United States Football League on television

United States Football League on television

On May 24, 1982, the United States Football League (USFL) reached an agreement with ABC [ [http://www.thisistheusfl.com/1982%20huddleup.htm May 24, 1982: The USFL reaches an agreement with ABC and ESPN on television rights. The money for 1983 would be $13 million dollars-$9 million from ABC, and $4 million from ESPN (roughly $1.1 million per team). The contract required the USFL to schedule a minimum of three games on Sunday, with ABC guaranteed to broadcast one game nationally or two or more regionally. The contract included no clauses regarding "blackouts" or "cross-feeding".] ] [ [http://www.thisistheusfl.com/1982%20huddleup.htm May 26, 1982: The USFL and ABC Sports enter into a two-year network television agreement. ABC televises a Sunday afternoon game-of-the-week, one prime-time evening game, plus coverage of the USFL divisional playoffs and championship game. Total package calls for 21 telecasts of USFL action.] ] and ESPN [ [http://www.thisistheusfl.com/1982%20huddleup.htm June 17, 1982: USFL and ESPN enter into a two-year national cable television agreement. ESPN generally televises two prime-time games each week of the USFL season.] ] on television rights. The money for inaugural 1983 season would be a total of $13 million: $9 million from ABC and $4 million from ESPN (roughly $1.1 million per team).

Coverage overview

ABC televised a Sunday afternoon game-of-the-week, one prime time evening game, plus coverage of the USFL divisional playoffs and championship game. The contract required the USFL to schedule a minimum of three games on Sunday, with ABC guaranteed to broadcast one game nationally (the afordmentioned, Sunday afternoon game-of-the-week) or two or more regionally. The contract included no clauses regarding "blackouts" or "cross-feeding". In all, the total package with ABC called for 21 telecasts of USFL action. Meanwhile, ESPN generally televised two prime time games (on Saturdays and Mondays respectively) each week of the USFL season.

The first professional football game to ever be broadcast on ESPN

On Monday, March 7, 1983 the Michigan Panthers opened their 1983 schedule with a 9-7 win at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama against the Stallons. The game marked the first professional football game ever to be broadcast on ESPN. A Serbian kicker (via Central Michigan) named Novo Bojovic hit the winning field goal from 48 yards out in the waning moments to preserve the Panthers' road win.

The first USFL game on ABC

Meanwhile, one day earlier, the Los Angeles Express [ [http://www.usfl.info/express/trivia.html The Express and New Jersey Generals played in the first nationally televised USFL game, with the Express winning, 20-15 on March 6, 1983.] ] and New Jersey Generals [ [http://www.usfl.info/generals/ March 6 - Thanks to Walker the New Jersey Generals inaugural game against the Los Angeles Express is chosen as ABC's nationally telecast USFL game. Walker rushes for the first 65 of his 1,812 yards on the season, but the Generals lose to the Express at the L.A. Coliseum, 20-15.] ] played in the first nationally televised USFL game, with the Express winning, 20-15.


According to an ABC spokesman, the network averaged a 6.0 rating [ [http://members.tripod.com/scimini/Articles/Sacked.htm The key to survival was winning television money. At first the new league had modest success, starting with $18 million from ABC and an additional $8 million from ESPN cable. But U.S.F.L. fans never showed up in force. The average game attendance dropped by 3,000 last season, to 27,000. More ominous, TV ratings fell almost 30%. By the end of its third season, the league had dwindled to eight clubs, with total losses of around $200 million.] ] for their first USFL season. This was slightly better than the network's coverage of the first American Football League football season back in 1960. In its second year, AFL games on ABC averaged a 6.1 rating, and in 1962, the third year, a 6.5.

Overall, ESPN averaged a 3.3 rating for its USFL coverage, a 3.0 for Saturday games and a 3.5 for the Monday night [ [http://www.usfl.info/outlaws/trivia.html The Oklahoma Outlaws played fewer than half of their games on Sundays in 1984. 8 of the team's games were scheduled for Saturdays, 2 for Friday evenings, and one (a June 18 game against the defending USFL champion Michigan Panthers) was slated for ESPN's Monday night telecast.] ] coverage. "We are pretty pleased with the results", said an ESPN spokesman, who noted that the network's overall USFL rating average was almost 50% higher than its prime time average for their entire fourth quarter of 1982.


ABC claimed to have made a profit from its coverage of USFL during the 1983 season [ [http://www.thisistheusfl.com/1984%20halftime.htm This is the USFL Halftime 1984 ] ] . Regular season 30-second spots were priced at $30,000; playoff spots at $35,000. Thirty second spots for the championship game between the Michigan Panthers and the Philadelphia Stars played on July 17 sold for $60,000. Major sponsors throughout the season included Gallo, Anheuser Busch, Buick, Chevrolet, Dodge, Honda and Miller.

Major USFL sponsors for ESPN in 1984 included Ford, Anheuser Busch, American Motors, DuPont, GMC, Mattel, Michelin, Nissan, Noxema, Timex and A.C. Delco.

Franchises most effected by the television coverage

ABC's contract [ [http://members.tripod.com/scimini/Articles/RiseandFall.htm These failings aside, Byrne's observations on the league's extraordinary capacity for self-destruction are right on target. He painstakingly details the myriad problems: the overly restrictive TV contract with ABC in which the USFL was left powerless; the egregious overspending on salaries for "name" players like Herschel Walker, Steve Young and Doug Flutie; and Donald Trump's obsession with forcing the league to play in the fall and thus bring about a possible merger with the NFL.] ] [ [http://www.usfl.info/invaders/ Taube was the first USFL owner to notice the rather stringent clauses in the league's television contract with ABC, and fought hard over the league's three years to get them renegotiated.] ] with the league required that there had to at the very least, be franchises in the Chicago [ [http://www.usfl.info/express/ Having already taken control of the Chicago Blitz and deciding to fold that franchise, the USFL's ownership faced a dilemma - if both the Blitz and Express were folded, ABC would be able to trigger an escape clause in the league's network television contract - something that, giving the nature of the ABC/USFL relationship, was a very real possibility.] ] , Los Angeles, and New York markets.

Chicago Blitz

Before the end of the season 1984, it was announced that the Blitz would be shut down. Chicago White Sox part-owner Eddie Einhorn was awarded a new Chicago franchise, but it was stressed that this new franchise had no connection to the Blitz. A strong proponent of the USFL's planned move to the fall in 1986, he opted not to field a team in 1985. ABC had no objections to this move, probably due to the USFL's anemic ratings in Chicago.

Denver Gold

Just after Mouse Davis took over as head coach, the USFL announced that it would switch to a fall schedule for the 1986 season. Local support for the Gold practically vanished. While the Gold had been one of the USFL's attendance leaders, fans in the Denver area were not about to abandon the Broncos in favor of the Gold. Despite finally getting into the playoffs with an 11-7 record, the Gold's attendance crashed to 14,400 fans per game. As a result, despite finishing second in the Western Conference, they were forced to play on the road against the lower-seeded Memphis Showboats under pressure from ABC. The network, who had considerable influence over the USFL due to the structuring of the league's television contract, did not want the embarrassment of having a game played in a near-empty stadium.

Los Angeles Express

The team never drew well at the cavernous Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum [ [http://www.usfl.info/generals/trivia.html Though attendance at the game was over 30,000, those watching the game on television got the impression the game was poorly attended, due in large part to the size of the L.A. Coliseum, which held well over 90,000 fans when filled.] ] , even in their breakthrough 1984 season. The low attendance figures began to prove very embarrassing and frustrating to the league and its major television broadcaster, ABC, which had hoped for a more credible product to emanate from the nation's second-largest media market. The team had to play its last home game at Los Angeles Pierce College, a small junior college in the San Fernando Valley.

The Arizona Wranglers, despite having the worse record of the two participating teams, got to host the 1984 Western Conference championship game because the Los Angeles Express could not use their home field, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum due to a schedule conflict. To accommodate the oppressive summer heat in the state, as well as the ABC Sports television schedule, the game kicked off at 8:30 p.m. local time, 11:30 p.m. Eastern time.



#Keith Jackson/Lynn Swann [ [http://www.fitness.gov/bio_swann.htm Included in these events are: the 1984 Summer Olympics, the Winter Games in 1988, the Iditarod Trail sled dog race, International Diving Championships. USFL, NCAA, College and Monday Night Football, the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes, the Irish Derby and Wide World of Sports.] ]
#Jim Lampley/Lee Corso [ [http://www.thisistheusfl.com/ESPN_20th_Corso_Broadcast.htm Corso served as broadcaster, coach in USFL] ] (Lee Corso was also an analyst for ESPN's USFL coverage)
#Tim Brant [ [http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=espn25/innovations/100 Jim Lampley was reporting from the sidelines in the 1970s, but the sideline interview first came into play big-time when the USFL allowed ABC to do sideline interviews beginning with its March 1983 debut. Hard to imagine, but at first, the exchanges were actually meaningful. Two years later, Gerald Eskenazi of the New York Times praised the innovation, writing on March 19, 1985, that "The U.S.F.L. telecasts on ABC-TV continue to sparkle with intriguing sideline interviews by Tim Brant in the heat of the game. Immediately after the Baltimore Stars' Sam Mills picked off a Doug Flutie pass, Brant had him describe his team's strategy in trying to halt the little General. It gives a dimension and immediacy to the game."] ] [ [http://espn.go.com/abcsports/bcs/columns/brant_tim/bio.html He also worked the 1984 Winter and Summer Olympics, the Pro Bowl, USFL and "Wide World of Sports."] ] /Lee Grosscup
#Bill Flemming/Ron Mix

ABC used Frank Gifford as the studio anchor. Another play-by-play man that ABC used was Curt Gowdy.


#Jim Simpson [ [http://www.usfl.info/gunslingers/trivia.html To listen to an MP3 file of Jim Simpson doing play-by-play when the lights went out in Alamo Stadium, click here.] ] /Paul Maguire (Mondays)
#Tom Kelly/Don Heinrich (Saturdays)

ESPN used Tom Mees as a studio anchor.

ee also




* [http://www.dbsforums.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=73073 United States Football League Broadcasters (1983-1985)]

External links


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