XFL on ESPN, ABC, and FOX

DrewDawg

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XFL strikes broadcast deal.

The XFL on Monday announced multiyear agreements with ESPN and Fox Sports to televise games starting with its inaugural 2020 season. XFL games will air weekly on broadcast TV (ABC and Fox) complemented by games on cable (ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 and FS2). The XFL's TV schedule will feature back-to-back games each Saturday at 2 p.m. ET and two games on Sunday afternoons.
The XFL will kick off on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, with teams in Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Washington, D.C. Additional XFL-themed programming and on-air talent will be announced.
 

Saints Rest

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I wondered what the new XFL will be like. Here is what its own website says:
WHAT WILL THE XFL LOOK LIKE WHEN IT LAUNCHES?
Faster, with more plays, less stall, fewer interruptions and no gimmicks. We’re sifting through the thousands of suggestions and recommendations we’ve received from fans, players, coaches and experts on ways to improve the game. Bottom line: every element of the game is under review to see where we can make improvements. We are already field-testing each potential change and if we approve it, you will see it. If not, it’s trash.
 

deanx0

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While No Rights Fees seems, on the surface, insane, it strikes me as a really smart gambit to maximize eyeballs in the short term and get the league on solid footing in the first season or two. Plus this means there's no production costs and increases the networks' stake in success.
 

Mueller's Twin Grannies

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Vince is going to do everything possible to make sure he succeeds this time and the failure of the AAF brought a lot of lessons and, even better, a now-larger talent pool.

McMahon has played this smart every step of the way, so it'll be interesting to see if the second time will be the charm.
 

Boston Brawler

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Right, where is the fan base for more football? And not just more football, but teams you don’t root for and players you don’t know. Ratings will suck, it will die.
 

Awesome Fossum

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As was the case in the Fenway Bowl game thread, I'll never understand how people love so dearly to hate on more sports and more football. It very well may fail -- although pro soccer didn't work until it did -- but the way people love to tear these things down is bizarre.

As for the TV deal, it's super impressive. No money is changing hands, but a three-year commitment with nearly 100% coverage on network and major cable (only one game appears on FS2) and production costs covered is the best deal any of these leagues have landed since the USFL. They have their shot to prove that there is a market.
 

scottyno

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"no gimmicks", except you know the ability to score 9 points on a touchdown
 

reggiecleveland

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I will throw some guesses out to why people comment negatively about these leagues.

1. With no vested interest they expect it to fail so say so.
2. Vince McMahon is a reprehensible human being so there is hope he fails.
3. There are tons of more deserving ideas (Women's pro hockey, slam ball, track and field) we would rather see than retread football. There already is b league pro football (yea CFL!)
 

Boston Brawler

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Have you met the south? Like... all of it?

There's a reason that's where all the AAF teams were.
So the solution is to put teams in DC, Seattle, and New York, who are pretty dedicated to their teams (and Northern cities), St Louis (who couldn’t keep their team), Los Angeles (not a football city at all and has multiple teams), Tampa Bay (Florida is a college football state), and Houston and Dallas, which have NFL teams already?

Not a solid plan.
 

Mueller's Twin Grannies

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So the solution is to put teams in Seattle, and New York, who are pretty dedicated to their teams (and Northern cities), St Louis (who couldn’t keep their team), Los Angeles (not a football city at all and has multiple teams), Tampa Bay (Florida is a college football state), and Houston and Dallas, which have NFL teams already?

Not a solid plan.
Seattle makes a ton of sense because they only have two professional sports franchises. If the XFL is going to run during the spring/summer or summer/fall, there'll be a football-hungry audience that's at least willing to give it a chance, especially if the Mariners are (once again) out of contention and/or if the Seahawks look like they're going to be rebuilding.

LA is a big media market, as it New York, so I can see why they put those there. St. Louis, as you point out, lost their team and there may be a large chunk of fans willing to switch to rooting for the XFL rather than the Rams.

Football is god (except for God) in Texas, so Dallas and Houston make sense too.

Florida may be a college football state but the Bucs and the Dolphins always do well. Tampa Bay might be a tough sell but my guess is they'll still find people who want to watch football, any kind of football, if it's available, especially if before the NFL and college seasons kick off.

The AAF just bombed in all but two cities. I'm not sure that's the evidence you want to be condescendingly citing.
The AAF was poorly-handled in pretty much every facet of it's launch and short lifespan. Little advertising (at least I didn't hear or see any, not even online), little press, etc. It was also viewed as basically bargain basement football. Vince McMahon knows how to hype the shit out of something and will make sure everyone with a connection to the outside world knows the XFL is coming. He'll probably also make it seem like it's going to be better football than the NFL (which hasn't exactly had a good string of years in terms of PR and whatnot) and more exciting. People tuned in once for the XFL but it was a bad launch and bad football and people stopped watching. It was also rushed, whereas they're taking a full two years (from point of announcement) before launching, likely to avoid repeat issues.

It may still fail and the odds are certainly stacked against it, but I have a strong feeling Vince will do better at promoting and drumming up interest than Ebersol did.
 

Lose Remerswaal

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Seattle makes a ton of sense because they only have two professional sports franchises. If the XFL is going to run during the spring/summer or summer/fall, there'll be a football-hungry audience that's at least willing to give it a chance, especially if the Mariners are (once again) out of contention and/or if the Seahawks look like they're going to be rebuilding.
You mention the Seahawks and the Mariners, but the Sounders averaged over 40K fans/home game the past many years, so I think you have to count them as a professional sports franchise in the city.
 

Awesome Fossum

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You can't say that the AAF handled everything poorly and then point to their market selection as something that should be instructive for understanding the XFL.

The best data we have is the original XFL, which drew very well in NFL cities and averaged 23K+ in attendance overall, which is roughly on par with MLS in 2018 and the Mountain West Conference in 2017.

Edit: Which is to say, "clamoring" would be a reach, but there was once at least some sort of appetite. I would bet that they'll clear 20K again in 2020.
 

Mueller's Twin Grannies

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You mention the Seahawks and the Mariners, but the Sounders averaged over 40K fans/home game the past many years, so I think you have to count them as a professional sports franchise in the city.
Eh, I discount soccer in general. I know it's growing in popularity, though, so I'll cede the point. I think it does back up my claims about Seattle sports fans a bit, though, but I admittedly don't know the attendance totals for the various MLS teams to see if others do as well or better in cities in a similar position or even those that aren't.

You can't say that the AAF handled everything poorly and then point to their market selection as something that should be instructive for understanding the XFL.
I never said the AAF erred in their selection of cities, just that everything about the rollout and promotion was botched from the start. Also, did lack of attendance kill the AAF or was it just poor financial planning and an overblown sense of ability to sell ads and get prime TV deals? The league barely lasted a few weeks and poor turnout is not usually the reason something fails that quickly.

A quick check shows that they averaged over 15K fans over the course of the entire season, which is worse than what the XFL drew in its season (from your numbers) but not that much worse. To me, that shows there was a market and it might have been bigger if things were handled better.

Going back to the point about football in Texas, the San Antonio team drew over 110K fans over the course of the season, far and away the best of the bunch. Over in CA, the San Diego team did the next best with nearly 80K. Only the Salt Lake City team did really poorly, barely drawing over 36K over the entire season.

So, yeah, I think they'll do alright in the markets they've announced teams for so long as the product is good. Ultimately, that's what it comes down to.
 
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maufman

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What (if anything) did the XFL get from Disney and Fox in exchange for forgoing rights fees? Did the networks commit to air the games no matter what? That would be a nice get for the league, but if be surprised if the networks agreed to it.
 

bosox79

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What (if anything) did the XFL get from Disney and Fox in exchange for forgoing rights fees? Did the networks commit to air the games no matter what? That would be a nice get for the league, but if be surprised if the networks agreed to it.
They are covering production costs.
 

Pandarama

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You mention the Seahawks and the Mariners, but the Sounders averaged over 40K fans/home game the past many years, so I think you have to count them as a professional sports franchise in the city.
The NHL arena is literally under construction as well.
 

Awesome Fossum

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Winston Moss to be announced as XFL LA's head coach today. With Houston still to be announced, the XFL now has as many black head coaches as the NFL.
 

joe dokes

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I wondered what the new XFL will be like. Here is what its own website says:
WHAT WILL THE XFL LOOK LIKE WHEN IT LAUNCHES?
Faster, with more plays, less stall, fewer interruptions and no gimmicks. We’re sifting through the thousands of suggestions and recommendations we’ve received from fans, players, coaches and experts on ways to improve the game. Bottom line: every element of the game is under review to see where we can make improvements. We are already field-testing each potential change and if we approve it, you will see it. If not, it’s trash.
It will fail because it will be shitty football trying to look like "real" football.
If they want to succeed, they need to do something different. That's why Arena Football still lives.
 

trs

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I wonder how much the decrease in football participation at lower levels will affect the supply of quality football players. While the decrease is not so precipitous as I might have thought (link), the decrease has been consistently growing in rate since 2008. Smaller talent pool = fewer players good enough to watch on TV. I'm sure there are still many very good players not currently in the NFL that would make exciting viewership, but are there enough?

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly in the short-term for me is any lingering moral issue related to the sport. Since the XFL is foregoing broadcasting rights, and therefore teams will need to rely on secondary (in terms of what NFL teams rely on) sources of income, I can't imagine player salaries will be very high. Does it make a difference that players are risking long-term disability for the median NFL salary of $800,000 versus players doing the same in a "league without gimmicks" and "played at a faster pace" for what will certainly be far less? Will the XFL take care of its retirees?

Anyway, it all seems pretty ugly. The original XFL intentionally risked player health with "face-offs" to start games and other such nonsense, this new version seems just as gladiatorial.
 

Awesome Fossum

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The original intentionally tried to ramp up the violence. This version is drastically modifying the kickoff in the name of safety and is talking about eliminating three-point stances. I don't think an honest evaluation of the two efforts can yield a verdict of "just as gladiatorial."

Player salaries are reportedly going to range from $50K to $600K.
 

joe dokes

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The original intentionally tried to ramp up the violence. This version is drastically modifying the kickoff in the name of safety and is talking about eliminating three-point stances. I don't think an honest evaluation of the two efforts can yield a verdict of "just as gladiatorial."
There goes my idea of allowing players on the sideline (or a subset of them) to tackle offensive players who run out of bounds or to subtract 5 yards from any advance where the player voluntarily runs out of bounds.
The original XFL seemingly tried to bring in the wrestling audience but didn't go far enough; and the football wasn't good enough for a football audience. I dont see how a "safer" version of inferior football can succeed.

As for low salaries, I'd guess that most self-described football players would rather try to wring a couple of 50-600K seasons out of this than begin the slog of working a regular job. Its a cousin of the enrollment/financial success that D-III football programs have had in essentially bringing in 100 guys that were good in HS, and can afford college but have no further shot at football. Ultimately, though, the XFL will need more than players. (And obviously, XFL players wont be paying to play).
 

lithos2003

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I wonder how much the decrease in football participation at lower levels will affect the supply of quality football players. While the decrease is not so precipitous as I might have thought (link), the decrease has been consistently growing in rate since 2008. Smaller talent pool = fewer players good enough to watch on TV. I'm sure there are still many very good players not currently in the NFL that would make exciting viewership, but are there enough?

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly in the short-term for me is any lingering moral issue related to the sport. Since the XFL is foregoing broadcasting rights, and therefore teams will need to rely on secondary (in terms of what NFL teams rely on) sources of income, I can't imagine player salaries will be very high. Does it make a difference that players are risking long-term disability for the median NFL salary of $800,000 versus players doing the same in a "league without gimmicks" and "played at a faster pace" for what will certainly be far less? Will the XFL take care of its retirees?

Anyway, it all seems pretty ugly. The original XFL intentionally risked player health with "face-offs" to start games and other such nonsense, this new version seems just as gladiatorial.
If Vince's treatment of his cash cow WWE is any indication... no.

https://www.digitalspy.com/tv/ustv/a27015627/wwe-john-oliver-vince-mcmahon-last-week-tonight/
 

maufman

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I wonder how much the decrease in football participation at lower levels will affect the supply of quality football players. While the decrease is not so precipitous as I might have thought (link), the decrease has been consistently growing in rate since 2008. Smaller talent pool = fewer players good enough to watch on TV. I'm sure there are still many very good players not currently in the NFL that would make exciting viewership, but are there enough?
The decline of football is greatly overstated, but I do wonder if you’ll start to see more D-I college standouts who don’t make the NFL decide that minor-league football isn’t worth the risks. The quality of the AAF’s product suggests that won’t be a near-term issue for the XFL, but it’s something I’d worry about if I were building a minor league that I was planning to still have a stake in a decade from now.
 

trs

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The original intentionally tried to ramp up the violence. This version is drastically modifying the kickoff in the name of safety and is talking about eliminating three-point stances. I don't think an honest evaluation of the two efforts can yield a verdict of "just as gladiatorial."

Player salaries are reportedly going to range from $50K to $600K.
You're right, I should have looked up the specific rule changes before equating the two versions of the league. While the new kick-off rules and fair catch rules aren't as ridiculous as the original version, both encourage more hits from players moving in opposite directions at speed by making it so every kick-off and every punt result in a hit. It's probably not a big deal though, as injuries certainly occur in other situations as well. Also, touchbacks and fair-catches are boring.

According to the wiki posted below, player salaries will range from those numbers, but that's a little misleading, only one player per team can make between 250k and 600k a season. Three others can make 150k to 175k, and the rest of the team will make between 50 and 100k. In reality I think your average XFLer will be making 5-7k a game over a 10 game season. In comparison, practice squad players in the NFL make a minimum of $7,600 a week (as of 2018) over the course of the season, or 130k.
 

Kliq

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So I have had the misfortune of having to do more of a deep dive on the XFL than I really cared to do, but in the interest of preparing myself for the future arguments with moronic wrestling fans who believe that the XFL is totally going to work, I had to do some research, and my original conclusion of "This is a really fucking stupid idea" has not changed.

The TV deals suck for the XFL. The one way to make money on this thing, the one way I thought Vince might actually be able to pull this off, is if some TV network or streaming service would be willing to throw money at the XFL with the idea of recruiting a niche (VERY niche) product under its umbrella. If ESPN or DAZN gave Vince $50 million a year or whatever for his crappy football league, it could have worked.

Instead, the XFL couldn't get anyone to actually pay for the stupid thing, so the gameplan now is that for the first three seasons the XFL will air virtually for free (the XFL will save an estimated $17.2 million per season by the networks agreeing to handle the production costs) with the idea that after the three seasons, the XFL will have garnered enough of a following and enough viewership to justify a network to actually offer a paying contract.

I really doubt that the XFL will be able to do that, especially because they are in major markets with competing NFL teams. There is almost no surer way in this country to lose money than to attempt to start a new professional sports league, and fans in New York and Chicago are not going to be clamoring for minor league football; freezing their asses off in February and March to watch a bad product. We just saw this experiment with the AAF, who like the XFL, had great television exposure on major networks, totally fall flat on its face.

However, nobody really knows what rights fees for live sports are going to be in 2024, when the three year window is up. Right now the belief in the television industry is that live sports is going to be the key to television because it generates a ton of content, is simple enough to produce, and is somewhat DVR proof. That is why the NFL, NBA, UFC, WWE, etc. have gotten big, huge TV deals despite in some cases, viewership being on the decline for those products. If in 2024 networks are still desperate for live sports, maybe someone takes the plunge on paying for the XFL, they didn't in 2019, but nobody really knows what the landscape is going to be. Complicating matters for Vince and the XFL could be that I have reason to believe that the WWE's new deal on FOX is going to bomb and that isn't going to be great negotiating leverage for the XFL.

The difference between the AAF and the XFL right now is that Vince is reportedly willing to lose more money for a longer period of time than anyone in the AAF was. Vince has $350 million of his own fortune ready to blow over the first three seasons, and since the AAF was losing $10 million a week, that seems like a fair estimate to assume what it's going to cost over those first three seasons with no TV money. Vince's attitude is that he is going to be willing to spend more and last longer than any other minor league organization, and that eventually he will be successful. I doubt it.
 

Super Nomario

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According to the wiki posted below, player salaries will range from those numbers, but that's a little misleading, only one player per team can make between 250k and 600k a season. Three others can make 150k to 175k, and the rest of the team will make between 50 and 100k. In reality I think your average XFLer will be making 5-7k a game over a 10 game season. In comparison, practice squad players in the NFL make a minimum of $7,600 a week (as of 2018) over the course of the season, or 130k.
This is an important point. The practice squad is really the developmental league for the NFL right now. It pays better than the AAF did and it sounds like it will pay better than the XFL. Even for a guy who can make a little more in the XFL, staying on a practice squad is likely an easier path to an NFL job, as you get NFL coaching and get to build some relationships / familiarity. I'm guessing the XFL top-end salary guys will be almost exclusively mostly-washed-up ex-NFLers, not young up-and-comers. Like the AAF, we're going to see sub-practice-squad / fringe-90-man caliber play.

Dundon was a real villain in the collapse of the AAF, but I think he's right the long-term viability of a developmental league is going to need NFL teams to loan practice squad / young players for offseason seasoning. I think the AAF probably was better situated to make that kind of deal than the XFL just based on who is running the show, but I'm not sure there's a ton of appetite for it among NFL ownership. They did it before with NFL Europe, which was still a money-loser and still didn't produce a lot of NFL talent.

It will fail because it will be shitty football trying to look like "real" football.
If they want to succeed, they need to do something different. That's why Arena Football still lives.
I pretty much agree with this.
 

Kliq

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Something that needs to be mentioned: XFL contracts are all for three years, with the idea that if a guy breaks out he won't immediately be signed by an NFL team. So any player with immediate NFL dreams is probably going to favor CFL, Arena, etc. over the XFL, especially when you consider the short prime that players tend to have.
 

joe dokes

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Something that needs to be mentioned: XFL contracts are all for three years, with the idea that if a guy breaks out he won't immediately be signed by an NFL team. So any player with immediate NFL dreams is probably going to favor CFL, Arena, etc. over the XFL, especially when you consider the short prime that players tend to have.
Guaranteed? At least *that* would be something different and possibly attractive. Otherwise, it's even worse than the NFL, where the shitty one-way contracts at least pay more money. Imagine being stuck in a non-guaranteed 3year deal at 80k and dominating the league.
 

Kliq

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Guaranteed? At least *that* would be something different and possibly attractive. Otherwise, it's even worse than the NFL, where the shitty one-way contracts at least pay more money. Imagine being stuck in a non-guaranteed 3year deal at 80k and dominating the league.
My guess is that it would vary from player-to-player, but my understanding is that the goal is to lock up the players for a number of years so the league can establish its own stars. I assume it's possible they could be open to re-negotiate.
 

Awesome Fossum

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Until players actually start signing contracts, I wouldn't assume anything is set in stone. Note that the CFL has two-year contracts for first-year players. Arena is basically semi-pro at this point.