cable TV shows. Across TNT, TBS, and Tru TV.

The first part of a Saturday night doubleheader on FX, which saw the D.C. Defenders top the St. Louis Battlehawks in front of over 35,000 fans at The Dome, averaged 320,000 viewers. The telecast was ranked 50th out of 150 shows on Cable television in the 18-49 viewership demo.

Saturday’s 10 pm ET telecast on FX, which featured two winless teams in the Vegas Vipers and Orlando Guardians, averaged 234,000 viewers. The lowest viewership total for an XFL game this season. The game was ranked 73rd out of 150 cable shows in the top demo.

The final game of Week 5 featured the Arlington Renegades and San Antonio Brahmas on ESPN2. The 9 pm ET telecast averaged 246,000 viewers. The game ranked 71st out of 150 cable tv shows in the 18-49 demo.

Quick XFL TV Ratings Analysis

Not a pretty week for the league in terms of viewership. Losing casual sports viewers to NCAA and March Madness is an expected outcome. But what didn’t help matters was the odd scheduling by Disney for XFL games. Not only has it hurt attendance in specific markets, and prohibited families from coming to late-night weekday or Sunday games. But it has a direct effect on luring viewers.

By scheduling games that end past 1 am in half the country, you eliminate viewers.

There’s no getting around the fact that the league’s viewership and overall interest in March will take a hit. That’s an expected result. But the optics create the feel of a league struggling to stay relevant.

The XFL is returning to ABC this weekend. Which could help with some added visibility. But the league needs to weather the storm and hope that viewership returns later in the season.

Although it’s in a different part of the calendar, the USFL struggled to get a foothold in viewership on Cable TV last season, by midseason, seeing some games hit under 300,000 viewers. And having over-the-air network telecasts dip into 600k territory. The USFL was able to get to the finish line in decent shape when the smoke cleared.

Can XFL 2023? That remains to be seen.

XFL Week 6 TV Schedule

The XFL returns to a more traditional schedule this coming weekend. With two ABC games in the afternoon Saturday and Sunday. 1 and 3 pm ET respectively. The lone FX telecast takes place Saturday night at 7 pm ET. The Week 6 finale, sees the 4-1 Houston Roughnecks square off against the 5-0 D.C. Defenders, Monday night at 7 pm ET on ESPN2.


Seattle Sea Dragons@Orlando GuardiansSaturday, March 25
1:00 pm ET

ESPN Xtra on Sirius/XM
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XFL Game Center
St. Louis Battlehawks@Vegas VipersSaturday, March 25
7:00 pm ET

ESPN Xtra on Sirius/XM
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XFL Game Center
San Antonio Brahmas@Arlington RenegadesSunday, March 26
3:00 pm ET

ESPN Xtra on Sirius/XM
Find Tickets
XFL Game Center
Houston Roughnecks@D.C. DefendersMonday, March 27
7:00 pm ET

ESPN Xtra on Sirius/XM
Find Tickets
XFL Game Center

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I am a pro football writer who has extensively covered and reported on multiple leagues over the years. I started covering the XFL back in 2001. You can follow me on Twitter @byMikeMitchell

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Bufflexkikass

    March 23, 2023 at 12:22 pm

    Im pretty sure usfl didn’t play this time a year last year. I love the xfl an it’s ownership not like the shady owned fox sport/news . all I’m saying is 1.6 billion law suit against fox . so I’ll live with low numbers so I don’t help promote shady tatics

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