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WWF Shuts Down Xtreme Football League
By Doug Young
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The clock has run out on the XFL.
World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc. said on Thursday it was pulling the plug on its much-hyped but struggling Xtreme Football League (XFL), a joint venture with NBC, less than four months after the first game was broadcast.
The XFL, which sought to win viewers with a no-holds-barred brand of football that featured on-field camera angles and an emphasis on cheerleader antics, has been flagging in the ratings since an initial burst of interest with its inaugural broadcast in February.
Its championship game last month -- in which the L.A. Xtreme trounced the San Francisco Demons, 38-6 -- was watched by a paltry 1.7 million households, according to TV tracking firm Nielsen Media Research.
The league's debut broadcast on NBC scored big in the ratings but drew snickers from critics who said quirky camera angles, the half-time locker room coverage, sideline interviews and focus on scantily clad cheerleaders did little to make the game worth watching. Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, a former WWF star, was a commentator for some of the games.
Ratings for the league have steadily declined since then, leading to frequent speculation that the NBC would cease to carry the games despite a two-year commitment to the league.
The Stamford, Connecticut-based WWF added that it expects to take a loss of about $35 million related to the joint venture.
WWF Entertainment said the investment that would be required to further develop the XFL ``was not commensurate with the potential return and the risk inherent in pursuing the venture.''
The news was widely expected, and NBC spokesman Kevin Sullivan recently said XFL founder Vince McMahon had stated that he didn't think the league would return next year to its Saturday night TV slot on NBC.
``We feel that it is in the best interests of our shareholders and our partners to discontinue the XFL,'' McMahon, WWFE's chairman, said in a statement.
Dick Ebersol, who is chairman of NBC Sports and Olympics, acknowledged that the attempt to make the XFL into a popular attraction was a challenge.
``Launching a new football league in such a short period of time was a daunting and exciting challenge, but we gave it our best shot in what clearly is a difficult and challenging sports marketplace,'' Ebersol said in a statement.
-- Clark (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 11, 2001
If they would have stuck to football, it might just have taken off. The XFL was just too much of a sham from the start! I watched most of the 1st game, a few minutes of another and that was it for me! Arena football is more exciting than XFL! The USFL was ahead of it's time and much better still- I liked USFL!
-- Jan Zumbo (email@example.com), May 11, 2001.