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XFL Television Deals with ESPN, FOX Will Make League Easy to Find

by Fran Stuchbury
May 9, 2019 - XFL (XFL)

Earlier this week, the XFL announced deals with ESPN and FOX Sports to televise league games starting with the XFL's inaugural 2020 season. The schedule will feature back-to-back games starting Saturday afternoons at 2 pm ET as well as two additional games on Sunday afternoons.

The playoffs will take place Saturday, April 18th at 3 pm ET on FOX and Sunday, April 19th at 3 pm ET on ESPN. ESPN will show the XFL Championship game on Sunday, April 26th 3 pm ET.

"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," said Vince McMahon, XFL Founder & Chairman. "The XFL broadcast schedule provides us with incredible reach and makes it easy for fans to watch our games consistently every weekend."

Here is a short XFL video highlighting the league's TV partnerships:

Here is the breakdown on the number of games appearing on each channel:

  • 13 games will air on ABC
  • 11 games will air on FOX
  • 9 games will air on Fox Sports 1.
  • 7 games will air on ESPN.
  • 2 games will air on ESPN2.
  • 1 game will air on Fox Sports 2

Sports Illustrated reported there will be no rights fees paid by ESPN and FOX. Sports Business Daily added that while the networks are not paying a rights fee, they will pick up production costs which are estimated to be $400,000 per game, amounting to $17.2 million over the course of the season.

Two dozen XFL games will be telecast on over the air TV, allowing exposure in households without cable TV. The league will have more games on broadcast television (24) than the original XFL did in 2001 (23) when it had a partnership with NBC. Having consistent time slots on widely-available channels will make it easier for fans to tune in to XFL games.

The league is avoiding the Saturday and Sunday night 8 pm ET slots utilized by the Alliance of American Football this season.

During Week 9 and Week 10, the XFL will have games on Thursday's in the 8 pm ET window on FOX, allowing the league to test that window for future broadcasts.

The XFL Championship will air on Sunday of the NFL Draft week, a time when pro football fans are particularly engaged. ESPN has the oppotunity to promote the championship during the draft as well.

Even with less than ideal broadcast windows and more limited channel exposure, the Alliance of American Football, which had to pay for its television time and production costs, showed that America will watch more pro football.

In its first game on CBS, the AAF scored a 1.9 rating and 3.25 million viewers for the inaugural AAF games. Head-to-head, the AAF topped ABC's competing Thunder-Rockets NBA regular season game, which drew a 1.7 and 2.67 million.

The AAF games on NFL Network also scored in the top 150 shows on cable for the day for all broadcasts but one.

Additional XFL programming and on-air talent will be named at a later date.

"I can't imagine a startup league, in any sport, having a television package like this in place for its first season," said Peter Schwartz, the radio voice of the original XFL's NY/NJ Hitmen and current TV voice of the National Arena League New York Streets. "The new XFL continues to push all the right buttons and I believe it will be a big success."

The first XFL games will take place Saturday, February 8th 2 pm ET on ABC and 5 pm ET on FOX, followed by Sunday, February 9th at 2 pm ET on FOX and 5 pm ET on ESPN.

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