The television ratings for the XFL’s opening weekend are in, and those numbers are likely to ensure the new league gets at least a few more weekends.
According to the Hollywood Reporter:
The four games — two on Fox, one on ABC and one on ESPN — averaged 3.12 million viewers and a 1.0 rating among adults 18-49. Those ratings are in line with the inaugural primetime game for the Alliance of American Football on CBS last year (3.25 million viewers, 0.9 in adults 18-49). Fox’s Sunday-afternoon game had the biggest audience with 3.39 million viewers, while ESPN’s Sunday telecast was the smallest of the four with just under 2.5 million viewers.
The AAF ended up folding midway through its season last year due to financial issues. Its televised games, which after the initial CBS broadcast aired on TNT, NFL Network and CBS Sports Network (the latter of which isn’t rated by Nielsen), fell off considerably from the opener.
From a financial standpoint, the XFL is likely to be on more solid ground, as WWE owner McMahon has said he’s willing to spend what it takes to make the league viable. It also has TV deals with ESPN/ABC and Fox Sports; games will air Saturday and Sunday afternoons on ABC and Fox and on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2.
The quality of play and rules changes — including the elimination of extra-point kicks and a different way of lining up for kickoffs — drew largely positive reviews on opening weekend.
In another positive sign for the league, three of the four games beat out every NBA and college basketball showing from the previous week. The real test of the XFL’s success will come next week, after the numbers for the second week of games are released. If the league improves on their opening weekend ratings, things will be looking very good.