In a very rare move, Fox and NBC are partnering to simulcast the first game of the new USFL season on Saturday, April 16th.
The league is partially owned by Fox and has a deal with both Fox and NBC to air games. According to John Ourand at the Sports Business Journal, the networks will share production duties:
Two competing TV networks, Fox and NBC, will simulcast the USFL’s first game on April 16. The networks say that this game will mark the first scheduled competition to air on competing broadcast networks since Super Bowl I, which was 55 years ago. In ’07, CBS, NBC and NFL Network all carried the season ending Patriots-Giants game, but the decision to simulcast that game came just days before kickoff.
The Saturday night, primetime game between the New Jersey Generals and Birmingham Stallions will be played at Protective Stadium in Birmingham starting at 7:30pm ET. NBC Sports will produce pregame, halftime and postgame shows; Fox Sports will handle the game coverage.
As for the “why” here, it’s pretty simple: both networks are invested in the league succeeding. Plus Fox has an ownership stake, so letting NBC in on the big first night is still directly helpful to them. It’s clearly a move designed to raise the “event” feel of the game; as we’ve seen with various attempts at a spring professional football league, they’re going to need all the help they can get. Bringing back the USFL brand name is a step, of course, but being able to take over two broadcast networks simultaneously for a few hours in April is another big win in terms of promotion.
Obviously the product will still have to deliver, and hook enough fans who want year-round football games to make the league sustainable. (Especially considering the XFL is planning another go in 2023.) But it’s hard to ask for a more visible launch platform.