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  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Vipers

Tampa Bay fans tune in for opening weekend of XFL

The Vipers-Guardians game is also the most watched game nationally in Week 1.
XFL television ratings are strong through the opening weekend, with the Vipers' first game doing best nationally. [STEVE LUCIANO | AP]

The opening weekend of the rebooted XFL lived up to expectations, at least in terms of television viewers.

Saturday afternoon’s Seattle Dragons-D.C. Defenders opener drew 3.30 million fans, surpassing the Alliance of American Football’s season opener of 3.25 million, according to Sports Media Watch.

A day later the Tampa Bay Vipers-New York Guardians game had the highest ratings of the weekend nationally, averaging 3.39 million viewers.

“I’m just excited that the league has afforded these players the opportunity to continue playing the game that they love,” Tampa Bay coach Marc Trestman said Tuesday. “I think the league showed itself really well. I’m excited about playing these games and the level of competition we saw throughout the weekend.”

A FOX Sports release said the Vipers game in the Tampa Bay market (5.6 share) doubled the national average. For every household that was watching TV at the time of the game, seven percent of those houses were tuned into the game. In the Tampa Bay market, 14 percent of houses were watching the home team play in New York.

Ratings from the three broadcast television XFL games exceeded viewership for Duke-North Carolina men’s basketball (2.67 million on ESPN) and Lakers-Warriors (2.88 million on ABC). Sports Media Watch also said the XFL games were the most-watched sporting events of the weekend by adults in the 18-49 age group.

When the original league debuted on NBC in 2001, 15.7 million watched. But even though XFL 2.0 didn’t come close to those numbers, it didn’t dampen excitement from around the league.

“It’s encouraging,” Vipers receiver Dan Williams said. “It’s good (publicity) and good exposure for everybody. You’re your own brand.”

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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