All of the early returns on the Alliance of American Football have been positive.
But so were the early returns on the first week of the XFL.
League founder Charlie Ebersol said it was important to remember the small sample size involved when considering the ratings numbers from their first weekend, as he tries to temper some of the enthusiasm with reality.
“We feel really good about them and that our theory that Americans want more football tends to be true,” Ebersol said, via Joe Reedy of the Associated Press. “However, we still have to remain slow and steady in building things. We are going to be facing stiff competition as soon as next month [with the NCAA Tournament].”
The AAF averaged 3.25 million viewers for its Saturday debut on CBS, a bigger audience than the NBA game on ABC at the same time (2.67 million). It’s comparable to the 3.32 million viewers CBS drew for two preseason games last August. But the league won’t be on CBS again until the April 27 championship game. The rest of their games will be on NFL Network, the CBS Sports Network, and TNT. The Sunday night NFL Network game averaged 640,000 viewers.
The league isn’t getting rights fees from networks, but is banking on “partnerships that extend beyond just broadcasts.”
“What we are looking to do is create a structure that is equitable for the network,” Ebersol said. “People paying for media rights are losing money. In the modern tech world, you want to get people engaged in the product and there is an enterprise value. CBS has been buying into technology companies and Turner bought Bleacher Report a couple years ago.”
But mostly, they know that for the league to be a success, the football product has to capture the attention of fans for more than an opening weekend, when many were tuning in out of curiosity.