The XFL wrapped up Week 4 this past weekend, and is one week away from the halfway point of its inaugural season. Television ratings have dropped each week, but it’s possible they could level out soon.
Sports Business Journal editor Austin Karp posted the average rating for each of the first four weeks of the season, and Week 3 to Week 4 saw the lowest percentage change to date.
XFL viewership in Week 4 (four games across ABC, Fox, ESPN2, FS1) was down 14% from Week 3— Austin Karp (@AustinKarp) March 3, 2020
Week 1: 3.12 million
Week 2: 2.05 million
Week 3: 1.61 million
Week 4: 1.38 million
It’s worth noting the breakdown of television channels for the four games each week. Some weeks had two games on network broadcast TV, and some weeks had three.
Week 1: ABC, FOX, FOX, ESPN
Week 2: ABC, FOX, ABC, FS1
Week 3: ABC, FOX, ESPN, FS1
Week 4: ABC, FOX, FS1, ESPN2
Pro Football Talk broke down the difference on a game-by-game basis, and the league saw three games drop from the week prior, but the FS1 game increase by 100,000 viewers. Additionally, the Saturday ABC game did better ratings than the NFL Combine coverage that followed on ABC. Is it possible we are seeing the league’s television ratings stabilize and suggest some semblance of viability?
Even with four weeks under our belt, it’s still too early to tell. The reason is March brings a drastic change to the TV schedule. The XFL was competing against regular season action in college basketball, the NBA, and the NHL, as well as All Star games for the two pro leagues.
In March, college basketball opens its conference tournaments in the first half of the month, and then kicks off the NCAA tournament the second half of the month. Additionally, the second half of the month brings the start of NFL free agency, which has become a popular time of the year for NFL fans.
The tournament is a clear threat because of eyeballs focused on college basketball. NFL free agency is a threat because of brand awareness. Outside of the hard core fans who follow the Combine, most NFL fans have taken a step back since the Super Bowl. Free agency will get them thinking NFL again, and potentially impact the number of people who remember to watch the XFL on the weekend.
It is possible the XFL stabilizes its ratings, and turns itself into a viable league. However, the weekend of March 14th is the next big test for that, and then the weekend of March 21st an even bigger test.