The debut of the brand new AAF found itself competing with a primetime NBA matchup on Saturday night, and the startup pro football league fared really well.
There’s no way of knowing what the Alliance of American Football will look like a year from now, but based on opening night ratings, the startup league is already a hit among fans.
The Action Network’s Darren Rovell relayed the ratings for the opening night game on CBS was on par with the NBA game featuring Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder and James Harden and the Houston Rockets.
Although Rovell reported that the AAF beat the NBA in viewership, there are also reports that they ultimately drew the same amount of viewers, with the NBA game having a higher peak.
Nevertheless, this is great news for the AAF and bodes well for the future of the league. Their goal is, obviously, to get football fans to watch as much of their product as possible, and they succeeded on Saturday. The challenge, as always, will be to sustain long-term viewership.
While the AAF can be excited about competing head-to-head with a primetime NBA game, it’s important to keep certain factors in mind. Right now, fans are curious about the new league, and this was the first opportunity for fans to tune to see what it was all about.
Meanwhile, NBA games in February aren’t usually must-see television. Once the playoffs roll around this summer, it will be more-or-less impossible for anything to outdraw the NBA.
Startup professional football leagues have a tendency to fade out as they struggle to maintain fan interest for a long period. We’ve seen it before with the USFL in the 1980s, and later with Vince McMahon’s XFL in the early 2000s. The most telling part is the country loves football, in any format, and the AAF gave football fans an outlet to quench their endless football appetite.
The AAF certainly got off to a good start, but if it hopes to survive longer than a season or two, it will have to consistently put a good product on the field. That has proved challenging for startup pro football leagues in the past, and now it will be interesting to see if The AAF can break that trend.