Will the XFL get another shot at making a go in 2021?
If the XFL gets a Year 2, it will be because Year 1 got cut short by circumstances outside everyone’s control.
That’s the odd reality of the forced cancellation of the 2020 XFL season due to the coronavirus outbreak, which might just save the league from the fate that befell its 2019 predecessor, the AAF.
Both leagues started out with early February TV games that drew more than 3 million viewers, and then hemorrhaged viewers thereafter.
It got so bad for AAF that the league didn’t even finish its first season, shuttering in early April after reportedly losing as much as $70 million.
XFL founder Vince McMahon has taken the long view on the second iteration of his spring league, reportedly investing as much as $500 million in the startup, with an eye to getting it through a lean first couple of years toward a TV deal that could help him recoup the early losses.
The 2020 XFL had lost 62.8 percent of its TV audience from Week 1 to Week 5, and even if it would have been able to hold steady where it was this weekend, at around 1 million viewers per game, the challenges up ahead were obvious.
Next weekend would have had the XFL running head-to-head against the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament, and then thereafter it would be more NCAA, plus the start of the MLB season.
Even a strong viewer trend for the XFL would have come under threat with the additional viewing options for sports fans.
From a psychological standpoint, a drop under the million mark, and any additional losses thereafter, could have been devastating for the league, maybe enough to get McMahon to rethink his commitment to the project altogether.
As it is, he can cut his losses, and he and his brain trust can use the extra time afforded them to look at what went right, what went wrong, with Year 1, and try to address the shortcomings heading into 2021.
Story by Chris Graham