The XFL didn’t put up nearly as good a fight in its second round of games, with Vince McMahon’s NFL alternative losing more than 1 million viewers — per game — in Week 2. Once again, three games aired on broadcast and one on cable.
The NFL has worked in recent years to take some commercials out of America’s favorite game. The XFL is experimenting with new ways to push them in. Anyone who watched the new league’s St. Louis BattleHawks triumph over the Dallas Renegades in its first week of official play might have noticed ads for Bud Light Seltzer affixed to the helmets of the Texas home team. It’s a placement two more established sports leagues — the National Football League and Major League Baseball — have avoided, at least up until this point.
The football league delivered some of the biggest audiences for sports programming on Feb. 8 and 9, with three of its four games outdrawing every NBA and college basketball telecast in the previous week. The numbers are a far cry from what the NFL brings in — and from the opening game of the previous XFL incarnation 19 years ago — but put the league on steady footing at the outset.
Rule changes, mics on coaches and in the faces of players on the sidelines bring viewers a fresh perspective, creating an intimacy more akin to what you find in televised baseball, tennis or golf.
The revived XFL owned by wrestling impresario Vince McMahon will consciously appeal to fans accustomed to betting on professional or college football — and who otherwise would have nothing to bet on for months.
Advertisers have been slow to the table to support the newly-revived XFL league, which kicks off this weekend. Interest is finally stirring, according to ESPN and ABC, but uncertain audience engagement and the memory of past alternative pro-football league failures cast a shadow over its prospects.
“The XFL has a good chance to become a small, viable opportunity for clients based on its WWE ownership backing,” says Adam Schwartz of Horizon Media. “I don’t think the XFL will ever become the NFL, but if the product is strong, it will get viewers to watch and, perhaps, to gamble on the games [and] that will draw more viewer interest.”
Vince McMahon’s second try at the XFL announced its eight team names and logos on Wednesday. The rebooted league, which had an ill-fated attempt that lasted just one season in 2001, will begin play next February on the weekend following Super Bowl LIV.
The league — which will begin play the week after Super Bowl 54 — is in the middle of conducting “Summer Showcases” in the eight cities where it will have teams. The showcases are similar to pro days on college campuses and the NFL Scouting Combine as coaches get to work with prospects.
This is the second time Vince McMahon has launched a football league. The networks will start airing its games its games when the new league starts on Feb. 8, 2020, after the NFL season ends with the Super Bowl. The first version of the XFL — a joint venture of WWE and NBC — lasted one season in 2001.
WWE founder and chairman Vince McMahon announced Thursday he is giving a professional football league another go. It will be called the XFL, the same name of the league McMahon and NBC tried for one season in 2001, but it won’t rely on flashy cheerleaders and antics as its predecessor did, he said.