Sports Business: What is success for the XFL?

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Week 2 of the XFL saw the spring football league lose 34.3 percent of its TV audience from Week 1, which, on its surface, can’t be good, right?

Meh, maybe, maybe not.

The four games still drew an average of 2.05 million viewers, down sharply from the 3.12 million viewer average from Week 1.

Assuming the league can stay in that vicinity, I think we have a moneymaker here.

The NBA makes tons of money from its deals with ABC, ESPN and TNT, and its games draw anywhere from right around a million per (on ESPN) to around 3 million (on ABC).

ESPN and CBS, similarly, pay millions for the broadcast rights to college basketball, and you might have one game a week drawing 2.5 million, but the bulk of the inventory is a fraction of that, and when I say fraction, I mean, like, a fourth, a fifth, an eighth.

XFL founder Vince McMahon knows this well. McMahon’s WWE signed a pair of billion-dollar TV-rights deals for its weekly “Raw” and “Smackdown” shows, both of which average in the neighborhood of 2 million viewers per episode.

A competing wrestling company, All Elite Wrestling, which launched in October, started on a similar deal to the deals McMahon agreed to with ABC, ESPN and Fox for the XFL, basically bartering with TNT for its Wednesday night “Dynamite” TV time, no rights fees, splitting commercial revenues, and in three months, averaging just under a million viewers per, earned itself a four-year deal worth $175 million.

If the XFL can keep its viewer numbers close to where they are now for the duration of Year 1, it wouldn’t surprise me if McMahon is able to ink a long-term deal sooner rather than later.

It has been reported that he was prepared to ride things out for up to three years to try to get something long-term in place.

Week 3 is key here in terms of the TV numbers, then. If they stabilize anywhere near where they are, this is obviously huge for the future of the league.

Story by Chris Graham


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