NBC celebrated a ratings blowout with the premiere of Saturday night’s XFL Football. Often referred to as “extreme football,” the new league puts a spin on the sport with more cameras and microphones, announcers seated in the stands, and unlimited access to locker rooms and huddles. The live broadcast won over every demographic and delivered the second largest Saturday night audience on any network this season, according to preliminary Nielsen reports.
Saturday’s inaugural game between the Las Vegas Outlaws and the New York/New Jersey Hitmen was a huge hit with young adults, especially males, and helped NBC clench the first three nights of the make-or-break February ‘sweeps’ in both total viewers and the coveted 18-49 market. The strongest audience was male teens, with approximately a 32 share after an opening 39, which fits perfectly into NBC’s plan of attracting younger males and keeping them around until "Saturday Night Live."
Final Nielsen numbers won’t be available until Tuesday, but early reports indicate approximately 14.5 million viewers for the game, making it the second highest audience of the season behind Game 1 of October’s World Series. The only opening-night fumbles for NBC were the declining viewership after the first half-hour and the mocking critical reviews.
With plans to broadcast the games Saturday nights on NBC, Sunday afternoons on TNN and Sunday nights on UPN, NBC is aiming for a combined 10 household rating. Saturday’s opener indicates that the XFL is off to a solid start, but only the coming weeks will tell if that goal is consistently attainable.