As its debut season winds down, the XFL is facing fourth and very long, with the prospect of being sacked by its partner and primary broadcaster, NBC.
NBC has a $50 million two-year commitment to the league it spawned with the World Wrestling Federation. But NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol made clear last week in published remarks confirmed by an NBC Sports spokesman that the network is poised to cut its losses and run: "It's going to have to show a marked swing in the ratings in the postseason for it to have a real shot beyond this year, just from an advertising standpoint."
The XFL will try to make ratings magic with heavy promotion during CBS' coverage of the NCAA basketball finals.
Last week's microscopic 1.8 rating for the Saturday prime time game on NBC-up from a 1.6 the previous week-was the first feeble upswing in the league's ratings. The ratings have spiraled downward since week one, when the debut game earned a 9.5 rating. Season-to-date average is 3.6-well below the 4.5 average that NBC guaranteed advertisers.
All that has not stopped WWF Chairman Vince McMahon from attempting to put a positive spin on his floundering league. He revealed a second-season plan with UPN as primary broadcaster if NBC opts out.