The debut of the XFL made a solid mark Saturday, as the new World Wrestling Federation-backed football league clearly generated considerable curiosity among viewers, with its premiere games more than doubling the ratings level promised advertisers.
Not all the news was good for NBC, which has partnered with WWF on the venture. The percentage of homes watching the XFL fell sharply as the night wore on, suggesting many tuned out after sampling the product. Still, NBC's preliminary rating in major cities monitored by Nielsen Media Research of 10.3--meaning that percentage of homes were viewing during an average minute--was good enough to easily win the night based on Nielsen estimates, beating, in descending order, CBS, ABC and Fox.
NBC noted that the rating better than doubled its Saturday-night average with movies during January and out-rated a comparable American League Championship Series baseball game in October.
In a post-game news conference, WWF Chairman Vince McMahon said the league is "a start-up" and mistakes were to be expected, with plans to poll viewers about what they liked and didn't like in the broadcasts.
In addition to NBC, XFL games are being televised Sundays on the UPN network and TNN cable channel.