USFL Debut Draws 2.9M Viewers

(Image credit: FOX Sports)

In yet another attempt to revive a new professional football league during the NFL’s off-season, a new version of the USFL debuted this weekend, with the April 16 marquee matchup between the New Jersey Generals and the Birmingham Stallions garnering a combined 2.90 million viewers between its simultaneous broadcasts on FOX and NBC. In comparison, the NBA Playoff matchup between the Denver Nuggets and the Golden State Warriors on ABC logged 2.95 million, making it the number one show for Saturday night. 

The game marked the first time a professional sport competition had been broadcast on two competitive networks since Super Bowl I broadcast on NBC and CBS on Jan. 15, 1967. For the inaugural game, NBC Sports provided pregame, halftime, and postgame coverage which aired on both networks, utilizing its on-air, production, and technical personnel. FOX Sports, which used the same NFL theme music for its USFL coverage produced the game coverage, using its broadcasters, production, and technical staff. 

The league introduced several technologies to the game, including a “First Down Measurement Tool”  which provided a closer view of the distance between the last play and first down. Also new was a "helmet-cam”  view, which is exactly as described. Also drawing attention were drone camera angle views, which were used between—and occasionally—during the plays.

The league is financed by FOX Sports, which owns the league and has reportedly committed $150 million–$200 million over three years to its operations, with plans to attract an additional $250 million from investors.

Bad weather hampered additional games on Sunday, causing delays, and the Tampa Bay Bandits and Pittsburgh Maulers matchup, also scheduled for Sunday was moved to Monday night, April 18.

Tom Butts

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (, the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.