There’s good news and bad news regarding the XFL’s Week 2 viewership.
The bad news is that average viewership for the week’s four games fell to 655,000.
Week 2 of #XFL2023 continues to provide great access for viewers & can't miss action on the field
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) February 28, 2023
The four Week 1 XFL games averaged 1.29 million viewers.
The good news is that in Week 2, the XFL’s average viewership was nearly the same as the USFL’s Week 2 viewership last year (658,000). This comes despite the fact that two of those four USFL games aired on broadcast TV (Fox and NBC), and all four XFL games this year aired on cable (ESPN, ESPN2, FX). The USFL also drew higher viewership in Week 1 (averaging 1.565 million viewers, including one game pushed back to Monday because of rain), meaning the week to week decline was higher for the USFL than the XFL.
I don’t think the comparisons between 2020’s XFL and 2023’s XFL are necessarily fair – the TV landscape was different three years ago, with streaming and cord-cutting continuing to hum along. The latest iteration of the XFL has far less of the nostalgia and novelty factor that the second edition did. Additionally, 2020’s XFL viewership slid each week until the plug was pulled following Week 5 due to the pandemic. It’s impossible to determine where the bottom would have been after the full regular season.
After two weeks, no one can predict where this XFL will end up. The league will air games only on FX and ESPN2 over the next three weeks before returning to both ABC and ESPN in Week 6. The scheduling of games might help the league in Weeks 3 through 5, with a tripleheader in Week 3 (the first two games on FX) and FX doubleheaders in Weeks 4 and 5. The USFL of last season could provide a good comparison – while the league never hit the highs of Week 1 until its Championship, it didn’t continue sliding each week. Viewership eventually settled into its own niche.
If XFL viewership settles into its own niche from this point forward, they’ll take it. It’s worth noting that the cable viewership for the XFL on FX is already above anything the USFL drew on USA or FS1, which could be a positive sign even without as many games on broadcast networks.