We are now four weeks into the XFL season. P.J. Walker has stolen the show so far, leading the Houston Roughnecks to the league’s only 4-0 record.
The storylines have sure been entertaining so far. From Cardale Jones’ first professional action to Marc Trestman and Bob Stoops returning to the sidelines, the XFL surely doesn’t lack in flair.
However, despite its popular start, one has to think back to last year when the AAF was captivating the country as an alternative to the NFL. After a successful week one, the AAF crashed and burned.
Will the XFL flame out just as the AAF did or does it have the legs to last a full season and beyond?
Is the XFL getting better TV ratings than the AAF did?
In 2019, the AAF started with a bang in week one. The first game televised on CBS drew 2.9 million viewers, which surpassed ABC’s broadcast of the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets at the same time.
According to Raj Giri of Wrestling Inc., the XFL’s four opening-weekend games garnered an average of 3.12 million viewers per game. Sunday’s first game on FOX between the Tampa Bay Vipers and the New York Guardians drew the most viewers over the weekend (3.385 million).
Unsurprisingly, both the AAF and the XFL ratings dropped significantly from week one to week two. Football-deprived fans were interested to see both products in their debuts, but many weren’t interested enough to stick around for the long-haul.
The XFL ratings have been declining every week since opening weekend. According to Austin Karp of the Sports Business Journal, the XFL average viewers in week four dropped to 1.38 million per game, a 56 percent dip from week one.
By comparison, week four of the AAF drew an average viewership of just 430,000 per game. The XFL is still drawing respectable TV ratings four weeks in, whereas the AAF was already in a heap of trouble by this time last year.
Fans are far more interested in the XFL
Maybe it’s because Vince McMahon already had success with the original XFL.
Maybe it’s because of the on-field interviews and mic’d-up players during the television broadcasts.
Or maybe people just miss football more than ever.
Whatever the case, American sports fans are latching onto the XFL far better than they did to the AAF. According to Darren Rovell of the Action Network, the XFL outsold the entire AAF’s season of ticket sales in its first weekend of games.
The New York Guardians even packed MetLife Stadium with 17,000 fans.
Rovell also reported that fans were more interested in gambling on the XFL. The week one betting handle in the XFL was 20 times greater than that of the AAF.
Is the XFL built to last?
The AAF burned out after eight weeks because of a decline in fan interest and financial backing. The owners were forced to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and disband the league before teams even had a chance to compete in the playoffs.
The XFL, on the other hand, is in better hands.
McMahon has pledged $500 million out of his own pocket to fund the league. While the AAF relied on outside backers to fund the league, the XFL is funded by its owner who will do whatever it takes to keep the league alive.
It’s steadier TV ratings, higher ticket sales, and sturdier financial backing say the XFL is here to stay — at least for now.