UFL TV ratings: United Football League viewership holds strong in Week 4

UFL TV ratings
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Pro football is back in the spring once again with another iteration that’s a combination of the XFL and USFL. The United Football League combines interesting elements from both leagues, but what matters for the future are UFL TV ratings and overall interest in spring football.

It’s certainly beneficial that the UFL is partnered with ESPN and FOX. In the last iteration of spring football, when the XFL and USFL were fighting for viewership, results weren’t great. The XFL outdrew its counterpart, with games broadcast on ESPN, ABC and ESPN2, while a majority of USFL games were on Fox Sports 1 and USA Network in 2023. With games broadcasted on ESPN and FOX, there’s an opportunity for higher UFL TV ratings.

Related: UFL rules

  • UFL TV ratings average: 906,000 viewers (45 percent increase from 2023)

With all of that in mind, we’ll be tracking UFL TV ratings in 2024. For now, let’s dive into the data.

UFL continues to improve over 2023 viewership

UFL TV ratings Week 4
Credit: Chris Day / USA TODAY NETWORK

We mentioned after the start of the UFL season that it’s important to not get overly excited about ratings for Week 1 because there’s typically a massive drop-off followed by subsequent declines. Throughout the 2024 season, however, the UFL is easily beating its predecessors. Week 4 was the latest example.

  • Stallions vs Defenders/ Brahmas vs Panthers – FOX – 951,000 avg. viewers
  • BattleHawks vs Showboats – ABC – 954,000 avg. viewers
  • Renegades vs Roughnecks – FS1 – 243,000 avg. viewers

While the Fox Sports 1 broadcast does technically bring down the UFL’s season averages, the focus here is on how games are performing on basic cable. FOX and ABC both averaged over 950,000 viewers for their broadcasts, during a time of year with the NBA playoffs on and the weather improving. This bodes very well for the UFL’s future as a league and on television.

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Week 3 draws strong UFL TV ratings

UFL TV ratings
Credit: Chris Day/The Commercial Appeal / USA TODAY NETWORK

In previous iterations of spring football, leagues typically experienced a steady decline in their rating by double-digit percentage points. That is not the case with the UFL, which is doing an excellent job through its first three weeks maintaining its audience.

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Fox Sports announced that its audience increased 8 percent for the UFL last weekend, led by a highly-anticipated Week 3 game between the Birmingham Stallions vs Memphis Showboats. At its peak, 1.087 million viewers were watching the Stallions vs Showboats matchup.

UFL TV ratings – Week 3

  • St. Louis vs San Antonio – ABC – 1.023 million avg. viewers
  • Houston vs Michigan – ABC – 974,000 avg. viewers
  • Birmingham vs Memphis – FOX – 837,000 avg. viewers
  • DC vs Arlington – ESPN – 534,000 avg. viewers

ESPN’s viewership numbers are responsible for dragging the net TV ratings down, but ABC averaged more than 990,000 viewers for its two UFL broadcasts and Fox had excellent ratings. As for how this compares to previous spring football leagues, it was a 44% improvement over the Week 3 viewership in 2023 for the USFL and XFL.

UFL vs XFL/USFL comparison – Week 3

  • UFL average: 840,000 viewers
  • XFL/USFL average – 583,000 avg. viewers

Through 3 weeks, Fox and ABC have both demonstrated they can maintain a strong baseline audience with enough viewers to have confidence moving forward in the league’s sustainability and overall interest.

UFL outpacing XFL, USFL

UFL TV ratings
Credit: Chris Day / USA TODAY NETWORK

There is usually always a steep drop off in TV ratings after the season-opening games for spring football. Fans check out the new league in Week 1 and that’s followed by around a 30 percent drop in viewership the following week. However, the UFL enjoyed even better numbers than anticipated last weekend.

UFL Week 2 averaged 842,000 viewers for its four games on Saturday across FOX, ESPN and BAC. That marks a 38 percent increase from the viewership for Week 2 of the XFL and USFL seasons. Here are the game-by-game numbers for each network.

UFL TV ratings Week 2

  • Renegades vs Battlehawks – ABC – 908,000 avg. viewers
  • Stallions vs Panthers – ESPN – 903,000 avg. viewers
  • Roughnecks vs Defenders – FOX – 849,000 avg. viewers
  • Brahmas vs Showboats – ESPN – 718,000 avg. viewers

While no game averaged over 1 million viewers for its broadcast, two games surpassing 900,000 with all four clearing the 700,000 mark is a positive sign for the UFL. If there’s enough sustained interest in the weeks to come, ESPN and Fox will want to remain partners and the UFL will have even more revenue to build from moving forward.

UFL television ratings: Week 1

UFL TV ratings Week 1
Credit: Joseph Buvid-USA TODAY Sports

There is always more interest from the TV audience for the start of a spring football season. When the USFL debuted in 2022, it averaged 1.52 million viewers on NBC and 1.43 million viewers on FOX. For the XFL’s 2023 season, two of its games averaged over 1.5 million viewers with three surpassing 1.1 million. Going even further back to 2019, the Alliance of American Football had its two games average over 3.4 million viewers.

Related: UFL schedule

Here are the UFL TV ratings from Week 1.

  • St. Louis Battlehawks vs Michigan Panthers – FOX – 1.35 million average viewers – 0.7 rating
  • Birmingham Stallions vs Arlington Renegades – FOX – 1.18 million avg. viewers – 0.7 rating
  • D.C. Defenders vs San Antonio Brahmas – ESPN960,000 avg. viewers – 0.48 rating
  • Memphis Showboats vs Houston Roughnecks – ESPN – 703,000 avg. viewers – 0.35 rating

Fox obviously fared much better than ESPN, with both of the network’s games averaging over 1.1 million viewers whereas ESPN’s broadcast only had a single game crack 900,000 average viewers tuning in. Before diving into our analysis, we’ll take a quick side-by-side comparison.

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Week 1 UFL TV ratings vs AAF, XFL, USFL

LeagueAvg. Viewers (Million)
UFL (2024)1.05 million
XFL (2023)1.3 million
USFL (2023)1.57 million
XFL (2020)3.1 million
AAF (2019)3.9 million*
The Alliance of American Football (AAF) averaged 3.9 million viewers in its inaugural Week 1 game

The television ratings for the UFL across four games are clearly down from its predecessors. What will be monitored moving forward is how much of the audience ESPN and FOX retain after the season-opening week. In 2023, the XFL’ went from having dropped by nearly 50 percent to 655,000 viewers. As for the USFL, its two games on cable in Week 2 averaged 761,000 viewers. If history repeats itself, the UFL TV ratings will drop by at least 30-40 percent this coming weekend.

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