Looking at the television viewer numbers it would appear the XFL is taking a beating when compared to 2020. In fact, this is exactly the story that many media outlets are running with. Why? Because it’s easy to make the type of comparison where you put the numbers from the Sunday February 23, 2020, DC at Los Angeles game on FS1 (1.0 million viewers), with a similar game on Sunday February 26, 2023, Arlington at Houston on ESPN2 (678k viewers).
So, where did the XFL’s viewers go? That’s easy, they started watching XFL games on streaming services. In the United States ESPN+ has become very popular. XFL games are also streamed outside the USA, i.e., TSN+ in Canada. It is common knowledge how people are dropping cable service for streaming, evident by the increased popularity of services like Netflix and Disney Plus, and the continued growth and expansion of the industry through new services such as Peacock.
The important question is, “In 2023, how many actual XFL viewers use a streaming service?”
When we asked the XFL how many viewers the league has on streaming services, their response was simply, “ESPN (similar to the entire industry) does not release streaming numbers.”
Despite the brick wall we received when we asked about their streaming numbers, we recently heard a rumor how (internally) the league management was buoyed by the number of streaming viewers.
When faced with this unknown (secret) statistic, we took it upon ourselves to conduct a completely unscientific poll, asking Twitter users how they plan to watch XFL games this weekend. Keep in mind, the respondents are people who planned to watch the XFL, and we just asked them whether they would view on cable or streaming.
How will you watch the #XFL this weekend?
— XFL News and Discussion @ XFLBoard.com (@xflboard) March 10, 2023
The results were split. Approximately half the respondents were planning to watch on cable and the other half on streaming.
When you look at the cable television viewer numbers for the XFL game on Sunday February 26, 2023, Arlington at Houston on ESPN2 (678k viewers), you are probably only seeing the numbers for half the audience.
It is also true how there were streaming viewers in 2020. However, it is a commonly held belief how the pandemic has driven many more people to use streaming services over cable. This being true, the league’s streaming numbers in 2023 would likely be a much larger share than in 2020.
Without being a cheerleader for the league, it is plainly obvious that tracking the XFL’s viewership via network or cable television ratings reported on web sites such as showbuzzdaily.com gives you an incomplete picture of the actual viewing audience .