On the eve of its kickoff weekend, the XFL says it expects to bring in revenue and grow fandom in year one. But the league is emphasizing patience as it looks to secure long-term stability.
The XFL will televise its first regular season game between the Seattle Dragons and the DC Defenders on ABC less than one week after the conclusion of Super Bowl LIV. The short turnaround is considered an opportunity – one the XFL has been preparing for since WWE Chairman and CEO VInce McMahon announced its comeback in January 2018.
“We’ve been able to benefit from having the time and the resources to prepare for this launch and for this weekend,” Jeffrey Pollack, COO and president of the XFL, said. “We recognize that success will not be determined or measured in the first game, the first weekend, or the first season. Success for us is a long-term play.”
The XFL estimates that there is a market of 38 to 40 million football fans who want to continue watching the sport after the NFL season concludes. Each XFL game will also be broadcast during TV windows NFL fans are accustomed to watching.
The XFL signed multi-year agreements with ESPN and Fox in May, helping to grow the league’s exposure nationwide. This, coupled with McMahon’s investment, are the main reasons why the XFL thinks it will avoid the fate of some other football leagues launched over the last decade, including the Alliance of American Football, which disbanded in 2019 before the completion of its first season.
“We’ve benefited from the resources that Vince McMahon has committed. Those resources have allowed us to invest in the research and development process that has yielded the form of football that we’re going to be playing, which is essentially the football that everyone’s familiar with, with a few innovations,” Pollack said.
Being a startup is also working to the XFL’s benefit, he added. In addition to customized rules, the XFL is embracing legalized sports betting. Televised XFL games will display betting lines for spectators, along with the usual down and distance. The league has also announced partnerships with online sportsbooks DraftKings and FanDuel this week.
“We’re geared up to provide more football, more of the game Americans like to watch and bet on more than any other,” Pollack said. “We’re looking to bring revenue in from the start, but we understand it’s going to take time to really establish our footing.”
Much of that revenue will come from sponsorships. The XFL has inked deals with AB InBev and Gatorade, with more deals set to be announced in the coming weeks, Pollack said.
But the overall goal in year one is to build a rapport with fans.
“Our canvas is clean and the perspective is fresh,” he said. “There are a lot of bases you need to cover today to really ensure that you are engaging with fans the way they want to engage. A lot of that is digital. A lot of that is about gaming. It’s also about a philosophy in bringing fresh and innovative thinking to not only launch a league, but run one as well.”