The Alliance of American Football debuted last night, our first real test of the country’s appetite for non-NFL professional football since the initial XFL run almost twenty years ago.

The overnight ratings are in from the games on CBS, and on the surface the numbers are, well, pretty good!

ESPN PR quickly raced to point out that no, in fact, the NBA game ALSO did a 2.1, because that’s clearly something worth noting:

Thank god that was clarified.

As noted by Sports Media Watch, that’s a big number for a professional league not named the NFL:

The debut of the AAF delivered a 2.1 overnight rating on CBS Saturday night, the highest for a non-NFL pro football game since a 2004 Arena Football League telecast on NBC (2.5). CBS aired regional coverage of San Diego-San Antonio and Atlanta-Orlando.

The AAF earned the same overnight rating as ABC’s competing Thunder-Rockets NBA regular season game. It came to within two tenths of the Duke-Virginia men’s college basketball game on ESPN earlier in the night (2.3).

It’s actually not a rating that compares to the original XFL debut, which was (in retrospect) absurdly high:

The XFL has long been the cautionary tale when various non-NFL leagues have been proposed, though, because of that collapse and fold. The AAF isn’t starting out that high, but the hope is obviously for a steadier, more stable product. (Whether the returning XFL follows the same strategy next year will be fascinating.) The AAF has plenty of legitimate broadcast partners already, and the early reviews of the football itself were mostly positive.

If there is one negative, it was this ratings oddity: the pregame show actually did better than the games.

So that’s something to monitor. The debut for a new league is always going to draw more eyes than something not brand new, and to that end it’s no surprise that it would compete with a regular season, pre-All Star Break NBA game.

The rest of the year won’t see games on broadcast television, either, so it’s unlikely to see ratings numbers that high going forward. But it was a solid debut night, and when you’re essentially trying to start something that has never really worked before as a viable television product, that’s not nothing.

[Sports Media Watch]

About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a columnist at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer. He is probably talking to a dog in a silly voice at this very moment.