Image: USA Today
ESPN reported that the XFL debut featuring the Seattle Dragons vs. the DC Defenders averaged 3.3 million viewers on ABC Saturday, peaking at four million viewers for the closing quarter of the game.
The relaunched league owned by WWE chairman Vince McMahon debuted Saturday with an early afternoon game on ABC and a late afternoon game on Fox. Sunday’s early afternoon game also aired on Fox with ESPN taking the Sunday late afternoon game. Ratings for all four games should be available Monday afternoon.
The strongest market for the debut was Seattle/Tacoma, which averaged a 6.4 rating. followed by Columbus, OH, and Cleveland, OH, both traditionally strong football markets that averaged 4.6 and 4.5 respectively. The Washington DC area averaged a 4.0.
As a comparison, the debut week of the AAF in 2019 averaged 2.9 million viewers for that league’s debut on CBS. That game aired in prime time, however, so it may not be a fair comparison. The original XFL averaged a 9.5 rating on NBC in 2001, but fell 52% in week two and had a similar drop in week three and had what were, at the time, record low network TV ratings by the fourth week. The network cancelled its coverage of the league by the end of the season.
Saturday’s broadcast was widely praised for unique innovations such as live coverage of the replay officials’ reviews of controversial calls and live mics which showed coaches calling plays to the key players.