The XFL is coming back, as Vince McMahon has announced plans for the league’s return in 2020.
Originally playing in 2001, the first XFL lasted just one season as a joint venture between the WWE and NBC before ceasing operations. The league is now coming back, however, with plans to launch in 2020. More details are expected to emerge over time, but current plans call for the league to play with eight teams. Much of the season will unfold in the spring, with the regular season including 10 games before a two-round postseason begins.
This time around, one of the keys for the XFL will be digital media partnerships. As McMahon has acknowledged, the media landscape has changed considerably since the original XFL’s only season, given the rise of digital platforms. Whether the XFL lands a major partnership remains to be seen. More from Digiday:
“The media landscape has changed. Facebook, Amazon — they’re all really getting into [live sports], but it’s only the beginning,” said McMahon. “If you look at it right now, they’ll take the CBS feed and rebroadcast it — that’s horrible. It’s not the way they would do it if they had their own production and their own ideas on how to broadcast the games. That is what we would do. As important as a linear feed might be, digital will be at least equally important.”
McMahon said he’s already had conversations with potential digital partners but had nothing to announce yet.
Getting the XFL off the ground won’t be easy, as McMahon and industry sources acknowledged. But as tech giants including Amazon, Google and Facebook pursue live sports partnerships, there might be a chance to cut a deal with the XFL, which wouldn’t command the rights fees that the NFL charges, said Bernard Gershon, president of GershonMedia.
“I don’t think Fox or CBS is going to cough up money for this,” Gershon said. “But Facebook, Google, Amazon — all of them are looking to get more into the live sports business, and if the XFL can get them to spend $20 million, $30 million for rights, then this becomes a lot more doable. McMahon’s not a dummy, and he has until 2020 to figure this out.”
McMahon is independently funding the league through Aplha Entertainment. Details such as host stadiums and cities for the XFL’s teams are expected to be announced at a later date.