NEW YORK NBC insists it is sticking with the XFL despite
a ratings free-fall in which the football league came uncomfortably
close to a dubious milestone last week.
The network's fourth game of the XFL season, played on Saturday, had a 2.6
rating, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Only a handful of prime-time evenings have ever scored lower in
the ratings on the big three networks. NBC had a 2.2 rating last
Christmas Eve showing two movies and a 2.4 rating on April 15,
2000, a Saturday night split between an NBA game and a "3rd Rock
From the Sun" rerun.
"I certainly hope it has bottomed out," NBC Entertainment
President Jeff Zucker said. "We will stick with it and give it a
chance to grow."
If the XFL were a comedy or drama on NBC's schedule, it would be
long gone. But since NBC and the World Wrestling Federation are
co-owners of the league, the rules are different, said Scott Sassa,
president of NBC West Coast.
Sassa said NBC is committed to showing the XFL in prime-time for
the rest of its two-year contract.
He said he wasn't aware of any affiliate complaints about the
low ratings, or any talk that NBC could dump the XFL on another
network with which it has a business relationship, like CNBC or Pax
It's difficult for any network to build an audience on Saturday
night, particularly NBC which generally appeals to a younger,
more urban viewership that is more likely to be out or renting
videos on Saturday, he said.
NBC hopes to build an audience by developing personalities and
stories about people in the league, a strategy the WWF has
successfully followed with wrestling, Sassa said.
After 13.9 million people watched the XFL opening on Feb. 3,
NBC's audience has steadily declined to 3.9 million people last
Saturday. Its Nielsen rating last week was half of what NBC had
achieved for its Saturday night movies before the XFL started.
A rating point represents 1,022,000 households, or 1 percent of
the nation's estimated 102.2 million TV homes.
"I think it's over," said media analyst Paul Schulman, who
owns his own advertising firm. "I don't think there's any hope for
this thing and I don't think they can change it unless they take
the uniforms off and have them wrestling."
If a stock performed as badly as the XFL broadcasts, "you'd
sell," Schulman said. "I think they have to sit down and
seriously think about what they have to do to replace it."
A polling expert said she believes a young audience attracted to
extreme sports and high-tech gadgetry was looking forward to the
XFL but was disappointed in the product.
"They have to overcome a brand that they've created that
doesn't meet the market needs," said Nadine Gelberg, executive
director of sports and entertainment at Harris Interactive. "The
potential market is still out there it didn't go away but
they're skeptical of the brand."
Neal Pilson, a sports television consultant and former president
of CBS Sports, said NBC should consider moving their broadcast into
daytime hours, where their viewership levels would be more
Sassa said no time change is in the works. NBC's prime-time
platform was one of the most valuable assets it brought to the
partnership, he said.
One bright spot for the XFL: The TNN network reported that
viewership for its third week broadcasting the XFL was up slightly
over its second week.
One NBC rival, CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves, said he had
watched the XFL and was impressed by some of the camera work. There
were ideas that CBS could potentially use for its own NFL
broadcasts, Moonves said.
But don't expect CBS to offer a job to XFL announcer and
Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura.
"I hope he's a better governor than he is an announcer,"
Moonves said. Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories||
XFL ratings freefall evident on UPN, too