Y’all watch any XFL games this weekend?
I caught about half of the D.C. Defenders vs. Seattle Dragons game and found myself enjoying it. The entire presentation felt different and unique, which is what the XFL tried to do 20 years ago, but something about this second effort felt less tacky to me. It felt like less like a sideshow and more like an explorator,y yet buttoned up, delivery.
Case in point, the new kickoff rule was really cool, with would-be tacklers lining up down the field and waiting for the ball to be caught before they’re allowed to move. That felt like a smart way to keep an exciting play in the game while cutting down on the types of full speed, violent collisions that cause injuries.
If you didn’t see it, check this out:
First kickoff ✅
— XFL (@xfl2020) February 8, 2020
If it felt like the XFL was generating some positive buzz and being received favorably, you’d be right, because the ratings were solid after one weekend of play:
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) February 10, 2020
Cleveland and Columbus pulled big numbers due to the fact that former Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones was leading D.C. to a win at Audi Field.
Zack Guzman of Yahoo does point out however that the XFL delivered strong initial ratings when they tried doing this back in day. Those ratings then plummeted. The short-lived AAF also had a good first weekend before quickly folding. The NFL is pulling numbers in the 16 and 17 million range, for context:
Putting #XFL TV viewership in perspective:
XFL Game 1 (ABC): 3.3 Million
XFL Game 2 (FOX): 2.77 Million*
AAF Debut (CBS): 2.9 Million
AAF Week 2 Game (TNT): 1.018 Million
NFL 2019 Average: 16.5 Million
*early metered markets
— Zack Guzman (@zGuz) February 10, 2020
The attendance figures were positive as well, and even before the season began XFL ticket sales outnumbered what the AAF was able to do over the course of an entire season.
In Washington, the Defenders pulled 17,163 playing inside of D.C. United’s newly-built soccer stadium. The Roughnecks reported a 17,815 number on the campus of the Houston Cougars. The Sunday games were played at Globe Life Park in Arlington, where the Rangers used to play, and MetLife Stadium up in New York. Both of those matchups also pulled attendance numbers in the 17,000 range, though the stands looked a little more barren considering the stadiums were larger capacity than Audi Field and TDECU Stadium.
Either way, good start for the XFL, good presentation from ESPN, and some intrigue heading into week two. We’ll see Seattle and Los Angeles play their first home games, then St. Louis and Tampa Bay will get their turn.