Saturday September 30, 2023

Without McMahon at Helm, ESPN Reportedly Wants Out of XFL Deal

  • The XFL planned to transfer its TV contracts with ESPN and Fox to a new owner to sweeten the deal for its potential sale in August.
  • As final bids to buy the league are due, ESPN wants out, as it viewed founder Vince McMahon as a key figure.
Embattled XFL to Return in 2022, New Owners Say
Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports
Front Office Sports Today

Donovan McNabb and the State of Football

From Taylor Swift to the Prime Effect, there's a lot going on in the world of football.
Listen Now
September 29, 2023 | Podcast
Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

ESPN is attempting to get out of its multiyear broadcast deal with the XFL on the eve of the embattled league’s potential sale, according to a report from The Athletic.

Final bids to buy the now-defunct spring football league are due Thursday and it will go to auction next week. While the league has opted to break off hundreds of contracts as it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April – including those with coaches – it’s hoping to transfer its TV deals with ESPN and Fox in order to sweeten the sale for the next owner, according to The Athletic. 

ESPN, however, doesn’t want to enter an agreement with an unknown owner. It also says the league was given financial “accommodations” based on Vince McMahon’s involvement and ESPN’s desire to support XFL parent company Alpha Entertainment, specifically. 

“ESPN entered into the Telecast Agreement … based on the specific character and quality of certain professionals involved in creating and organizing the new XFL league, and promoting and producing XFL events,” ESPN wrote last month in a bankruptcy court motion, according to The Athletic. “The content that ESPN chooses to broadcast is not fungible; its character and quality is directly related to the team of professionals that is producing that content. … If Vincent McMahon is not part of the enterprise, then a key consideration for the contracts has disappeared.”

“Without knowing the identity and business plan of the proposed Successful Bidder, ESPN objects and does not consent to the potential assumption and assignment of the Telecast Agreement,” ESPN added.

Fox’s court papers show that it is trying to negotiate a new deal with Alpha, which has agreed not to sell the contract until the parties come to an agreement. 

“The debtor and Fox are in cooperative discussions regarding Fox’s continued possible role as a broadcast and distribution partner for the XFL, the sale process, and the potential modification of the agreement in a manner that would enable its assumption and assignment to a successful bidder,” Fox wrote last week. 

McMahon – in partnership with NBC and the WWE, which he founded – first attempted to get the XFL off the ground in 2001, but the effort failed a year later. He then personally spent over $200 million to relaunch the eight-team league in 2018.

ESPN and Fox struck multi-year deals in May 2019 that entailed 24 of the XFL’s 43 games would be on broadcast TV (13 on ABC, 11 on Fox), including two Thursday primetime games on Fox that would have been in April, according to Sports Business Daily. The networks didn’t pay a rights fee but had to foot the bill for production cost.

The 2020 season kicked off in February and the early games generated buzz due in large part to innovative TV broadcasts. They included multiple mic’d up players during games, as well as intimate sideline interviews throughout – sometimes after compromising plays. Games averaged 1.87 million viewers through the XFL’s five weeks.

The XFL is pitching a 12-week “made-for-TV” 2021 season, ESPN reported in June. Depending on the continued impact of coronavirus on sports, major tech companies with broadcast capabilities looking to get into sports, like Apple or Amazon, could be some of the potential bidders.

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

A detailed view of some NFL footballs before the Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars game at EverBank Stadium.

New NFL Policy Toughens on Game Fixing, Betting on Own Team

However, the league is also lightening up on lesser violations.
Mississippi tackle Michael Oher poses with his family after being selected as the number 23 overall pick to the Baltimore Ravens in the 2009 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Judge Ends Michael Oher’s Conservatorship with Tuohy Family

Oher claims the Tuohys misrepresented their legal relationship to him.

ESPN, Tiger-Rory Golf League Close To Long-Term Deal

New entity backed by Woods, McIlroy nears critical agreement
Toy Story

‘Toy Story’ Success Could Lead to More Disney-Branded NFL Kid-Casts

A successful ‘Toy Story’ game could open the door for other franchises.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

Donovan McNabb and the State of Football


Featured Today

Ryder Cup’s Future Hanging In The Balance Amid Saudi Disruption

An unexpected change could be coming to the Ryder Cup.
September 29, 2023

Colorado Has Become the Hollywood of College Football. This Weekend Proves It.

Folsom Field will welcome dozens of Hollywood stars on Saturday.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce on field after the game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
September 29, 2023

Taylor Swift Shaking Up Travis Kelce, Chiefs Prop Betting Market

Sportsbooks are capitalizing with Taylor Swift-themed prop bets.
Taylor Swift reacts while sitting next to Donna Kelce watching the Kansas City Chiefs vs Chicago Bears game during the first half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
September 28, 2023

Taylor Swift Is Affecting The NFL, Chiefs Ticket Markets

Swift will visit her second NFL stadium in as many weeks.


Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Chicago Cubs
New York
Tri Star Sports and Entertainment Group, Inc.
USA - Multiple Locations

Oakland A’s Could Share Stadium with Triple-A Team

The Oakland A's could be searching for a place to play.

MLS’ Chris Schlosser on Pioneering the Digital-First Sports League with AI

Chris Schlosser discusses MLS's growth and digital transformation.
Titans stadium.
April 19, 2023

Titans' Historic New $2.1B Stadium One Step Closer to Reality

About $1.26B in public money would go toward the new stadium.
May 20, 2022

Crypto Crash Impact on Sports Sponsorships

Prior to the last two weeks, cryptocurrencies, NFTs, exchanges, and a host…
March 11, 2022

The Evolution of Consumer Wearables

The wearables market has seen incredible amounts of growth since the onset of the pandemic. Trends like telemedicine and remote patient monitoring have helped spur adoption and inspired new consumer products that allow for the tracking and collection of biometric data.
February 11, 2022

The Role of Live Sports in Streaming

The streaming wars have intensified as the field is as competitive as ever. One way to retain customers? The answer might be live sports.
February 4, 2022

Super Bowl Ad Market Examined

The Super Bowl is now only one week away and the stakes…
February 3, 2022

Making Headlines

NFL: The Giants hired Laura Young as director of coaching operations. Young…