AAF gets big TV ratings win over top NBA match-up

On its debut night, the brand-new Alliance of American Football, out-scored James Harden.

At least where it counts for ad buyers, the television ratings.

The top NBA match-up of the Houston Rockets and Russell Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder was broadcast on ABC, and ended with a comeback Thunder win. The Alliance of American Football (AAF), a league where most people probably couldn’t name one team from before this week, debuted with two games Saturday night on CBS.

Are league founders Bill Polian and Charlie Ebersol geniuses or madmen?

AAF stuns doubters with big ratings win

Darren Rovell of Action Network reported that, according to his sources, the AAF did a 2.1 overnight rating while a marquee NBA matchup between the league’s last two MVPs did 2.0.

Sure, maybe the novelty and curiosity spurns on lookers to tune-in over a regular-season NBA game.

Other startup American football leagues with TV deals had swollen ratings right away (think USFL & XFL), and then fizzled quickly. No one is saying that this is the new reality of sports programming after the Super Bow.

But it’s a clear victory for the new league. Social media reaction to the games — San Diego Fleet vs. San Antonio Commanders, Atlanta Legends vs. Orlando Apollos — was mostly positive.

What does this mean for the AAF?

These ratings are going to be harder to brag about when the games are on CBS Sports Network and not in the primetime CBS line-up. The curiosity is good, but GOOD football will be what people will engage with over time. Product over production.

But the AAF c0-founder seems pleased with the product they presented to the world this weekend.

Ebersol proudly tweeted after Saturday games;


John McKeon is a former professional and collegiate American Football player and coach now living and working in New York. His goal is to spread news, information, and opinion on the global growth of the sport he loves.