The United States Football League won’t just kick off its inaugural season on April 16. It will also use the date to launch a new behind-the-scenes docuseries aimed at getting fans more interested in its spring football efforts.
“United By Football,” a 13-episode documentary series produced by the league, NFL Films and Fox Sports, will try to give fans a feel for what happens as cadre of hopeful athletes compete in the USFL, a new league controlled by Fox that will have its games broadcast on both the Fox and NBC broadcast networks. The one-hour series premiere will debut at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 16 on Fox leading into the league’s first game of the season between the New Jersey Generals and the Birmingham Stallions at 7:30 p.m.
Twelve more half-hour episodes will follow, one a week during the season. All the episodes will debut first on Fox, preceding most USFL game and pre-game coverage. Each episode will have an encore showing the following week on Fox Sports 1 and the streaming-video outlet Tubi.
“Hundreds of hours of material will be filmed, screened, and edited to produce what will no doubt be seven compelling hours of programming for football fans across America,” says Joel Santos, executive producer at Fox Sports, in a statement.
There’s good reason for interest in more football. It’s the most-watched program on linear TV and commands the medium’s highest ad prices. TV networks, beholden to the NFL and the billions of dollars in rights fees it seeks, could stand to gain some leverage if they were able to turn to a rival league at a different time of the year to deliver a similar product. Devising ancillary programming is aimed at spurring fans to spend more time considering the sport.
“United by Football” will start in Birmingham with the inaugural USFL Player Draft held in February of this year, and move through training camps and a 10-week regular-season. The series will conclude with the USFL Championship game in Canton, Ohio, where a winner will be crowned on July 3 in the shadow of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The series will focus expressly on the players and coaches, their journeys, and will not have any narration. NFL Films cameras will have unfettered access, placing robotic cameras in team meeting rooms and enlisting players and coaches to wear microphones during practices and games. In addition, embedded crews will be with all eight teams.
“The opportunity to document the start of a new professional league is incredibly rare, and we look forward to capturing the incredible sights and sounds throughout this inaugural season,” says Patrick Kelleher, vice president and executive producer for NFL Films, in a statement.
Ross Ketover and Pat Kelleher are executive producers for NFL Films. Keith Cossrow serves as senior coordinating producer collaborating with producers Chip Swain and Eric Reed and directors Terrell Riley, Shannon Furman, Kobi Theiler and Kris Wilson.