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XFL folds; ratings at low extreme

THE BALTIMORE SUN

ATLANTA - The XFL is history.

Founder and World Wrestling Federation chief Vince McMahon joined NBC in dropping the curtain on the spring football league after just one year.

McMahon tried yesterday to salvage a future television home for the XFL on UPN, its other network partner, to no avail.

After a startling 10.0 overnight rating for the league's debut, the ratings on NBC plummeted into the 1.0s, setting record lows for network viewership on Saturday night.

"The launch worked, and the people were there in the first week," NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol said. "But we didn't answer their expectations, and they didn't come back. We thought it was a smart risk, but the audience didn't like it in the numbers we needed."

Ebersol said reported losses of more than $50 million were "in the ballpark," adding that maybe the league would have survived "if we had more time to present a more consistent product." McMahon, meanwhile, accepted the blame.

"The buck stops with me principally," McMahon said. "NBC put a great deal of faith in me, and we let NBC down in terms of holding up our end of the deal. And I don't put no blame on the media. The failure was mine."

TNN was a cable partner, but McMahon was without a network component.

"We hoped everyone would look at it as a brand-building business," McMahon said, "but it came down ultimately to a programming decision."

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