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.
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.
These numbers are a bit concerning. There was plenty of competition this week, but for an XFL playoff game to garner less than 500k on ESPN is not an ideal look.
For comparison, the USFL semi-finals last year averaged 977k on FOX & NBC (which are OTA networks). https://t.co/2I60hMlvSi
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.
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.