Breaking Down XFL TV Ratings From The Playoffs

Breaking Down XFL TV Ratings: Playoff Edition

When it comes to the XFL TV Ratings, this week was quite a bit different from the rest. The league had their official playoffs, playing only two games as opposed to the four that we’ve been accustomed to for the prior ten weeks.

XFL TV Ratings From 2023 Playoffs:

Houston Roughnecks vs. Arlington Renegades (ESPN): 675,000
DC Defenders vs. Seattle Sea Dragons (ESPN): 478,000

There’s quite a bit to digest here. First and foremost: there was plenty of competition. The USFL had four games this weekend, while the NBA and NHL are both in the middle of intense playoff battles.

However, these TV ratings aren’t nearly as potent as what we would have expected them to be, especially for the postseason. Let’s take a look and break this all down by the numbers.

Playoffs Trending…Downwards?

In a week where one would have expected cable ratings to go up, they went down. ESPN averaged 576k during the XFL’s playoff games, which is low for a channel that averaged 1.87M in primetime in 2022.

Saturday night’s game went head to head with the USFL’s Houston Gamblers vs. Memphis Showboats on FOX. Over 100k more viewers tuned into the USFL matchup, between two 0-2 teams. Granted, that game was on FOX, which is an OTA network, while ESPN is cable.

The confusing aspect from all of this is Sunday’s matchup, which didn’t even scratch 500k. No matter how you try to spin it, there’s not much of a positive message to take from that. DC vs. Seattle has been electrifying this season, and with the Championship berth up for grabs, we saw a number that looked similar to that of FX.

A couple of factors: firstly, an intense game seven in the NBA overlapped on ABC. Golden State vs. Sacramento averaged almost 10 million viewers. Meanwhile, the USFL had a matchup on FOX which began an hour later, and averaged 563,000.

ESPN is a cable channel. With that in mind, it’s one of the most powerful sports networks in the entire nation. It isn’t in the same threshold – at all – with ESPN2, FX, or USA Network. For a playoff game with important implications – from two bigger XFL markets – to average such a low number is concerning, plain and simple.

TV Ratings & Spring Football

It really feels like there is a cap on the general audience for spring football. With two leagues going on at the same time, there’s only so much one can expect from a ratings perspective.

Last year, the USFL averaged 977k for their semi-finals, which aired on FOX and NBC. Of course, those are OTA networks, so it’s not an exact comparison. Additionally, the USFL’s playoffs didn’t have any spring football competition at the time.

Regardless, ESPN’s numbers have disappointed all season long. This is something I’ve been stressing for weeks. The ratings on FX and ESPN2 are fine. ABC’s aren’t as strong as 2020, but that was expected. ESPN, though, has had such a dramatic drop off, it simply doesn’t make sense.

Of course, ESPN+ is a factor. But is it a big enough factor to add a lot of depth to these ratings? Probably not. If ESPN+ was racking up tons of viewership, we would likely hear about it.

Final Thoughts

With one game left on deck, let’s hope that the XFL can swing for the fences. The XFL Championship game will be played on May 13th, during a primetime ABC slot at 8pm ET.

If the league properly markets this game, it will easily hit 1M+ viewers. There’s no USFL competition, and the game is on an OTA network, as opposed to cable. It absolutely should do much better than the playoffs, so we’ll have to wait and see.

The DC Defenders will play the Arlington Renegades in San Antonio to compete for the ultimate prize, on May 13th.

Did you watch the XFL playoffs this week? What are your thoughts on these TV ratings? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!

  1. The fact of the matter is the market may not be big enough for one spring league and is definitely not big enough for two spring leagues. Sorry to say, for the good of spring football the XFL has to die as the USFL has the stronger history, the stronger resources and the stronger network channel support. I bet Disney privately regret getting into this and I wouldn’t be surprised if they threw in the towel after this season.
    Let the XFL die and let’s put all our support behind the USFL and maybe, just maybe spring football could survive. And if it does, then in the future when the USFL expands who know some of the XFL teams, such as St. Louis and Seattle could turn up in that league under their XFL names and colours as the original USFL didn’t have teams in those cities.

Leave a Reply