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Sunday, February 18
Updated: February 26, 7:38 PM ET
League loses another quarter of its viewers



NEW YORK – The XFL is losing viewers at a staggering rate.

The fledgling football league NBC-TV jointly owns with the World Wrestling Federation lost another quarter of its television audience on the network, according to preliminary Week 3 ratings, after a 50 percent drop the previous week.

Most significant, viewership fell below what sponsors were promised when they bought ad time.

And that bad news comes despite a tight game that wasn't decided until the final play, with the Los Angeles Xtreme beating the Las Vegas Outlaws 12-9 on a last-second field goal.

The preliminary overnight rating for Saturday night's XFL broadcast on NBC was 3.8, meaning an average of 3.8 percent of television homes in the country's largest 49 markets were tuned in at any given time.

That represents a 25.5 percent decline from last Saturday's overnight rating (5.1), and a 63 percent fall from the debut broadcast (10.3).

When the full national ratings are released later in the week, the news probably will be even worse.

The national ratings for NBC's first two XFL telecasts dropped between 7.5 percent and 10 percent from the overnight numbers. A similar fall would leave the Week 3 national rating somewhere between 3.4 and 3.5 – well short of the 4.5 rating advertisers were guaranteed their commercials would reach.

Each rating point represents a little more than 1 million TV homes.

Repeating a pattern from the first two games, the audience either decreased or was flat for each half-hour from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET on Saturday, before getting a lift during the last hour.

There was noticeably less WWF influence and promotion during the Week 3 program, while rule changes instituted to speed the games worked. The show ended right at 11 p.m., about 45 minutes earlier than the week before.

Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura is a color commentator for the league.

The plummeting ratings mirror what happened to the USFL, another outdoor spring football league.

The USFL – which, unlike the XFL, lured some top talent from the NFL – went from a 14.2 rating in its first game to 7.4 in its second in 1983. The rating dropped to 3.3 by Week 15, and the USFL folded after three seasons.

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