The XFL had a great opening weekend in television ratings with three of its four games drawing more viewers than any college basketball or NBA game. The four games — two on Fox, one on ABC and one on ESPN — averaged 3.12 million viewers.
All eyes were on Week 2 and it looks promising. Attendance rose 9.5% from Week 1 to Week 2. As for television ratings, ABC’s ratings are out and they decreased overall, averaging 2.26 million viewers for the two games (Saturday – NY @ DC – 2,127,000, Sunday – Dallas @ LA – 2,397,000).
Fox and Fox Sports 1 have yet to reveal their ratings but the St Louis Battlehawks vs Houston Roughnecks game did get a 6.0 rating in the St Louis market up against the defending Stanley Cup Champion St Louis Blues game vs Nashville which received a 3.1 rating.
Even though the ratings have gone down, averaging 2.26 million viewers is still pretty good when you compare it to weekend NBA basketball games and the 2020 NHL All-Star game 3 weeks ago that averaged 2.16 million viewers. If this league can draw 2 to 3 million viewers per game every weekend, its going to survive. And it really should.
What is the XFL actually competing with really?
College hoops has really gone downhill the past few years and its due to the one-and-done rule. The star players, the ones that actually attract viewers, usually leave after their freshman season to join the NBA. There is very little continuity and the on-court product suffers due to it. Even a high profile rivalry game like North Carolina vs Duke only drew 2.67 million viewers ten days ago. I’m at the point with college basketball to just wake me up when its tournament time.
The NBA is hit or miss on whether you’ll see a good game. The regular season product has been getting such poor television ratings compared to the past that the NBA has talked about major changes in structure by including an in-season tournament. A few blame the decrease in television ratings due to LeBron James playing on the West Coast for the Los Angeles Lakers. Or Kevin Durant leaving the Golden State Warriors. But the NBA’s ratings problem probably goes deeper than all of this.
The NHL seems to show too many lackluster match-ups on its national television broadcasts with non-playoff teams such as Chicago at Minnesota. The NHL needs to employ flex scheduling like the NFL and show the hottest teams and best match-ups instead of creating a national television schedule before the start of the season. And really, the NHL doesn’t get decent TV ratings until the Stanley Cup playoffs start.
NBC said that NASCAR averaged 2.57 million viewers for the 18 races they televised last season (2019). The Daytona 500 dipped to 9.17 million viewers last year but received a bump this year due to Donald Trump with 10.935 million watching the 20 laps on Sunday before it was postponed due to rain showers.
All of this adds up for a golden opportunity for the XFL to capitalize. Americans love football and the NFL is 800 lb gorilla in the room when it comes to professional sports on television. College football gets pretty good ratings as well. The XFL is made up of talent that fits in between these two and has some familiar names. So in theory, the XFL be able to make it especially when it doesn’t have to compete against the NFL or college football for viewers every weekend.