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Kentucky Derby lead-in boosts USFL to biggest audience since 2022 debut

The Memphis Showboats put together a strong defensive performance and ultimately beat the Michigan Panthers handily to secure their first win of the USFL season.

For plenty of shows, the audience is determined not by what’s on TV now but what was on before.

For the USFL, having the Kentucky Derby as a lead-in lifted the spring league to its biggest audience since Week One of 2022.

Via Ben Fischer of Sports Business Journal, 2.1 million watched the Memphis Showboats and the Michigan Panthers on Saturday night.

The only two higher numbers came the weekend the USFL returned, last year.

For both the USFL and the XFL, it’s going to be a long, slow grind. It’s going to be driven by increasing gambling revenue, and by keeping expenses manageable.

Maybe the two leagues eventually will have to merge. Maybe, if the league(s) ever become sufficiently profitable, the NFL will swoop in.

Until then, both the USFL and XFL will be trying to waddle their way through the wobble that comes from an audience with plenty of non-football options in non-football season. To the extent a non-football event can be leveraged to boost a football audience, why not do it?

It won’t ultimately determine the outcome of the experiment. It will help prolong it.