There are probably better ways to determine the health of a sports organization than television ratings, but that’s what we lean on.
The XFL’s ratings are a regular topic of conversation because it’s the easiest way to note how the new league is doing. The first two weeks weren’t that bad. The Week 1 ratings were good and the Week 2 ratings were down, but not by much. That had to be seen as a positive that the XFL retained most of its fans.
Week 3 brought another drop, however. But what does that really mean?
Week 3 ratings were down, but not bad
Here were the ratings for Week 3’s four XFL games, via ShowBuzzDaily.com (h/t to Pro Football Talk):
Fox, Dallas at Seattle: 2.05 million
ABC, Houston at Tampa Bay: 1.91 million
ESPN, New York at St. Louis: 1.47 million
FS1, D.C. at L.A.: 1.0 million
The week before (via ShowBuzzDaily.com), the Fox game had 2.32 million, ABC drew 2.4 million on Sunday and 2.15 million on Saturday and FS1 had 1.36 million. The XFL doesn’t want a drop across the board, but this isn’t the disaster of the first XFL in 2001, when early ratings were great and quickly became microscopic.
Last week, only one college basketball game did more than 1.44 million viewers, and that was Kansas-Baylor, a battle of top-five teams that drew 1.88 million. A 76ers-Bucks NBA primetime game on Saturday got 1.7 million viewers for ABC.
You can spin the drop as a negative for the XFL, but the new league is still getting a lot of eyeballs. Two of the games, between teams you probably never heard of a month ago, drew more viewers than Giannis Antetokounmpo facing big-market Philadelphia.
XFL has a big Week 4 ahead
Just because the XFL’s ratings are doing well compared to other sports doesn’t mean the league can continue to leak viewers.
Week 4 will be important. The NFL has taken back the news cycle with the scouting combine happening this week. The XFL is getting to the point of the season in which the novelty has worn off, yet it’s too early to hype up a stretch drive for the postseason. It will be a real test to reverse the ratings decline.
The XFL is doing better than expected through three weeks. The numbers still compare favorably to other options on the sports menu. But the challenge will always be to retain most of the audience that has had only three weeks to get used to a new football league.
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