NEW YORK — The Peacock apparently has put its memories of “He Hate Me” and the rest of the ill-fated XFL behind it.
NBC has signed a three-year deal with the Arena Football League to cover 15 regular-season Sunday afternoon games and all postseason AFL games, including the championship final, starting next February.
Arena football never found much of a national audience on cable, but NBC is hoping it can help fill the gaping hole in the net’s schedule from February to June caused by the disappearance of National Basketball Assn. games.
NBC has approached the AFL deal with caution because it’s still smarting from the $40 million loss it suffered when the XFL, NBC’s pro-football joint venture with the World Wrestling Federation, folded after only a year.
In the AFL deal, NBC won’t put up any cash license fees. Instead, it will share advertising revenues with the AFL after NBC covers its production costs for the games. During the regular season, NBC will produce up to four live regional games each Sunday at a cost that Dick Ebersol, NBC Sports chairman, said would come to 60%-65% of what it costs a network to cover an outdoor NFL game.
NBC’s Sunday coverage of the four regional games will be exclusive, but other AFL games will take place each week, mostly on Friday and Saturday nights, when the teams’ deals with local TV stations and regional cable networks will hold sway.