The XFL got through its second week of football, and as expected, there was a decline in television ratings compared to Week 1. A new league is going to take a hit from Week 1 to Week 2 because the novelty wears off to a certain degree. The XFL saw overall ratings decline 34 percent between the two weeks, from an average of 3.1 million viewers to an average of 2.1 million viewers.
The four @xfl2020 games in Week 2 averaged around 2.1 million viewers across ABC (x2), Fox and FS1, down 34% from 3.1 million for four games in Week 1 across ABC, Fox (x2) and ESPN. A drop like this was to be expected given the novelty factor in Week 1 for the fledgling league— Austin Karp (@AustinKarp) February 19, 2020
The XFL worked out a relatively strong television deal, which is resulting in all their games airing on national television. In Week 1, three of the games were on ABC or FOX and one was on ESPN. In Week 2, three were on ABC or FOX and one was on FS1. Starting in Week 3, we will see some shuffling of broadcasting. Some weeks only one game will be on a major broadcast network with the rest on cable, and other weeks only one game will be on cable while the rest are on a major broadcast network.
This deal is significantly better than what the AAF had last year, and the ratings reflect that. There is not a purely apples-to-apples comparison to be made because the AAF television deal was objectively worse than the XFL’s deal.
The XFL is likely going to last through the first season, but long-term sustainability remains uncertain. From a ratings perspective, Week 2 is a better benchmark than Week 1. The Week 1 novelty is gone, and now we’ll see who sticks around to watch this league with any consistency. If we see another 34 percent decline, the league could be in trouble. But if the decline is more limited, it could bode well.
The original XFL fell apart in a hurry with its ratings setting records for historic lows. The current iteration of the XFL has ten more weeks of regular season and playoff games to show it can carry into a second season. How Week 3 ratings compare to Week 2 could tell us a lot.