XFL plumps for maximum exposure in ESPN and Fox deals
The XFL, the American football league that is to make its return next year, has signed multi-year broadcasting rights deals with major US sports networks ESPN and Fox Sports.
As part of the agreement, 24 of the XFL’s 43 games will be aired on national TV, including 13 on ABC, ESPN's sister network, and 11 on Fox.
The XFL’s TV schedule will feature back-to-back games on Saturday afternoons, plus two additional games on Sunday afternoons. The deal also includes two Thursday night primetime games on Fox.
ESPN and Fox will broadcast one playoff semi-final each, with ESPN having sole rights to the championship game.
The networks will not be paying a rights fee but ESPN and Fox are expected to cover the production costs, which could amount to almost $400,000 per game.
ESPN and Fox will also sell advertising around the games and the XFL will manage sponsorships at the venues.
Despite the lack of a rights fee, XFL executives believe the exposure on major US networks will give the league the best chance of success.
Jeffrey Pollack, XFL president and chief operating officer told Sports Business Daily: “We wanted maximum reach, and these deals provide us with that.”
Burke Magnus, ESPN executive vice president, programming and scheduling, added: "Vince McMahon and Oliver Luck are two of the sports industry's most creative and experienced leaders, and they have exciting plans for this league. We believe in their vision for the XFL, which will be a great addition to our year-round commitment to football."
The XFL’s chances of success may have been boosted by the Alliance of American Football, a rival American football league that debuted in USA earlier this year, folding after just eight weeks.
The XFL disbanded after just one season in 2001, but main backer Vince McMahon, the chairman and chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment, announced its planned return for 2020 last year.
McMahon (pictured) has raised almost $400 million for the XFL project from selling WWE stock in the last 16 months.
The WWE chairman is expecting to spend around $500 million in the XFL’s first three seasons.
The XFL will launch in February 2020 with teams in Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Washington D.C.
Meanwhile, ESPN will also broadcast the 2019 Arena Football League regular season after striking a new deal with the USA-based indoor American football competition.
The deal was signed on the eve of the 2019 campaign, which began last weekend.
Under the deal, all regular-season games will be streamed live on the network’s ESPN3 OTT channel and the ESPN app.
In addition, the ArenaBowl, the league’s championship game, will be broadcast on the ESPN2 TV channel.
Randal Boe, the Arena Football League commissioner, believes the deal with ESPN will “help grow the AFL."
The AFL features six teams which will play 12 regular-season games over 13 weeks, with the top four teams advancing to the playoffs.