The XFL (Xtreme Football League), originally founded in 1999, has relaunched for a third time under the label of XFL 3.0. This iteration of the XFL, while similar to XFL 1.0 which lasted just one season in 2001 and XFL 2.0 which lasted just under one full season in 2020, is owned by Dany Garcia and Dwayne Johnson.
The XFL was purchased by Garcia and Johnson in August of 2020 for a mere $15 million dollars with the promise that XFL football would return once COVID-19 departed.
With COVID-19 under relative control, the XFL returned to play in February of 2023 with assistance from Disney through a five-year television contract through ABC, ESPN and FX. While this five-year television contract seems to promise at least five years of XFL action for fans, this isn’t exactly the case.
In 2020, XFL 2.0 failed primarily due to financial troubles, filing for bankruptcy on April 13, just five weeks after the inaugural season had begun. While some blamed the second iteration’s failure on the poor timing of COVID-19, others argued it was doomed from the start.
This primarily came from a lack of viewership, as the average viewers from the first five weeks had been declining steadily and sat at 800,000 prior to its bankruptcy, just barely enough to retain a broadcast deal they had with ABC, ESPN and Fox at the time.
It was a similar story in 2001, as the initial XFL launch failed to gain enough viewers to finance the league – its lack of viewership in the XFL Million Dollar Game, the league’s Championship, caused NBC to back out of its promise to broadcast the league’s second season, rendering the league helpless financially.
Due to these past two failures occurring with similar struggles under the hood, there has been a fair amount of skepticism surrounding a third attempt at success for the XFL in 2023.
It has already been revealed that XFL 3.0 lost half of its overall viewership between weeks one and two. This low viewership in week two also came out at roughly 68% lower than the previously failed XFL 2.0’s week two in early 2020. To spell even further disaster for the league, the XFL’s second week of action in 2023 marked the first weekend in XFL history in which no game received over one million viewers on television.
For comparison, only two of the 20 games in the XFL 2.0 season failed to average one million viewers or above. In 2023, six of the eight XFL 3.0 games failed to average one million viewers or above. In layman’s terms, the third and latest iteration of the XFL has recorded the lowest viewership in the league’s complicated history – and by a large margin.
One interesting component of the XFL 3.0’s struggles has come from those who argue that the existence of the USFL (another spring football league) has taken a chunk of the XFL’s current viewer base.
Former ESPN analyst Darren Rovell took to Twitter to explain why he believes the XFL and USFL will fail, citing college football as the “other pro football league.”
“The XFL and USFL will fail. Why? The next pro league is college football,” Rovell said.