Belo bashes XFL

Belo Broadcasting president Jack Sander, said NBC affiliates are disappointed and concerned about the ratings drop for the Saturday night telecast of the XFL.

Sander said he did not believe the games were sustainable as an ongoing franchise at the rating level NBC got for game three (an average 3.1 rating). But he also said he expected most NBC affiliates to hang tough for at least the first season before making any decisions about pulling the plug.

Of more immediate concern are the NBC stations on the West Coast (of which Belo has several) that air the game live at 5 p.m. at the expense of their local newscast. "We need to see some improvement over the next two or three weeks or we'll have to re-evaluate" the commitment to carrying those games live on the West Coast, Sander told reporters during a conference call Wednesday. "Where you're infringing on local time and we're giving up a local newscast that's a whole different issue than prime time programming."

If the numbers don't improve, Belo may delay the game to prime time on the West Coast and air Saturday Night Live in its regular late night time period, he said. But he credits NBC for trying something new. And said he still hopes the ratings will turn around. As for next season, Sander said, its way too early to say, but clearly at this point, a second XFL broadcast season is not set in stone.
- Steve McClellan