The XFL is betting that fast-paced, high-scoring games and a stable of key broadcast partners will allow it to succeed where past football startups have failed, league executives told FOX Business Network on Thursday.
Unlike its predecessor, the rebooted XFL will begin play Saturday with multiple national broadcast partnerships. Games will air on Disney-owned ABC and ESPN, Fox and Fox Sports One throughout the 10 weeks of the XFL’s inaugural season.
“We’re focused on building something for the long term,” XFL President Jeffrey Pollack said during an appearance on “Cavuto: Coast to Coast.” No league has launched with the broadcast partnerships that we have. Every game [is] nationally televised, four national windows every weekend for 10 straight weeks.”
The XFL did not receive any lucrative media rights fees from its broadcast partners, though they will cover production costs for game broadcasts. Pollack said the deals will provide “unprecedented” national exposure to a startup league trying to build an audience.
WWE CEO Vince McMahon’s rebooted football league tweaked rules compared to traditional football in the NFL or college ranks. Games feature a shorter 25-second play clock, compared to NFL’s 40-second play clock, and the elimination of extra points. Instead, teams will have the option of attempting a one-point, two-point or three-point play after scoring a touchdown.
The rule changes are just part of the XFL’s bid to incorporate feedback from football fans into on-field play, according to XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck. Former NFL players active in the league include quarterbacks Landry Jones, Cardale Jones and Matt McGloin.
“You’ll see teams play fast,” Luck said.
Founded in 1999 as a joint venture between WWE and NBC Sports, the original XFL sought to establish itself as a direct competitor to the NFL. However, initially strong viewership figures quickly declined, and the league folded after just one season.
XFL executives have been clear that their springtime league is not intended as a challenge to the NFL’s position in the market. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told FOX Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo that he sees the league’s return as a positive for the sport.
"I look at it as a positive because people are investing in football," Goodell said last Sunday. "They're investing a significant amount of capital to create new football leagues. That just shows you the popularity of our game."
The XFL kicks off the first week of its 2020 season Saturday. The Seattle Dragons will play the DC Defenders at 2 p.m. ET on ABC, following by a matchup between the Los Angeles Wildcats and the Houston Roughnecks at 5 p.m. ET on FOX.
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