8:34am PT by Rick Porter
Vince McMahon's XFL Sets TV Deals With Disney, Fox
The revived XFL has lined up some big media partners for its launch in 2020.
The football league headed by World Wrestling Entertainment owner Vince McMahon will air games on Disney-owned ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 along with the Fox broadcast network and sister sports networks FS1 and FS2.
The deal extends McMahon's relationship with Fox, which will bring weekly pro-wrestling show WWE Smackdown to the network starting this fall.
The deals will give the XFL a much larger TV footprint than the ill-fated Alliance of American Football, which folded in April before finishing its inaugural season. That league had deals with CBS Sports, Turner and NFL Network, with most games airing on NFL Network and the smaller CBS Sports Network, the latter of which isn't rated by Nielsen.
Disney and Fox are both partners with the NFL as well.
"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," McMahon said Monday 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 set to launch Feb. 8, 2020, six days after the NFL wraps its season with Super Bowl LIV on Fox. The league's TV partners will air doubleheaders at 2 p.m. ET Saturdays, with additional games on Sunday afternoons. The league will have teams in Dallas; Houston, Texas; Los Angeles; New York; St. Louis; Seattle; Tampa Bay, Florida; and Washington, D.C. — all of which are top-25 media markets.
“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, executive vp programming and scheduling at ESPN. "Vince McMahon and [XFL commissioner] Oliver Luck are two of the sports industry's most creative and experienced leaders, and they have exciting plans for this league. We believe in their vision for the XFL, which will be a great addition to our year-round commitment to football."
Added Fox Sports CEO and executive producer Eric Shanks: "We welcome the XFL to the Fox Sports family and are pleased to expand our relationship with Vince McMahon. Football is in Fox Sports' DNA and a key component of our programming strategy. Alongside Oliver Luck and his incredible team, we're excited for the debut of the XFL on Fox Sports."
McMahon first launched the XFL in 2001 with the intent of building a competitor to the NFL, embracing the "extreme" (that's what the 'X' initially stood for) part of the WWE brand. Games aired on NBC, but after a huge tune-in for the first game, ratings quickly went south. The league folded after a single season.