The XFL aims to be a different kind of professional football league compared to both the NFL and its former namesake launched nearly two decades ago, and will lean on its most passionate fans to help it achieve that.
A new Fan Advisory Network, launched Monday, is key to that strategy by acting as a direct communication channel between the XFL and its fans, according to league officials.
Anyone can join the FAN. And in return, fans will be able to help guide league decisions around stadium activations, in-game rule changes, and merchandise. Surveys, polls, and in-person events will be held regularly to ensure members are kept in the loop.
“Everything will be offered up as fair game,” said Jeffrey Pollack, COO and president of the XFL. “I don’t know that our first set of questions will cover everything, but I’d like us to be the most self-aware league in sports, and as a part of that we are excited about the prospect of hearing from fans about everything related to our game.”
The XFL knows that everything won’t be perfect when the inaugural season kicks off on February 8. The league is playing the long game and expects the FAN to help evolve the XFL’s thinking about its business.
“There is tremendous value in merchandising, as an example, where we can think of an idea and be able to iterate quickly with fans’ perspective in mind,” said Steve Viglione, the XFL’s director of Intelligence and head of the FAN.
According to a recent study the XFL commissioned with Mckinsey & Company, an estimated 38 million people want to keep watching football after the NFL season ends. With game tickets starting as low as $20, the XFL is banking on the idea that those fans will come in droves this upcoming spring.
“One of our core operating principles is to be ultra-accessible, and our strategy around ticket pricing is based on the notion of affordability,” Pollack said.
Asked how cheaper ticket prices – relative to some other professional sports leagues – may impact the company’s bottom line, Pollack added that the affordable ticket program fits a multi-year business plan and pricing strategy for the XFL.
“The response so far from fans has been encouraging across all eight of our markets,” he said.
The potential viewership market of rabid football fans for the XFL is one ESPN and Fox know very well, leading both networks to sign TV broadcasting deals with the XFL in May. The understanding was that a rebooted XFL under Vince McMahon’s Alpha Entertainment marked the perfect opportunity to feed fans’ appetite for football, while not competing directly with the NFL.
Heading into negotiations, the XFL wanted to replicate the existing dual-broadcasting agreement the NBA has with ESPN and Turner Sports. That mission was accomplished, as XFL games beginning in February will be nationally televised by both Fox and ESPN. The XFL season will encompass 10 regular season games, and will conclude on April 26 with its championship game.
“Vince [McMahon] is a visionary. He has successfully executed upon his visions multiple times, and my belief is that his vision for the XFL will succeed beyond anyone’s wildest dreams,” said Nick Khan, agent and media adviser at CAA, which helped broker the deal.
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This iteration of the XFL is not extreme football or sports entertainment – It is just football. Meaning that a lot of the elements present in 2001, including cameras in the locker room and appearances by WWE superstars, will not be seen this go around. The XFL is now a separately run business from publicly-traded WWE.
In the coming weeks, the XFL expects to announce its game rules, release team jerseys, and the league’s official game ball to the public, according to Pollack.
“You will see a steady drumbeat from us in about 10 days on the marketing front,” he said.