The XFL, the spring pro football league fronted by Dwayne Johnson and Dany Garcia, took a big step toward finalizing its plans Sunday with a press conference that revealed the cities, venues and head coaches for its upcoming 2023 season.
The third iteration of the XFL has found a TV home. The league and Disney have struck a global rights deal that will see all XFL regular season and playoff games running on ESPN, ABC and — in its first sports rights deal since becoming part of Disney — FX. The spring football league is set to begin play in 2023.
Dwayne Johnson, who teamed with Dany Garcia and RedBird Capital Partners to acquire the XFL over the summer, says the football league will take 2021 off but plans to return in 2022. “It’s an uphill battle,” Johnson wrote in a tweet, “but we’re hungry, humble and no one will outwork us.”
Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia and RedBird Capital have acquired the XFL. Founded by WWE CEO Vince McMahon, the football league was scheduled to go bankruptcy auction today, but Johnson, Garcia and RedBird acquired its parent company, Alpha Entertainment, for approximately $15 million.
As the bankrupt XFL looks for a buyer, the buyer could be its founder. XFL creditors “seem to believe” McMahon is positioning to buy the league out of bankruptcy. Separately, XFL President Jeffrey Pollack has contacted stadiums in Seattle and St. Louis about reinstating the league’s lease agreements.
The XFL is suspending operations effective immediately, a month after the spring football league stopped play due to the coronavirus pandemic. The league, owned by WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, currently has no plans to start up again 2021.
The new XFL football league has stopped its first season, after a week where the league said it was “suspending” its season due to issues around COVID-19. “The COVID-19 pandemic, and the most recent state and local regulations, have left the XFL no choice but to officially cancel the remainder of the 2020 season,” according to a statement from the league. The league stops after five weeks of games, after launching Feb. 8.
A year ago, the Alliance of American Football debuted to strong television ratings. But viewership eventually cratered and the upstart spring football league folded before the end of its debut season. A year later, the XFL is also having a hard time retaining viewers. Television ratings continued to fall in Week 4 after an impressive debut just weeks earlier.
The XFL didn’t put up nearly as good a fight in its second round of games, with Vince McMahon’s NFL alternative losing more than 1 million viewers — per game — in Week 2. Once again, three games aired on broadcast and one on cable.
The NFL has worked in recent years to take some commercials out of America’s favorite game. The XFL is experimenting with new ways to push them in. Anyone who watched the new league’s St. Louis BattleHawks triumph over the Dallas Renegades in its first week of official play might have noticed ads for Bud Light Seltzer affixed to the helmets of the Texas home team. It’s a placement two more established sports leagues — the National Football League and Major League Baseball — have avoided, at least up until this point.
The football league delivered some of the biggest audiences for sports programming on Feb. 8 and 9, with three of its four games outdrawing every NBA and college basketball telecast in the previous week. The numbers are a far cry from what the NFL brings in — and from the opening game of the previous XFL incarnation 19 years ago — but put the league on steady footing at the outset.
Rule changes, mics on coaches and in the faces of players on the sidelines bring viewers a fresh perspective, creating an intimacy more akin to what you find in televised baseball, tennis or golf.
The revived XFL owned by wrestling impresario Vince McMahon will consciously appeal to fans accustomed to betting on professional or college football — and who otherwise would have nothing to bet on for months.
Advertisers have been slow to the table to support the newly-revived XFL league, which kicks off this weekend. Interest is finally stirring, according to ESPN and ABC, but uncertain audience engagement and the memory of past alternative pro-football league failures cast a shadow over its prospects.
“The XFL has a good chance to become a small, viable opportunity for clients based on its WWE ownership backing,” says Adam Schwartz of Horizon Media. “I don’t think the XFL will ever become the NFL, but if the product is strong, it will get viewers to watch and, perhaps, to gamble on the games [and] that will draw more viewer interest.”
Vince McMahon’s second try at the XFL announced its eight team names and logos on Wednesday. The rebooted league, which had an ill-fated attempt that lasted just one season in 2001, will begin play next February on the weekend following Super Bowl LIV.
The league — which will begin play the week after Super Bowl 54 — is in the middle of conducting “Summer Showcases” in the eight cities where it will have teams. The showcases are similar to pro days on college campuses and the NFL Scouting Combine as coaches get to work with prospects.
This is the second time Vince McMahon has launched a football league. The networks will start airing its games its games when the new league starts on Feb. 8, 2020, after the NFL season ends with the Super Bowl. The first version of the XFL — a joint venture of WWE and NBC — lasted one season in 2001.
WWE founder and chairman Vince McMahon announced Thursday he is giving a professional football league another go. It will be called the XFL, the same name of the league McMahon and NBC tried for one season in 2001, but it won’t rely on flashy cheerleaders and antics as its predecessor did, he said.