NEW YORK -- The XFL and NBC must be pleased by the TV
rating for the fledgling football league's debut broadcast.
Mixing guerrilla television tactics and salacious shots of
scantily clad cheerleaders with mediocre on-field action, the XFL's
inaugural broadcast drew a preliminary overnight rating of 10.3
with a 17 share.
That means an average of 10.3 percent of U.S. TV homes were
tuned in at any given moment Saturday night for the game between
the Las Vegas Outlaws and the New York/New Jersey Hitmen.
The rating gave NBC a prime-time victory over the other networks
Saturday and is more than double what advertisers were told by NBC Sports chairmain Dick Ebersol to
expect for the league, the brainchild of World Wrestling Federation
mogul Vince McMahon and jointly owned by NBC-TV.
Another XFL broadcasting partner, UPN, had a 4.2 rating and
8 share for Sunday's telecast of the game between the Los
Angeles Xtreme and San Francisco Demons.
"As long as (the rating is) somewhere between 3, 4, 5, we're
gold," McMahon said.
Said Ebersol: "We're trying to bring
Saturday night viewers back to NBC, and last night's game more than
doubled the time period."
The network had been averaging a 4.2 rating and 7 share this
year by broadcasting movies in prime time on Saturdays.
The premise of the XFL is to appeal to male viewers aged 12-24 --
the same audience with which the WWF thrives -- and Saturday's
broadcast made it clear there will be nothing highbrow or low-key
about the shows.
The preliminary ratings released Sunday were based on measuring
the 49 largest TV markets, covering about 65 percent of the United
States. The full national ratings were expected Tuesday.
By comparison, Game 1 of last year's World Series drew a 14.0
overnight rating on a Saturday night for Fox. NBC's Saturday night
broadcasts of NBA games averaged under a 4 rating last season.
The highest-rated single market for the XFL broadcast was Las
Vegas, where the game was played, with a 17.7. Minneapolis -- where
viewers were drawn to watch their governor, Jesse Ventura, work as
an XFL announcer -- was next at 14.9.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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What about long haul?
What does the 10-plus rating say about the future of the XFL, or at least
how the league will do in its inaugural season? Try absolutely nothing.
It was expected that the opening weekend would do very well as a result of
sheer curiosity. Expect more like a 5 to 7 rating on NBC next weekend and
the true test will come in weeks three and four when it will be easier to
gauge how many fans are in this for the long term.
The XFL has reportedly promised its advertisers a 12-rating throughout the season across all three
outlets (NBC, UPN and TNN) combined.
-- Darren Rovell, ESPN.com
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