The XFL ratings look strong after just four games into the 2020 reboot season. With a new brand of football arriving less than a week after Super Bowl 54, it appeared sports fans were invested in at least seeing the league’s games on opening weekend.
While the XFL’s attendance numbers were decent for the first several games, it seems television viewers may be where the league can really score. ESPN numbers, in particular, gave strong evidence of a solid debut.
How were the XFL ratings in Week 1?
Saturday was the official kickoff for the 2020 season as Cardale Jones and the DC Defenders hosted the Seattle Dragons on ABC with ESPN streaming it online. It was highly anticipated as fans wanted to see how the new-look league would do after its failed attempt back in 2001.
That particular attempt was more closely tied to Vince McMahon’s WWE and considered gimmicky, while the new brand features unique rules, no cheerleaders, and no WWE association with the product behind Vince McMahon’s name.
Based on a report from Sports Business Journal’s Austin Karp, the XFL 2020 ratings for the first game averaged 3.3 million viewers.
Per FOX Business, the viewership for the Dragons vs. Defenders game peaked at around four million viewers during the 4:45 p.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time portion of the matchup. DC won the game 31-19.
Those numbers are comparable to the Christmas Day NBA game featuring the Celtics and Raptors as well as the Liberty Bowl college football game on New Year’s Eve.
ABC's XFL opener averaged 3.3 million viewers. Some recent non-football sporting events that drew a similar-size audience:
Dec. 31: Liberty Bowl on ESPN: Navy-Kansas State
Dec. 25: Celtics-Raptors on ESPN
Dec. 29: Liga MX final Leg 2 on Univision: Chivas-Club America
— Austin Karp (@AustinKarp) February 10, 2020
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) February 10, 2020
On Sunday, the league offered two more games for fans to enjoy. The second of those contests featured a new St. Louis football team, the BattleHawks, taking over as the city’s team after the Rams left for Los Angeles. Their opening game took place in Dallas against the Renegades, a team coached by former Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops.
That game, which the BattleHawks won 15-9, was also featured on ESPN and had nearly 2.5 million viewers on average.
ESPN's two XFL games over the weekend averaged 2.9 million viewers.
* Sunday's St. Louis-Dallas game averaged 2,495,000 viewers (and pulled a 7.4 rating in St. Louis.
* Saturday's Seattle-DC game averaged 3.303 million viewers.
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) February 10, 2020
Ticket sales were also strong in the opening weekend
Per FOX Business, all four of the XFL’s opening games had announced crowds of over 17,000 people. While the attendance numbers may not have rivaled the crowd numbers at NFL games, they were good enough to bring in a good bit of revenue.
Sports business reporter Darren Rovell indicated that the XFL’s ticket sales already bested those for the entire season of the Alliance of American Football (AAF).
The XFL, before kickoff, has already surpassed ticket sales revenue for the entire season of the AAF.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) February 8, 2020
The AAF was similar to the original XFL in that it failed without making it past one season.
The AAF league was supposed to go for 10 weeks for their regular season in 2019 but suspended operations after just eight weeks. Soon after, players were allowed to leave AAF contracts to sign with NFL teams and the league filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
However, Vince McMahon and the people behind their 2020 football league are hoping for the strong XFL ratings and revenue to continue so this product can stick around more than a few seasons.
Week 2 will feature another four games, but the excitement may not be quite as high as it won’t be the debut. However, so far it seems the XFL TV ratings, attendance, and ticket sales have been good enough to continue beyond where the AAF went.