In its 75th anniversary special, NBC listed XFL Football, which ran Saturday nights from February through April 2001, as one of the worst blunders in the network’s history.
As a footnote to that programming fiasco, World Wrestling Entertainment, which co-financed the XFL with NBC, said on Monday that it has bought back NBC’s investment in the WWE for about $27.7 million.
NBC was so confident 18 months ago that the XFL would capture an audience on Saturday night that it invested $30 million in WWE, which bought the network a 50% stake in the XFL.
After getting a big audience on its opening night of Feb. 3, the XFL brand of football began to plunge in the ratings despite the showmanship of Vince McMahon, the head of World Wrestling, who emphasized big-breasted cheerleaders and on-field cameras that occasionally got in the way of the game action.
McMahon’s wrestling fans were not interested in the football, and the poor play of the teams, make up mostly of pro-football wannabes who couldn’t make the rosters of the NFL, turned off viewers who did care about the way the game is played.
The WWE paid NBC $12 a share for about 2.31-million shares of Class A common stock.