Tuesday, May 14, 2024

UFL on Fox average ratings at nearly one million viewers in league's first season

 By Zachary Baru

We have reached the midpoint of the United Football League's first season, and so far the league has averaged 946,000 viewers per game on Fox according to Nielson Media Research.  

Games through Week 5 have been up 29% compared to games through Week 5 in the 2023 season, which had two separate leagues, the XFL and the United States Football League.  Games through Week 5 in 2023 only averaged 731,000 viewers per game on Fox, showing a significant growth in the league's viewership on Fox as compared to last season.

Although these ratings are great signs for the league and for Fox as well, the reality of increased sports betting throughout the nation in recent years should also be noted.  Since a 2018 Supreme Court ruling, 38 states and the District of Columbia now allow some form of sports betting.

In addition to Fox, the UFL this season has games airing on FS1, ESPN, ABC and SiriusXM.  Games on Sirius XM are using two different channels, Fox Sports on SiriusXM and ESPN Xtra on SiriusXM.  The season concludes in June with two Conference Championships, one on ABC and the other on Fox.  Both will also be on SiriusXM satellite radio.  The season ultimately wraps up with the first-ever UFL Championship, airing Sunday, June 16 on Fox and SiriusXM.  The championship will be played in St. Louis at the Dome at America's Center.

The most viewed game on Fox this year topped 1 million viewers, as the Michigan Panthers vs. St. Louis Battlehawks had 1,349,000 viewers on March 30.  St. Louis also leads the league in attendance this season, averaging 35,014 fans per game through three home games according to OutKick.

The top ten markets through Week 5 on Fox may surprise some, with Birmingham leading the way.  St. Louis is next, followed by New Orleans, Detroit, Tulsa, Kansas City, Memphis, Louisville, San Antonio and Columbus, consecutively.  Not all markets have teams in the UFL, as Kansas City, Columbus and New Orleans does not have UFL franchises.  

With average viewership on Fox nearly reaching 1 million, the league should feel upbeat about the response to spring football in just the merged-league's first season as the United Football League.  The increase in sport betting should be factored in, but the fact remains people are still watching the games, regardless of the reason.  For a spring football league, and one just in its infancy, the UFL should be proud of what is has accomplished on television in its first year after the merger.

UFL Franchises:

Birmingham Stallions, Protective Stadium

Houston Roughnecks, Rice Stadium

Memphis Showboats, Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium

Michigan Panthers, Ford Field

Arlington Renegades, Choctow Stadium

D.C. Defenders, Audi Field

San Antonio Brahmas, Alamodome

St. Louis Battlehawks, The Dome at America's Center

Source: Fox Sports, Nielson Media Research, OutKick, Forbes

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at zachbaru@gmail.com.  Zach also writes SportsBusinessBoston.com and WesternMassSportsBiz.com.