Pittsburgh Maulers and Michigan Panthers in USFL North Division Championship at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton. Saturday, June 24, 2023.

Heading into the USFL Championship this Saturday on NBC, league president of football operations Daryl Johnston is miffed about the USFL’s viewership drop in its second season.

Per the Sports Business Journal, the USFL’s regular season averaged 601,000 viewers this season, down 16% from a year ago (715,000 viewers). The league’s viewership in 2023 is also behind the XFL’s from earlier this year, a fact that seems to be eating away at Johnston.

“That was one of the more surprising things for me,” said Johnston. “You put our game on television up against our competition, there is no competition. We are far superior in production value, far superior in on-air talent. Recognizable names, recognizable voices. We’re pushing the envelope with all the technology we have.” He continued, “To me, to be on par with our competition from a ratings standpoint in Year 2, I’m still trying to figure out: How did that happen? Because our product, in my opinion, when I watch it, they’re not even close.”

The XFL averaged 622,000 viewers this season, despite having far more games on cable than the USFL, which stuck more games on broadcast networks Fox and NBC.

Johnston’s quotes focus on the USFL’s presentation and don’t mention the on-field product. Is the USFL’s game action better or worse than a year ago, and better or worse than the XFL? That’s your call, but it’s probably more relevant to fan interest than the “recognizable names, recognizable voices” touted by Johnston.

The curiosity factor also isn’t there in year two of the USFL, while it was for the relaunched XFL’s first season.

Ultimately, the difference in viewership between the two leagues isn’t that significant. We’re talking about 21,000 viewers over the course of 40 games, a difference of something like 3%. If both leagues deliver average viewership of around 600,000 again next season, that’ll probably be fine. However, double-digit drops once again would be a sign of concern.

[Sports Business Journal]

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.