It’s a good bet that, for many Americans, the ‘XFL’ acronym still conjures up images of pro wrestling magnate Vince McMahon’s admitted “colossal failure” of a football league that folded after a single season in 2001. (Congratulations to the Los Angeles Xtreme, the reigning XFL Champions for the past 18 years.)
For those unfamiliar, the XFL is a new(ish) pro football league of eight teams that will play springtime games with gameplay rules mostly similar to those of the NFL — with some relatively minor tweaks.
Maybe Americans are willing to look past the original XFL debacle and give a chance to the new iteration of the XFL, which begins a week after the NFL’s Super Bowl this February. Or maybe, a generation later, McMahon is hoping everyone has forgotten his first attempt as he gives his pro football league another chance.
Either way, he might be right.
In a CivicScience survey of more than 3,400 Americans ages 13+ in December, a handsome 20% of Americans at large say they’re either “very” or “somewhat” likely to watch the new XFL. Another 13% aren’t sure yet.
For comparison, in the past year, 44% of Americans said they follow the 100-year-old NFL “very” or “somewhat” closely; 24% said they follow the MLB to that extent; 18% said they follow the NBA at that level; and 13% said they follow the NHL that closely.
Now, it’s important to note that not all of the 20% of Americans who profess interest in the XFL now will still want to watch after the end of the league’s first season — or after its first game, for that matter. But still, the numbers prove that the appetite is there for a secondary pro football league.
Football, Football, and More Football
From pee-wee and high school games to college conferences and the NFL, football dominates the sports scene from mid-August through January for many Americans. The question for the XFL is whether it can convert viewers’ interest in other football formats into its own audience.
It turns out that more than one-third of NFL fans are at least interested in giving the XFL a shot, and another 14% haven’t made up their minds. And, somewhat surprisingly, college football fans are even more interested in the XFL than NFL fans:
If the XFL does turn out to be successful, “football season” in America would stretch from August all the way to late April, at least for some. Judging by the survey data, it seems that could give at least a modest boost to football-related industries, like fantasy football and sports bars.
Some demographic info on potential XFL watchers: Males outnumber females by more than two to one; conservatives were more likely than liberals to profess interest; and, perhaps surprisingly, higher-income respondents were actually slightly more likely than lower-income people to say they were interested.
While nothing’s set in stone just yet, it appears that a sizable portion of Americans have a big enough appetite for football to give the XFL a fighting chance at lasting longer than a single season this time around.