X-treme Football Extreme FlopBy Amy
February 25, 2001 - 8:04 AM
It would seem that UPN’s latest high-profile show, the X-treme Football League, is proving only to be a rather extreme flop. The XFL, also broadcast by large network NBC, has seen a massive drop in audience from its premiere rating of 13.9 million viewers to a low of 4.5 million, just three weeks after the initial broadcast. This represents a fall of 60% in the first week and a further 30% in the second.
While UPN isn’t the only network to be broadcasting the series – after all, it’s actually co-owned by NBC with Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation Entertainment – as the junior and struggling network, it certainly has more to loose. In order to fulfil commitments to broadcast XFL, UPN affiliates have had to virtually give up a full night of prime-time programming. And more - they’ve had to relinquish their ability to program Sunday nights to suit their own local audiences as they have in the past – where NBC stations have always had network programming Saturdays, they’ve always been able to control the what’s and when’s of movies and shows, not to mention the related advertising. This is change might have actually proven beneficial, had not the XLF ratings become so dismal – now affiliates are stuck with ratings simply on par with or even below what they were getting previously at the loss of the varied content previously carried.
And then, to make matters worse, both networks now have dissatisfied advertisers to deal with – XFL has announced that it will start running more adverts to make up for the smaller-than-promised audience (recent NBC ratings of 3.1 are well below the promised 4.5). Once again, what’s bad for the peacock is worse for UPN, who actually has to compete with the larger network in the first place to gain advertising – and then often has to settle for lower than normal rates.
Currently, affiliates from both stations are feeling the pinch, and a series of pre-emptings and over-running broadcasts -which actually saw much-hyped Jennifer Lopez-hosted ‘Saturday Night Live’ pushed into Sunday – has lead them to petition their parent networks for the ability to tape and delay broadcasts of XFL to primetime rather than their current, earlier timeslot. NBC has yet to buckle on that front, preferring to keep it in it’s current 5-8pm slot. And, until they do, it’s thought to be likely UPN will stand firm as well.
UPN, which has no ownership stake in the program, currently has an option on season two, but unless ratings improve, it’s pretty safe to say they won’t be using it.
Meanwhile, in what could potentially be another blow for the continually beleaguered Network, CBS has decided to temporarily air ratings behemoth 'Survivor II' on Wednesdays at 8 p.m., March 14 and March 21, in order to make room for its coverage of the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament. The change makes it quite likely that Star Trek: Voyager, which airs an hour later, will see a resulting ratings drop.
Last week UPN commanded an average 3.7 million viewers apiece and a 2.5 rating/4 share to grapple for supremacy with fellow fledgling network, the WB, who pulled much the same.