UFL helmets and logo Credit: UFL

The UFL’s debut season featured some impressive viewership numbers that most didn’t see coming when the XFL-USFL merger was first announced. This has led to several key executives being quite optimistic about the league’s future.

The spring football league averaged 816,000 viewers for their first-ever regular season across league broadcast networks including Fox, ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and FS1. This is a 34 percent increase over the USFL’s and XFL’s average viewership of 635,000 last season, according to the Sports Business Journal.

These numbers are obviously far less than the NFL, if we’re comparing pro football leagues. But in comparison to other leagues that are in-season at the same time, the UFL weighs in quite favorably. The NHL brought in just 504,000 viewers this regular season across ABC, ESPN, and TNT, an eight-year high.

Perhaps even more impressive for the UFL is that postseason viewership numbers were far higher than the regular season figures. The UFL championship on Fox between the Birmingham Stallions and the San Antonio Brahmas drew the highest viewership of the year with 1.596 million viewers.

For a league this new to produce those kinds of numbers is obviously a great sign for the future. Naturally, UFL President and CEO Russ Brandon is eager to see the league’s growth moving forward. He shared a statement with Sports Business Journal on the matter.

“We’re not even 150 days old,” Brandon said. “I know as a combined entity, we’re all excited for the opportunity to have a full cycle of sales and an opportunity to really build. This second season of the UFL will literally be the first season in four years when the team is combined and just looking to execute better with what we have. Clearly, the point we’re investing in more is boots on the ground, selling tickets. We have a full season of some really successful markets, and markets that we clearly need to invest more in, and that’s what this partnership is going to do.”

Fox Sports CEO Eric Shanks echoed these sentiments in a similar statement. The network owns a 50 percent stake in the UFL.

“When games matter, viewership pops,” Shanks said, referencing the league’s impressive postseason viewership numbers. “This is a prime example of broadcast television and being strategic with your scheduling, and that’s going to get better as time goes on. Ratings are strong, especially considering where this is carving out its space, but the ratings aren’t big enough yet where this is its own individual upfront buy.

“In the Fox portfolio, it is an important part, and we spend a lot of time making sure we have packages that fit into the upfront market, but the UFL at this point is a part of the Fox portfolio, and it’s going to grow.”

[Sports Business Journal]

About Reice Shipley

Reice Shipley is a staff writer for Comeback Media that graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in Sports Media. He previously worked at Barrett Sports Media and is a fan of all things Syracuse sports.