Fox Inc. and the National Football League have extended their relationship by becoming co-partners in a new World League, consisting of six European teams, to begin play in April 1995.
Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but Fox and the NFL will have equal representation on a governing body formed to supervise the league, with its own chief exec to be named by early summer.
Interestingly, no domestic broadcast component has been specified, though another of Fox supremo Rupert Murdoch’s holdings, Sky Sports, is expected to televise games in the U.K. Separate broadcast agreements will probably be reached in various European territories.
Three host cities from the original World League, which played from 1991-92, will be part of the new league: the London Monarchs, Barcelona Dragons and Frankfurt Galaxy. Three other franchises will be chosen from Amsterdam, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Berlin, Munich, Madrid, Paris and Scotland.
U.S. auds tepid
U.S. audiences have exhibited little appetite for football after the January Super Bowl. ABC televised earlier World League games without much success, drawing only a 2 rating or less for the average telecast.
There’s a possibility that if the World League doesn’t air on Fox Broadcasting Co., games could be offered via FX, Fox’s fledgling cable service, which will be hungry for programming and is now scheduled to sign on in June.
Less important than broadcast rights is what the deal may do to cement Fox’s relationship with the NFL. Fox recently outbid CBS for the National Football Conference package with a staggering four-year, $ 1.58 billion deal.
Fox ‘vision’ lauded
In a statement, NFL president Neil Austrian called Fox a company with “global vision” that will “aggressively promote the World League and American football throughout Europe.”
Fox Broadcasting’s pledge to promote football year-round was a major part of its initial pitch to NFL owners, including programs and marketing tie-ins related to football throughout the year.
Fox announced Wednesday, for example, that its Western series “The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.” will feature guest appearances by past and current NFL players Terry Bradshaw (just signed as a Fox Sports commentator), Carl Banks, Jim Harbaugh and Ken Norton Jr. in a two-part story airing in May.
John Madden, whom Fox signed after a heated bidding war, also recently hosted the weblet’s broadcast of made-for-TV movie “Rise & Walk: The Dennis Byrd Story.”
NFL owners approved reinstating the World League as a joint venture during a meeting last fall.
While it’s unclear how many games will be scheduled, the new league will undoubtedly wrap up play before the NFL exhibition season begins in August.