Everyone knows that the XFL has seen a ratings’ dip. The numbers bear it out and there’s no argument that the numbers aren’t great. If that’s the case then logic would say that other sporting events should be trying to have viewership numbers better than what the XFL is offering. In fact, if the XFL is leading into said sporting event, it should have at least the same amount of viewers, maybe more. Yet, we know that didn’t happen and that should be a concern. See, the XFL was on ABC and it led directly to the NFL Draft Combine. Yes, the same combine that is the next big thing for the NFL when it comes to its revenue growth models — outside of adding more regular season and playoff games obviously. The combine is supposed to be the next version of the NFL Draft. It’s supposed to be a big show. It’s supposed to move around the country. People are supposed to tune in and watch. That didn’t happen. NFL Draft Combine ratings were up only three-percent from last year.
The NFL even moved the combine to primetime. It definitely did not move the combine for a paltry three percent increase in viewership. It made the move because it was supposed to be the next step for monetizing the workouts. The problem is that it didn’t even outrate the NFL.
There are other problems associated with moving the combine. Some players didn’t perform as well due to the scheduling. That’s unfair to the players. Agents should be a bit angry that the NFL moved the combine to get more interest and expose more viewers to the ins and outs of the NFL Draft process and all their players got was this lousy t-shirt — and some bad numbers for scouts and coaches to question which could cause players to drop in the draft and therefore lose money.
Maybe this is a learning experience for the NFL. They probably need to figure out a way to market the event better. They need something to make it more exciting because fans can only watch so many players run in a straight line in workout gear until they get the point. Only the real diehards are looking at players run three-cone drills, test their vertical leap and make broad jumps. Most fans don’t even know what’s good and what’s bad.
This could be the start of something. The league and television partner — ESPN/ABC in this case — may be thinking that this year was a test-run and next year there will be more viewers. Maybe next year, they will add some excitement, more graphics, something to make it must-see television. Three percent increases won’t do it for the league. Ratings worse than the XFL isn’t what the NFL wants. If the combine is the next big thing, then they need to figure out how to make it more watchable.