Weather didn’t do the brand new United States Football League any favors this weekend, however the made-for-TV product nonetheless did fairly, fairly, fairly, fairly good.

And it might need even sapped some eyeballs from the NBA playoffs.

Easter Sunday TV viewers numbers noticed good upticks for basketball, golf and auto racing, suggesting that, because of Nielsen now measuring out-of-home viewing, the vacation may be part of Thanksgiving and Christmas as red-letter dwell sports activities programming days.

Saturday evening’s USFL reboot premiere simulcast on Fox and NBC averaged 3.06 million viewers for New Jersey-Birmingham.

That’s about on par with the inaugural sport for the AAF in 2019 and XFL in 2020 and breaks down as 1.75 million for Fox and 1.31 million for NBC, per information from ShowBuzz Daily. Viewership peaked at 3.5 million at 10:45 p.m. as Birmingham received in a thriller.

Spring Pro Football Game 1 TV viewership

League Year Network Viewership




15.7 million




3.25 million




3.29 million



Fox, NBC

3.07 million

(Table information through Sports Media Watch)

“I would never have really thought the USFL would get to the 3 million mark. The brand is not well known,” stated Jon Lewis, who analyzes viewership at Sports Media Watch, including that the networks opted for restricted hype main as much as the video games. “Fox and NBC have to be overjoyed, more for the Sunday numbers. And I wouldn’t have assumed even 2 million for the first game. There’s a lot to be happy about if you’re Fox and NBC.”

On Easter Sunday, the hour-delayed Houston-Michigan sport kicked off simply earlier than 1 p.m. and averaged 2.15 million viewers on NBC, whereas the 5 p.m. Philadelphia-New Orleans sport averaged 771,000 viewers on USA Network.

“There is clearly an Easter effect there was not before,” Lewis stated. He famous that Sunday’s PGA Tour match last spherical and the NBA playoffs had their finest TV numbers in years.

Previously, Easter was not sports-friendly. Even the numbers for the Masters had been depressed in years when golf’s marquee occasion wrapped up on the vacation.

“Easter is going to become a day people seek out to schedule games,” Lewis stated.

NBC, which ended its NHL broadcast relationship final yr after 16 seasons, will fill a few of its former hockey airtime with USFL content material. Lewis stated the community’s Capitals-Bruins sport a yr in the past within the equal time/day slot did simply over 1 million viewers, so doubling that this yr was a win for NBC.

Overall, the USFL did properly regardless of climate points, and delays are infamous for sapping viewership.

Houston’s victory Sunday afternoon was in entrance of a principally empty Protective Stadium due to thunderstorms that precipitated the delay. It was an unfortunate flip for the brand new league that’s anticipated to dwell or die by TV viewership as a result of audiences have indicated they dislike dwell sports activities broadcasts with out followers within the stands.

The late Tampa Bay-Pittsburgh sport on FS1 was weather-delayed to Monday, and its viewership information isn’t but accessible.

Because the brand new USFL is a Fox-owned property and designed to restrict prices as lower-tier programming because it finds its legs, the viewership expectations and monetary success metrics are a lot decrease than with NFL video games. We simply don’t know what the pass-fail thresholds are as a result of the networks usually are not saying.

Additionally, the TV trade has skilled seismic shifts accelerated by the pandemic, by way of cord-cutting, new streaming providers popping up and Americans usually watching much less prime-time TV. All that plus the appearance of Nielsen’s OOM metrics (individuals watching at bars, eating places, lodges or whereas gathered at different houses) since 2020 has meant comparisons with older programming such because the AAF and XFL usually are not precisely apples-to-apples.

Still, we will safely assume a few of the USFL viewership was curiosity-fueled, and a few units of eyeballs is not going to return. Week 2 would possibly give a extra practical image of viewership expectations.

Lewis stated if the day-delayed Monday night sport averaged 500,000 viewers on FS1, it will be a significant victory as a result of it will imply viewers are keen to hunt out the brand new league on TV.

The USFL additionally began amid the NBA playoffs, which meant a variety of followers had been glued to basketball as an alternative of springtime soccer. The largest viewers for any dwell sports activities broadcast final week was the Nets-Celtics sport tipping off at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, averaging 6.9 million viewers on ABC as Houston-Michigan was winding down a much-improved second half.

That was the most-watched NBA opening weekend sport since 8.37 million viewers watched the Trail Blazers-Lakers opener in 2002 on ABC.

Saturday evening’s Nuggets-Warriors sport at 8:35 p.m., which was an hour into the inaugural USFL sport, averaged 4.52 million viewers on ABC.

That shocked Lewis, who stated he anticipated a greater viewers for what’s been an NBA TV powerhouse. On the identical weekend in 2019, the Warriors averaged 4.8 million viewers for a playoff sport, he stated.

“That Warriors game did not do as well as expected. The USFL may have pulled viewers away from Steph Curry,” Lewis stated.

Still, the NBA did its finest TV numbers in 11 years, he stated, averaging 4.05 million viewers throughout ABC, ESPN and TNT.

Sunday’s early prime-time Philadelphia-New Orleans USFL sport was up in opposition to the Bulls-Bucks sport that tipped off at 6:38 p.m. on TNT and averaged 4.77 million viewers.

The NBA is a legacy sports activities property with a big, devoted fan base, so its playoff video games beating the USFL isn’t stunning — spring professional soccer is a distinct segment product.

The networks haven’t disclosed their USFL viewership expectations, however as a result of it’s owned by Fox Sports, there aren’t any costly (and even low-cost) broadcast rights funds. Fox and NBC can promote the advertisements, restrict bills akin to journey by enjoying all video games in a single metropolis for now, and pay gamers far lower than NFL salaries (which is a separate labor-capital dialog).

Fox and NBC, in opting to experiment with spring soccer once more, opted to launch the USFL this previous weekend as a result of it was after the Final Fours and the Masters. The sports activities calendar doesn’t have a super spot for a 10-week common season (and three playoff video games in July), however springtime is the least problematic — nobody is thinking about making the identical ginormously costly and deadly mistake of difficult NFL and faculty soccer dominance within the fall.

This weekend additionally had robust sports activities viewership for the ultimate spherical of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage on Sunday, which averaged 3.67 million viewers on CBS, and Fox’s NASCAR protection, which averaged 4 million viewers for Sunday night’s filth monitor race. ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball averaged 1.11 million viewers for the Braves-Padres.

Here is the USFL’s Week 2 TV schedule:

• Michigan Panthers at New Jersey Generals, 8 p.m. Friday, USA Network
• Pittsburgh Maulers at Philadelphia Stars, midday Saturday, Fox
• Birmingham Stallions at Houston Gamblers, 7 p.m. Saturday, FS1
• New Orleans Breakers at Tampa Bay Bandits, 3 p.m. Sunday, NBC

— All viewership information is Nielsen and Adobe Analytics metrics through the TV networks, Sports Media Watch, ShowBuzz Daily and the leagues.

(Photo: Michael Wade / Icon Sportswire through Getty Images)

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