Stop me if you’ve heard this before: after another weekend of games was completed and the viewership numbers were tallied, XFL viewership was down.
In ShowBuzz Daily’s weekly compendium of sports TV viewership, the four XFL games (airing on Fox, ABC, FS1, and ESPN2) are listed as drawing an average of 1.376 million viewers. The most-watched game was Saturday’s Seattle-St. Louis tilt on Fox, while the the least watched was the Sunday evening game (DC-Tampa Bay) on ESPN2.
Also notably, this was the first week in which none of the four XFL games drew even two million viewers. Last week, just the Dallas-Seattle game on Fox broke two million. This week, the top game drew 1.802 million viewers.
XFL viewership has now sunk by more than 50% since Week 1, with the caveat that three of those four Week 1 games were on broadcast TV (compared to two in Weeks 3 and 4) and one of the cable games was bumped to ESPN2 this week.
XFL viewership in Week 4 (four games across ABC, Fox, ESPN2, FS1) was down 14% from Week 3
Week 1: 3.12 million
Week 2: 2.05 million
Week 3: 1.61 million
Week 4: 1.38 million
— Austin Karp (@AustinKarp) March 3, 2020
In somewhat of a happier note for the XFL, all four games outdrew ABC’s primetime NFL Combine coverage on Saturday, which averaged under a million viewers. On the other side of the coin, four nationally televised NBA broadcasts outdrew the top XFL game of the weekend (Lakers-Pelicans on Sunday, Rockets-Celtics on Saturday, Pelicans-Lakers on Tuesday, and Sixers-Clippers on Sunday all drew more than 1.8 million viewers) and weekend college basketball on CBS and ESPN all compared favorably to the four XFL games.
The “cable!” excuse won’t be going away any time soon – both Sunday Week 5 games are on cable (FS1 and ESPN this time around), and Week 6 features a trio of cable games – including one on FS2 and another on ESPN2. Three of the four Week 7 games are on broadcast TV, with just one on cable, but those games will have to deal with the NCAA Tournament all weekend long.
No matter how you feel about the XFL, it’s clear that the momentum the league appeared to have after the first week is fading fast. If viewership continues to fall (which seems like a guarantee in Week 6 because of the FS2 game), the responses from ESPN and Fox in the second half of the season will be worth keeping an eye on.