The XFL will boast some impressive television partners when the spring football league begins play next year, as it will have games broadcast on networks like ABC, Fox, and ESPN.
The partnership, which was announced on Monday, will ensure that the startup football league will have a large number of nationally broadcast games on both over-the-air and cable networks throughout the season.
Broadcast and Cable Networks Included in Partnerships
The XFL schedule will begin on Saturday, Feb. 8 with games on ABC and FOX. Throughout the 10-week regular season, games will continue to appear on those networks weekly, with ESPN, ESPN 2, FS1 and FS2 also picking up some games. The league championship game will take place on Sunday, April 26, and will air on ESPN.
“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,” XFL founder 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.”
This isn’t the first time that McMahon has tried to start up a football league. He famously already launched another league under the XFL brand name back in 2001. A joint project by the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) and NBC, the league launched to big hype and even bigger ratings.
But poor nationally televised games and a sense that the league wasn’t presenting serious football led to quickly plummeting ratings, and the original XFL only lasted one season before folding.
XFL Aims to Avoid AAF’s Fate
The new XFL isn’t intended to feature the same “extreme” branding that was marketed during the XFL’s first run. Instead, McMahon has positioned his league as a simpler, faster alternative to the NFL game.
Several rule changes have already been confirmed. The XFL will eliminate point after tries, instead giving teams the option of going for one, two, or three-point conversions by running a play from scrimmage at various distances. Overtime would be handled like a penalty shootout in soccer, with each team attempting to score five times from the five-yard line. And the clock will run continuously other than for time-outs or changes in possession until the final two minutes of each half.
The broadcast deals come at an important time for the XFL, as it shows major partners have confidence in the league even after the collapse of the Alliance of American Football (AAF).
Initially, it appeared that the AAF would have the advantage in what figured to be a spring football war, as it was launching a year before the XFL and had the backing of CBS Sports. But despite decent ratings and attendance figures, things quickly went south for the AAF, with majority owner Tom Dundon – the Carolina Hurricanes owner who pledged to invest up to $250 million in the league – abruptly pulling the plug after just eight weeks of play when the league failed to secure a player-sharing agreement with the NFLPA.