New XFL Reaches TV Deals With ESPN, Fox Sports
The original XFL was an “extreme” football league that was launched by longtime WWE head Vince McMahon in 2001, at the height of WWE’s “attitude” era, with the idea of applying that culture toward pro football.
The league was a massive failure, posting some of the lowest TV ratings in history up until that point, and it was discontinued after just one season. One of the more notable things about the XFL was that NBC, the TV network that showed its flagship gains, actually had a large ownership stake in the league.
McMahon announced plans to revive the XFL last year, and on Monday the new XFL announced that it has found TV partners – neither of which is NBC.
The new league announced in a press release Monday that it has reached a multi-year deal with Fox Sports and Disney to put the XFL on ABC, ESPN, Fox, and FS1. The games will be played on Saturday and Sunday afternoons beginning February 8, 2020. That launch, the weekend after the Super Bowl, will mirror the original XFL’s strategy of starting its season immediately after the conclusion of the NFL season.
The release also revealed the schedule of the league’s games, which will continue through the spring and culminate in a championship game on April 26, on ESPN.
Several cities, including Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay, and Washington, D.C., have been awarded XFL franchises.
According to Sports Illustrated, the networks will not pay rights fees, while ESPN and Fox will hold the streaming rights to games.
— Robert Littal BSO (@BSO) May 6, 2019
“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,” Vince McMahon said in a statement. “The XFL broadcast schedule provides us with incredible reach and makes it easy for fans to watch our games consistently every weekend.”
The XFL is one of two leagues launched last year to rival the NFL, although the other league, the Alliance of American Football, suspended operations midway through its first season and later filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy. That league is currently the subject of multiple lawsuits.
WWE and ESPN, who had nothing to do with each other for decades, have become closer in recent years, with ESPN often breaking wrestling-related news on SportsCenter, and also collaborating with the network on documentaries, such as a 30 for 30 on the life of Ric Flair, per SI.