The XFL is back in 2023 after a multi-year hiatus, launching for the third time in its history. As Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and RedBird Capital attempt to restart spring football, the XFL TV ratings and XFL attendance could shed light on its future.
It’s worth remembering why the XFL shut down for a second time. Back in 2020, the rebooted league was off to a strong start with solid fan support and a competitive product. However, the COVID-19 pandemic ended the season early and all operations were suspended. Finally, the league was purchased by Alpha Acquico, LLC and RedBird Capital Partners, kicking off in 2023.
Related: XFL power rankings
A variety of factors will help shape how long the XFL lasts. Partnerships with the NFL and Disney for the eight-team league certainly help, but its future all comes down to fan support.
Let’s dive into the XFL TV ratings for the 2023 season. Further below, we also evaluate the XFL attendance numbers and use both to evaluate the league’s future.
XFL TV Ratings: 2023 XFL Championship Game
The XFL Championship Game averaged 1.43 million viewers, making it the most-watched game in the 2023 XFL season since Week 1. The numbers were right on par with the first games of the XFL 3.0 launch (1.5 million and 1.6 million average viewers). At its peak, Saturday’s championship game had 1.8 million viewers tuned in on ABC. Of note, the XFL wasn’t competing against the NBA Playoffs on Saturday night.
Will the XFL return in 2024?
The XFL will return in 2024, with its broadcasting partners ESPN and ABC both interested in the league sticking around. XFL co-owner Dany Garcia announced in May that they are in the planning stages for the 2024 season, but they saw sufficient enough interest to move forward into a second season.
XFL playoff ratings
The XFL playoffs began over the weekend with expectations relatively high as both games were broadcasted on ESPN. With the move over from FX broadcasts to ESPN, ABC and ESPN, the XFL had seen a small spike in its television ratings over recent weeks. Playoff football typically brings in an even higher audience, but that wasn’t the case for the XFL.
- Houston Roughnecks vs Arlington Renegades – ESPN – 675,000 avg. viewers
- DC Defenders vs Seattle Sea Dragons – ESPN – 478,000 avg. viewers
In total, the XFL playoffs averaged 576,500 average viewers across its two broadcasts on ESPN. In contrast, both USFL playoff games in 2022 averaged a combined 980,000 viewers on NBC and FOX. While the XFL was competing against the USFL regular season and both NBA and NHL playoff games, the audience size for two playoff matchups is a concerning development. the May 13 XFL Championship Game on ABC at 8 PM ET will need to pull in a much larger audience to avoid discussion about the XFL’s long-term viability.
XFL TV ratings – Week 10
As the 2023 XFL regular season draws to a close, the league and its television partners drew a mixed bag of results for Week 10. ABC pulled in a strong audience, but the viewership totals for ESPN were likely underwhelming for the XFL and Disney.
- DC Defenders vs San Antonio Brahmas – ABC – 832,000 avg. viewers
- St. Louis Battlehawks vs Orlando Guardians – ESPN – 636,000 avg. viewers
- Arlington Renegades vs Houston Roughnecks – ESPN – 403,000 avg. viewers
- Seattle Sea Dragons vs Vegas Vipers – ESPN2 – 378,000 avg. viewers
Two weeks after ABC averaged over 1 million viewers and ESPN had two broadcasts averaging over 700K combined viewers for its doubleheader, TV ratings are sliding. Direct competition with the USFL and the NBA playoffs has taken a sizable chunk out of the XFL’s audience. While the start of the XFL playoffs might help pull some of the USFL’s audience away, it’s uncertain if ESPn’s semifinals matchups will crack 1 million viewers.
Week 9 XFL TV ratings clash with NBA playoffs, USFL
After being the only spring football league on television in February and March, the XFL is now competing against the USFL. With XFL teams battling for playoff spots in Week 9, the USFL launched its first week of the 2023 season and both leagues competed directly against the NBA playoffs.
- Houston Roughnecks vs Vegas Vipers – ABC – 878,000 avg. viewers
- San Antonio Brahmas vs Orlando Guardians – ESPN2 – 235,000 avg. viewers
- DC Defenders vs Arlington Renegades – ESPN – 670,000 avg. viewers
- St. Louis Battlehawks vs Seattle Sea Dragons – ESPN – 570,000 avg. viewers
While the XFL had some of the highest-rated football games this weekend, its average viewership dipped compared to Week 8. It comes as no surprise, given the competition from the USFL and NBA playoffs, but also serves as a reminder that the viewership totals from Week 8 might not be matched again outside of the XFL championship.
Week 8 XFL TV ratings
The XFL schedule is officially no longer featuring games on FX. The network that generated the smallest average audience during the regular season is not broadcasting any games in Weeks 9-10 or during the playoffs. With more games on ESPN and ABC, ratings climbed in Week 8.
- St. Louis Battlehawks vs Vegas Vipers – ESPN – 868,000 avg. viewers
- Orlando Guardians vs Arlington Renegades – ESPN – 679,000 avg. viewers
- San Antonio Brahmas vs Houston Roughnecks – ABC – 1.006 million average viewers
- Seattle Sea Dragons vs DC Defenders – ESPN2 – 487,000 avg. viewers
Week 8 delivered some of the strongest television ratings of the season. At its peak, more than 2 million people were watching the Roughnecks vs Brahmas on ABC. Meanwhile, the Vipers vs Battlehawks game topped out at 1.18 million viewers.
It’s an excellent sign for the league heading into Week 9, with Saturday’s Vegas vs. Houston game on ABC and the Orlando vs San Antonio matchup on ESPN2. As for Sunday, both games will be broadcasted on ESPN and ESPN+.
XFL attendance – St. Louis sets records
While XFL attendance across the board hasn’t delivered the best numbers, the St. Louis Battlehawks continue to prove why the city is outstanding for sports. The BattleHawks have pulled in the three largest crowds in XFL history, with each of the huge crowds showing up to support the football team in St. Louis this season.
- St. Louis Battlhawks attendance (Week 5) – 35,868 tickets sold
- St. Louis Battlhawks attendance (Week 4) – 38,310 tickets sold
- St. Louis Battlhawks attendance (Week 8) – 35,167 tickets sold
Expect another 30,000-plus people in Week 9 when The Dome at America’s Center hosts a Week 9 matchup between the Sea Dragons vs Battlehawks. After that, St. Louis closes out the regular season at home with a 12 PM ET kickoff on Saturday, April 22 vs Orlando.
Week 7 XFL viewership
Even when the XFL season finishes, we won’t have the entire scope of how the league performed in 2023 due to ESPN+. Every game this season has been simulcast on ESPN’s streaming service, meaning data that the network or league won’t be available. As the regular season moves on, our focus is on the XFL TV ratings that are put out publicly.
In Week 7, things started slowly with the FX matchup between the Renegades vs Sea Dragons failing to even average 180,000 viewers. It marks one of the lowest-recorded audiences for a pro football game in modern history.
- Houston Roughnecks vs St. Louis Battlehawks – ESPN – 502,000 avg. viewers
- Orlando Guardians vs DC Defenders – ESPN – 365,000 avg. viewers
- Vegas Vipers vs San Antonio Brahmas – ESPN2 – 356,000 avg. viewers
- Arlington Renegades vs Seattle Sea Dragons – FX – 177,000 avg. viewers
Overall, the dip in viewership compared to Week 6 means lost progress for the XFL. While Sunday brought the NCAA women’s championship game, which averaged nearly 10 million viewers, the XFL’s audience largely didn’t show up for the entire weekend slate. There are still three weeks left in the regular season and every game moving forward is on ESPN, ABC or ESPN2. It’s a small positive for the league and its broadcasting partners, but better numbers are necessary.
Week 6 XFL TV ratings
The arrival of Week 6 on the XFL schedule meant ABC returned as a broadcasting partner. It led to a massive boost in viewership, with Saturday’s Orlando vs Seattle matchup surpassing 1 million average viewers for the first time since Week 1.
It was even better for the league because ABC aired two games this weekend and both delivered some of the strongest audience numbers in weeks. The games were spread out, creating less interference with March Madness and soon the NCAA tournament will no longer be a threat to the XFL.
- Orlando Guardians vs Seattle Sea Dragons – ABC – 1.047 million avg. viewers
- Arlington Renegades vs San Antonio Brahmas – ABC – 753,000 avg. viewers
- Vegas Vipers vs St. Louis Battlehawks – FX – 371,000 avg. viewers
- DC Defenders vs Houston Roughnecks – ESPN2 -371,000 avg. viewers
While the numbers for FX and ESPN2 fell well short of ABC’s audience pull, the week overall is an impressive turnaround for the XFL 3.0 in its first season.
XFL TV Ratings – Week 5
Despite making adjustments to the schedule, both ESPN and the XFL likely knew viewership would drop in Week 5. The spring football league is currently competing against March Madness, with the first round of the NCAA tournament pulling in huge numbers.
It came at the cost of the XFL TV ratings, which fell considerably after showing some promising signs in Week 4. The most-watched XFL game in Week 5 was actually on FX, not ESPN, with just over 300,000 watching the Battlehawks vs Defenders. As noted by SportsMediaWatch, the totals represent the four least-watched games in XFL history.
- Seattle Sea Dragons vs Houston Roughnecks – ESPN – 256,000 avg. viewers
- St. Louis Battlehawks vs DC Defenders – FX – 320,000 avg. viewers
- Vegas Vipers vs Orlando Guardians – FX – 234,000 avg. viewers
- San Antonio Brahmas vs Arlington Renegades – ESPN2 – 246,000 avg. viewers
There may still be signs of life for the XFL, which has already lasted longer than the second edition of the league that was shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic. ABC will be broadcasting its first XFL game since Week 1, which offers the league an opportunity to more than double the viewership it has pulled in on FX.
Week 4 XFL attendance
The XFL promised a massive crowd for the St. Louis Battlehawks’ home game and the fans delivered. Years removed from having their NFL team taken away, football fans in Missouri showed out in droves for the matchup against Arlington.
- St. Louis Battlehawks vs Arlington Renegades – ESPN2 – 38,310
- Seattle Dragons vs San Antonio Brahmas – 15,103 attendance
- Houston Roughnecks vs Orlando Guardians – 10,013 attendance
- DC Defenders vs Vegas Vipers – 11,521
In a win over the Renegades, St. Louis drew one of the largest crowds in XFL history. The support for the team and the bitter feelings towards Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke were evident. While there may still be long-term questions about the XFL’s shelf life, St. Louis once again proved it can support a pro football team.
XFL TV ratings – Week 4
ESPN made changes to its XFL broadcast schedule before Week 4 with the hope that it would increase viewership. While numbers from ESPN+ aren’t taken into account, the ratings from this past weekend’s action likely didn’t go according to the network’s plan.
- Houston Roughnecks vs Orlando Guardians – FX – 405,000 avg. viewers
- Seattle Dragons vs San Antonio Brahmas – FX – 343,000 avg. viewers
- St. Louis Battlehawks vs Arlington Renegades – ESPN2 – 572,000 avg. viewers
- DC Defenders vs Vegas Vipers – ESPN2 – 691,000 avg. viewers
FX is doing very little to help the XFL TV ratings. Both games on the network averaged just 374,00 combined viewers across the two broadcasts. It’s the lowest average viewership in the past two editions of the XFL.
Moving games to ESPN2, a larger platform, proved to be beneficial. he Defenders vs Vipers game nearly cracked 700,000 average viewers and both matchups easily cleared 500,000 average viewers. Unsurprisingly, ESPN is now moving more games off FX.
Week 3 XFL TV ratings
As the 2023 XFL season continues to unfold, things are only getting worse for the league and its television partners. The latest television ratings from Week 3 continued the worrisome trend.
- Seattle Dragons vs Vegas Vipers – FX – 528,000 avg. viewers, 0.29 rating
- St. Louis Battlehawks vs D.C. Defenders – FX – 665,000 avg. viewers, 0.36 rating
- Orlando Guardians vs Arlington Renegades – FX – 550,000 avg. viewers, 0.33 rating
- San Antonio Brahmas vs Houston Roughnecks – ESPN2 – 543,000 avg. viewers, 0.32
As noted by SportsMediaWatch.com, just 2-of-20 XFL games in 2020 averaged below one million viewers whereas XFL 3.0 has already seen nine games (75% of its schedule) average fewer than one million viewers.
A week after three games on the Week 2 XFL schedule at least cracked 600,000 average viewers, FX’s broadcast of the Battlehawks vs Defenders was the only matchup to accomplish that this week. Sensing a need for change, ESPN is moving two games off FX and will be broadcasting them on ESPN and ESPN2, while a third game shifts from ESPN to ABC. The network also changes the times to more viewer-friendly windows, hopefully boosting viewership for Week 4.
XFL attendance – Week 3
Saturday delivered a matchup between the Seattle Sea Dragons vs Vegas Vipers. Unfortunately, the attendance barely moved after the Vipers’ home debut.
According to Mike Mitchell, the Week 3 matchup between the Sea Dragons vs Vipers drew an attendance of 6,037 spectators. Putting that into perspective, it’s approximately half of what the other teams are pulling in. Furthermore, it’s only about a dozen more than Vegas drew in Week 2.
The Vipers play at Cashman Field, the primary home of the Las Vegas Lights FC soccer team of the USL. It holds a capacity of 9,334 seats and is located in Las Vegas. However, the stadium was designed for baseball and the seating arrangements have likely played a part in the poor attendance. Based on the reviews from locals on the XFL Reddit page, poor marketing is another part of the team’s issue. We’ll see how the Week 3 XFL TV ratings look, but the league isn’t trending in the right direction.
Week 3 XFL attendance
- St. Louis Battlehawks vs D.C. Defenders – 16,212 announced
- Orlando Guardians vs Arlington Renegades – 12,006 announced
- San Antonio Brahmas vs Houston Roughnecks – 11,309 announced
- Seattle Dragons vs Vegas Vipers – 6,037 announced
All things considered, a majority of XFL teams are drawing a respectable crowd size considering some of the game times are inconvenient for fans. The St. Louis BattleHawks have the strongest support, with Dwayne Johnson going as far as to predict 30,000 attending the next home game
Week 2 XFL TV ratings: Viewership takes expected drop
There is always a boost in interest, both in regard to television ratings and fanfare, when a new football league starts. It helped the XFL 3.0 in its debut in late February, with three of the four games drawing more than 1 million viewers. As expected, with previous iterations of the XFL and AAF further demonstrating, interest in the XFL dropped for Week 2.
According to SportsMediaWatch.com, the XFL averaged 655,000 viewers across its four games in Week 2. The figure represents a 50% audience dip compared to Week 1 and is a substantial decline from the viewership for the XFL in 2020.
Week 2 XFL TV Ratings – 2023
- St. Louis Battlehawks vs Seattle Dragons – FX – 524,000 avg. viewers
- D.C. Defenders vs Vegas Vipers – FX – 605,000 avg. viewers
- San Antonio Brahmas vs Orlando Guardians – ESPN – 781,000 avg. viewers
- Arlington Renegades vs Houston Roughnecks – ESPN2 – 678,000 avg. viewers
It falls well short of the ratings from Week 2 a few years ago, when the XFL seemed to be thriving. While games being broadcasted on FX, as opposed to FOX and ABC, likely plays a part, the audience size as a whole dropped off considerably.
Week 2 XFL TV ratings – 2020
- New York Guardians vs D.C. Defenders – ABC – 2.1 million avg. viewers
- Tampa Bay Vipers @ Seattle Dragons – FOX – 2.3 million avg. viewers
- Dallas Renegades vs Los Angeles Wildcats – ABC – 2.397 million avg. viewers
- St. Louis Battle Hawks vs Dallas Renegades – ESPN – 2.495 million avg. viewers.
While the audience size is still strong enough for the XFL to stick around, that could change if the viewership doesn’t stabilize. Another concerning element for the league is the lack of overwhelming local fan support.
XFL attendance – Week 2 (2023)
- San Antonio Brahmas vs Orlando Guardians – 12,011 announced attendance
- Arlington Renegades vs Houston Roughnecks – 11,675 announced attendance
- St. Louis Battlehawks vs Seattle Dragons – 10,386 announced attendance
- D.C. Defenders vs Vegas Vipers – 6,023 announced attendance
After pulling in nearly 12,500 people for the first game, Seattle’s attendance dropped off by 2,000. Orlando held firm with its second consecutive home game drawing over 12,000 fans, but the debut of the Vegas Vipers provides a new reason for concern.
XFL TV ratings: Week 1 falls short of predecessors
The second edition of the CXFL was met with relatively strong local and national fan support when it launched in February 2020. Partnered with ABC, FOX and ESPN, the league viewed the first season as an opportunity to prove itself.
Related: XFL games today
Week 1 XFL TV ratings – 2020
- DC Defenders vs Seattle Dragons – 3.3 million avg. viewers – ABC
- Houston Renegades vs Los Angeles Wildcats -3.29 million avg. viewers – FOX
- New York Guardians vs Tampa Bay Vipers – 3.39 million avg. viewers – FOX
- Dallas Renegades vs St. Louis Battle Hawks – 2.495 million avg. viewers – ESPN
The 2020 XFL debut provided a strong start, with its TV partners averaging over 3 million viewers across the first four games. However, the XFL TV ratings plummeted the following week, with no game averaging more than 2.4 million viewers and it didn’t top 2 million viewers after Week 3.
Week 1 XFL TV ratings – 2023
- Arlington Renegades vs Vegas Vipers – 1.54 million avg. viewers – ABC
- Houston Roughnecks vs Orlando Guardians – 1.14 million avg. viewers – ESPN & FX
- San Antonio Brahmas vs St. Louis Battlehawks – 1.57 million avg. viewers – ABC
- D.C. Defenders vs Seattle Sea Dragons – 918,000 avg. viewers – ESPN
The 2023 XFL ratings for its first games, when viewership tends to be higher as fans see if they like it, finished much closer to the average viewership from Week 4 of the 2020 season (1.375 million avg. viewers total).
A slow start is a troubling sign, especially for a league that needs good publicity. While the XFL received some favorable reviews from its first games, the lack of viewership and the limited presence of well-known figures could jeopardize its future.
Related: NFL TV ratings
XFL attendance 2023: San Antonio thrives, others struggle
Week 1 XFL attendance – 2020
- D.C. Defenders vs Seattle Dragons – 17,163 announced
- Houston Renegades vs Los Angeles Wildcats – 17, 815 announced
- New York Guardians vs Tampa Bay Vipers – 17,634 announced
- Dallas Renegades vs St. Louis Battle Hawks – 17,206 announced
Similar to the television viewership, the XFL 2.0 fared well in its first week of the season. However, it also benefitted from giving away some tickets to boost the numbers. As more local fans became aware of the teams, though, attendance rose.
Week 1 XFL attendance – 2023
- Arlington Renegades vs Vegas Vipers – 12,047 announced
- Houston Roughnecks vs Orlando Guardians – 12,784 announced
- San Antonio Brahmas vs St. Louis Battlehawks – 24,245 announced
- D.C. Defenders vs Seattle Sea Dragons – 12,428 announced
Tickets sold aren’t going to dictate the XFL’s future entirely, it’s similar to every other pro sports league with TV revenue and viewership playing the most influential role. Recent history also suggests that attendance could increase in the weeks ahead, with fans seeing an opportunity to watch pro football in person at a reasonable cost.
However, all of this will ultimately be a test of patience. If the XFL’s owners are willing to make it through the early years, when money will be lost, then there could be an opportunity for long-term success. If the XFL 3.0 fails, though, it’s fair to wonder if professional spring football ever becomes viable financially.