XFL TV RATINGS NETWORK REACTION
After two weeks and eight games spread across ABC, Fox, ESPN, and FS1. The XFL is averaging 2.58 million viewers per game. The point of contention for many is the anticipated drop between the opening week’s games and this past weekend.
Numbers don’t lie, but they don’t always tell the whole story. The XFL’s TV ratings are down 34 percent from their opening weekend. The truth, however, is that the network executives are pleased with the numbers that the XFL has produced, and they are currently above where Fox and ESPN/ABC executives projected them to be. The current figures are ahead of the networks projected rating average for the season.
The XFL is currently performing ahead of established live sports programming and is doing so at a healthy level locally in its markets, topping other pro teams in viewership. It’s still early, but that’s impressive for a brand new league with only eight games in its history.
There is a sense of cautious optimism right now coming from the XFL’s TV partners. The expectation level and the rating target range for the XFL were spelled out by Fox Sports Executive Mike Mulvihill in a tweet sent out on Wednesday.
“It’s important to acknowledge the massive volume of sports programming that thrives on cable in the 1-2 million viewer range, or on broadcast in a 1-3 million range.”
The numbers in this quote are reflective of where the networks hope that the XFL will land. They also tell the story of Fox and ABC’s expectations for year one in the XFL.
The XFL and their TV partners were in discussions, long before the league’s tv deal was official to the public. One of the things that were ruled out almost instantly in the talks between both sides was the idea of putting weekly XFL games on in primetime. The purpose of airing XFL games on Saturday and Sunday afternoons was part strategy and part expectation level.
The strategy driven by XFL CEO Oliver Luck was to air Saturday afternoon games to fill the void left by college football, and Sunday afternoon games to fill the offseason void of traditional NFL games. The other side of the coin by the networks was the hesitation of Fox and ABC to put the XFL in a spot where they would be expected to deliver higher viewership.
The networks (ABC/FOX), didn’t think that the first-year league was ready for primetime yet. There are two network weekday primetime games scheduled for later this season in weeks 8 and 9 on Fox. The two XFL games are almost a litmus test for the league’s viability at the end of the season, and for the potential of it being worthy of that type of valuable real estate down the road. The XFL isn’t there yet, and the networks that are airing their games do not have that type of expectation level set in place for the league.
CFL All-Star Wide Receiver SJ Green has made the jump to the XFL. Green signed with the XFL and was then immediately put in the league’s waiver system after the first week of games. Green bypassed the league’s Team Nine player entry setup. On February 11th, the XFL listed Green as being claimed by the then 0-1 Seattle Dragons, who were first in the waiver order. The transaction almost immediately disappeared from the XFL website.
A quality claim by a Seattle team, in need of receiver help after losing projected starting wide receiver Kasen Williams to injury. Williams is currently on short term injured reserve for the Dragons. Another area that has a cloud of mystery and a lack of transparency behind it.
The only problem with Seattle’s waiver claim of SJ Green was that he didn’t want to go to Seattle. Green, a former USF player, made the jump from the CFL to make his way back home to the state of Florida, and to reunite with his former Grey Cup Championship Coach Marc Trestman in Tampa.
On Tuesday, SJ Green got his wish. The Dragons traded Green to Tampa for former Seahawks linebacker Korey Toomer. Green is not the first player to dictate his landing spot in the XFL.
Back in January, then Defenders Wide Receiver Tre McBride decided to leave DC’s camp and go home. McBride admitted in an interview with the Wildcats Haley Graves that he was contemplating not playing in the XFL at all. McBride, who has a home in the Bay Area, was thrilled to hear from his agent that the LA Wildcats had traded for him.
Like the first two weeks of the season, the Defenders came out winners in their trade. They exchanged a player who wasn’t going to play for them and got dynamic playmaker Rashad Ross in return for McBride’s services.
In the end, Tre McBride got precisely what he wanted. Coincidentally, DC and LA play each other in Los Angeles this coming Sunday. The XFL’s first revenge game, where not only Ross will be playing against his former team, but also former Wildcats Defensive Captain Anthony Johnson, who recently declared himself a free agent, after LA fired his defensive coordinator Pepper Johnson. Johnson’s self-imposed exit led to him being traded to the Defenders for Cornerback Bradley Sylve.
Back in October, the St. Louis BattleHawks drafted veteran NFL cornerback Charles James. Despite being selected by St. Louis, the indications early on were that James had no intention of ever playing for them. The BattleHawks retained James rights on their inactive list. On January 21st, St. Louis completed a four-player deal sending James to the team of his choice, the Houston Roughnecks. A familiar setting for the former Houston Texan. A place where Charles James made his name and fame on ‘Hard Knocks’ back in 2015.
To obtain quality players and to get them to play in the league. The XFL and their teams have been willing to allow select players to dictate where they want to play. This method dates back to the XFL’s first ever signed player, Landry Jones.
The XFL set up a system where individual teams would give the league a list of quarterbacks to target. The league negotiated with a whole host of available quarterbacks. The process would be to sign as many of the quarterbacks and then assign them individually to the league’s eight teams. However, from day one, it was understood that Landry Jones was signing with the league to play for Dallas and his old coach in Bob Stoops. Landry got his wish and his desired destination.
A ROLLING STONE GATHERS NO WINSTON MOSS
No Head Coach/GM in the XFL has gone through more early-season stress than Winston Moss. After years of being a top-quality player and assistant coach in the National Football League. Winston Moss is finally the boss of an entire team. LA has gone through many changes in the leadup to and during the early portion of their season, and Winston Moss is feeling the effects of the job mentality and physically.
Just days after firing his defensive coordinator Pepper Johnson and losing his defensive captain Anthony Johnson. Winston Moss took on the responsibility of calling LA’s defensive plays. A role that he never really assumed in his time as an assistant head coach in Green Bay for over a decade. The Wildcats fell to 0 and 2 this past Sunday, after losing a thrilling game to the Dallas Renegades at home 25-18.
Many onlookers noticed this past Sunday that Winston Moss was seated for part of the game on the teams’ bench. Something that Winston Moss addressed in his post-game press conference after his teams’ loss.
Moss revealed that he has been dealing with severe physical pain in his back and his Achilles. Two ailments that will require surgery, Winston confessed that he wishes that he would have addressed these issues before the season.
As a head coach and general manager, Moss didn’t want to miss any important time on the grind. A victory this Sunday against the undefeated Defenders might give Winston some relief, at least spiritually, if not physically.
Earlier this year, I wrote an article discussing my experiences of covering the original XFL back in 2001. It was late in the XFL season, and the league was dying a slow death. I was in a press box with a small handful of media members, who had no interest in being there. The mainstream media were dismissive of the XFL or just ignored it.
Times and things have changed mightily in this version of the XFL. Thanks to a hard-working and brilliant communications department in the XFL headed by Senior Vice President of Communications and Public Relations Stephanie Rudnick. The XFL may not have all of the media’s love, but they certainly have done a great job of attracting their attention and interest. The quality of the product and its partners haven’t hurt.
At the start of the XFL season, In Dallas alone, the XFL handled hundreds of requests for media credentials. “Only” 248 of them were distributed. New York had 110 media credentials, and DC had over a hundred.
Birmingham wants back into the pro football game. Their city leaders are trying to gauge local interest in potentially making a hard sales pitch for the XFL to consider them as a potential expansion city in the future. Birmingham has had many pro football teams in the past, in several different leagues, over the years, that have unfortunately come and gone.
Birmingham wants back into a league that they were initially a part of in the XFL. The plan and hope are for a Birmingham franchise to potentially start up as early as 2021, with Legion Field playing host at least for one season.
The question is… Does the XFL want Birmingham? The answer is they might. The truth is that the XFL may have selected some of their current markets differently, if not for the existence of the AAF.
Oliver Luck admitted as much, during an interview on San Diego radio last year, that SD was in consideration, but that the Alliance already being there, eliminated the city from the equation.
The XFL didn’t want to compete directly for attendance with teams that were already in the market. So the league settled on their current markets in December of 2018 when the AAF was heading towards its first season. St. Louis became an XFL target when the Alliance couldn’t land the city due to scheduling conflicts and had to settle for Salt Lake.
A big part of being a potential candidate for an expansion team in the XFL is proving to the league how strong your interest is. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.
The market that is making a strong case for having an XFL team in the future is Ohio. The ratings in Ohio for XFL games have been outstanding. Some of that may coincide with former National Championship Ohio State Quarterback Cardale Jones. Still, Ohio is one of America’s best football states. As a non-XFL market, they are making a strong case for a team with their actions.
This week, some outlets have reported Philadelphia as a potential expansion team for the XFL. Someone crawled across the list of 21 domain names registered by the XFL back in late 2018 before the league narrowed down their list to the current eight. The listing and report have given Philly XFL fans some hope for the future.
Expansion is the best-case scenario discussion for the XFL. Over the next few weeks, the doomsday brigade will be discussing the potential demise of the league. Expansion talk is wishful thinking; it indicates the potential of growth and better days ahead.