Vince McMahon’s dream of creating an alternative to NFL football has moved closer to becoming a reality now that the would-be spring football league has secured media placement for its anticipated launch in February, 2020.
McMahon’s XFL said it struck deal with both Walt Disney Co. and Fox Corp. that will give weekly berths on both ABC and Fox to the XFL’s inaugural season. Those broadcasts will be supplemented by games on the companies’ cable networks, including ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 and FS2. The XFL, a revival of a league WWE chief McMahon launched about two decades ago, intends to air back to back games on Saturday afternoons at 2 p.m. along with two additional weekly games on Sunday afternoons. THe league is fielding teams in Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Washington D.C.
The agreements were negotiated by CAA Sports and Evolution Media Capital on behalf of the XFL.
“We are thrilled to partner with ESPN and Fox Sports, two innovative media companies with extensive experience in world-class football production that will undoubtedly help us reimagine football,” said McMahon, chairman and founder of the XFL, in a statement.
The XFL will take to the field after another spring-football league, the Alliance for American Football, folded after mounting just one season. That league, launched by executive Charlie Ebersol, had secured berths on CBS and cable networks owned by AT&T’s WarnerMedia.
XFL executives have vowed not to repeat the mistakes of the league’s previous incarnation. Viewers won’t see any of the professional-wrestling elements that were in the league’s previous incarnation, which featured skimpy cheerleader outfits and color commentary from Jesse “The Body” Ventura. “Vince has learned from the mistakes that were made in 2001,” Oliver Luck, CEO of the XFL, told Variety in February. “In football, you don’t need that bravado and swagger and flair, because it’s always there.”
Fox’s agreement to air XFL games expands a nascent but pivotal relationship the company has with McMahon. Fox has secured rights to WWE’s “Smackdown” show, which is expected to start airing Fridays on Fox Broadcasting next season. “We welcome the XFL to the Fox Sports Family and are pleased to expand our relationship with Vince McMahon,” said Eric Shanks, Fox Sports CEO & Executive Producer, in a statement.
“We look forward to showcasing the XFL on ESPN and ABC, including the kickoff game and championship during the league’s inaugural season,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN Executive Vice President, Programming and Scheduling, in a statement. “We believe in their vision for the XFL, which will be a great addition to our year-round commitment to football.”