Wannabe NFL Leagues Looking To Merge: Reports

With sports taking an even more prominent role in linear TV and streaming, two wannabe NFL football leagues -- the USFL and the XFL -- are looking to merge to gain better interest and profitability.

A report in Axios said an announcement could come as early as this week.

Responding to a Television News Daily inquiry, an XFL representative said: "We will not comment on rumors and speculation." USFL representatives did not not respond by press time.

For years, leagues have attempted to compete with the NFL -- which has led to dominant TV viewership.

Competing leagues have typically had their seasons air in the spring -- a non-NFL period.

Fox Corp. owns the USFL, while the XFL is owned by a group of investors headed up by actor/producer Dwayne Johnson. XFL games air on Disney TV Networks; the USFL airs games on Fox and NBC.



The USFL started and stopped in the 1980s. The XFL has been a more recent competitor, launched in 2001 but lasting only one season.  It was started up again in 2020 by WWE's Vince McMahon but was stopped mid-season due to the pandemic.

The Dwayne Johnson-XFL effort resurrected  the league again last year, running on Disney networks.

Overall, recent XFL and USFL TV viewership has been weak. 

For example, the XFL 10-game season last year averaged 622,000 viewers per game on ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, FX, ESPN+ and ESPN Deportes. Looking just at its ABC Television Network games, eight of those games averaged 1.13 million viewers.

The introductory game of the USFL in April 2022 on NBC and Fox pulled in a collective 3.0 million viewers. Similar to the XFL, regular-season USFL games averaged around 600,000. 

The USFL's championship game had 1.2 million viewers, while the XFL attracted 1.4 million for its season-ender.  

By way of comparison, the NFL regular season in 2022 averaged 16.6 million Nielsen measure viewers -- up 2% from a year before. This year's Super Bowl in February averaged 113 million viewers -- still TV's biggest annual individual program.

Steven Cahall, media analyst for Wells Fargo Securities, remind us that Fox Corp. previously said the USFL was profitable while XFL lost around $60 million last year.

This story has been updated.

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