Vince McMahon must have really mixed feelings right now. Just a few short days ago, he watched as World Championship Wrestling, his World Wrestling Federation's main competitor, announced they would be going on "hiatus," but then came the news about his XFL.
The XFL, which employees have called "a work in progress," is progressing noticeably downward, as the league gave NBC the lowest ratings ever for a prime-time program. The 1.6 it "earned" represented NBC's entire Saturday night, and Nielsen Media Research could only find one other prime-time program that matched this rating, an ABC News special on drug policy that aired on Aug. 30, 1997, which also "earned" a 1.6.
Saturday's XFL telecast was hurt by the NCAA Tournament, the second most bet on sporting event in America, being on CBS at the same time. The 10.2 million viewers CBS had was five times that of NBC. The XFL has five games left in the season, and NBC has no plans on pulling the plug on the league before this season is over.
The league's status beyond this year, however, is in doubt.
In a pyrrhic victory of sorts, NBC managed to pull out a win in the 18-49 year old demographic, which is the demo they're targeting. The XFL may be missing part of the picture with that age group, though, as a lot of them go out on Saturday nights.
WWF's Monday Night Raw, which goes after the same target, consistently earns ratings in the 4's, and even 5's, while being on TNN, a cable network that not everyone gets.
The 1.6 rating is pathetic, but the fact that NBC is going to stick with the league for five more games shows the network wants to give it time to find it's audience. At this point, though, the brand may be too damaged, as the public's reaction to league seems to be written on Las Vegas Outlaws running back Rod Smart: "He Hate Me."
- Adam Bernard may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org