- OTHERFB - XFL's 1.6 rating lowest-ever in prime time

NFL Europe
Tuesday, March 20
XFL's 1.6 rating lowest-ever in prime time

NEW YORK – The XFL hit a new low for prime-time programming.

The national rating for the league's Week 7 broadcast on joint owner NBC was a 1.6, believed to be the lowest prime-time night among the big three networks in Nielsen Media Research history.

It's also well below the worst-previous evening sports broadcast on NBC, ABC or CBS. That dubious distinction had been held by Game 3 of last season's Stanley Cup finals, which drew a 2.3 on ABC on June 3.

Researchers could find only one other single prime-time program to match the XFL's showing – an ABC News special on drug policy that aired on Aug. 30, 1997, also scoring a 1.6.

"We have enough games and ratings under our belts to say that it's not working in prime time, and in my judgment NBC is going to have to move it off Saturday night next year," Neal Pilson, former CBS Sports president and now a consultant, said Tuesday.

"NBC's prime-time network people will insist that it be moved."

NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker said Tuesday that he didn't expect the plug to be pulled on the XFL before the season, which has five more games, is complete. Zucker wouldn't comment on its status beyond this year; NBC has planned to bring it back next year.

The XFL's Saturday night ratings on NBC have been plummeting since the debut earned a 9.5 rating, falling steadily until Week 5 and Week 6 both drew 2.4.

"This is no surprise," NBC Sports vice president Kevin Sullivan said of the latest slip in viewership, noting that the XFL is now facing three straight Saturdays of competition from the NCAA men's basketball tournament on CBS.

Seven weeks into a 12-week schedule, the XFL is averaging a 3.9 rating from 8-11 p.m. ET on NBC, a number that was boosted by a curiosity factor in Week 1. The fledgling football league's games are also airing on UPN (averaging a 1.6 rating) and TNN (0.9).

The three-network combined average rating of 6.4 is more than 30 percent below what the league guaranteed advertisers, who already have been given extra commercials for free.

Ratings are the percentage of U.S. television homes tuning in.

NBC Sports noted it has a two-year commitment with the World Wrestling Federation to split startup costs of about $50 million.

But ratings of the XFL's nature would spell doom for any other prime-time TV series.

"If you look at the XFL as a failed network series, then writing off part of the money is a possibility. They certainly have written off failed network programming before," Pilson said.

The league, the brainchild of WWF impresario Vince McMahon, will try to stem the slipping ratings with new TV, radio and print promotion.

"Beginning this week you will see an aggressive advertising campaign in which the league will be talking about reasons people should tune in to watch," XFL spokesman Jeff Shapes said Tuesday.

A rating point represents 1,022,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 102.2 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

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