For years, the NFL season has ended abruptly and suddenly, forcing football fans to wait for more of the game they love until September. Charlie Ebersol, the son of legendary TV executive Dick Ebersol, realized the untapped potential that could flow from having more football.
And that led directly to the birth of the Alliance of American Football, a new league that will debut one week after the next Super Bowl.
Charlie Ebersol recently appeared on #PFTPM to discuss the new league at length. We started in the most obvious spot: How did this all get started?
“About two and a half years ago I was reading, because I’m a nerd and I was reading ratings,” Ebersol said. “And I called my dad and I said, ‘Is it possible that I’m reading this right that there are 78 million to 80 million fewer people watching sports starting the weekend after the Super Bowl for six months?’ And he said, ‘No you’re reading the exactly right.’
“We started going back and forth on it. There were two major numbers that I couldn’t believe. One was about 80 million people stopped watching sports on the weekend when football goes off the air. That’s one. The second one though that was even more intriguing to me was a minimum of 20 million people stop playing all forms of fantasy sports the day football goes off the air. And so I started saying any other business where you would have six months where the most dominant thing in the field — and football is so much more dominant than any other sport, it’s beyond compare — stopped existing any other business somebody would’ve come in and done something. Why hasn’t this worked before? I spent a lot of time just researching. . . . That research starting leading to nobody had ever put real football on the field . . . or certainly not in the last 25 or 30 years. Nobody had put real football on.”
So the AAF will be real football, coupled with what Ebersol called a “better version of fantasy” football.
“No longer passive but interactive,” Ebersol said. “We’ve built something up here in San Francisco that I think is a game changer.”
This game changer won’t be a threat to the NFL.
“It’s a positive relationship,” Ebersol said. “One of the reasons that we made the contract the way we do for the players where they have an out to go to back to the NFL is because we recognize the fact just like the MLS recognizes the fact that the Premier League is ultimately gonna pay players more and put them on a bigger stage than the MLS will. They support that. We support the same concepts. I think that it’s a foolish to try to pick a fight with a $150 billion business when you’re starting up and when you’re also not competing. I mean none of my content touches any of their content. Ultimately, it’s a complementary, positive relationship.”
On the topic of players leaving for the NFL, it remains to be seen whether players would be allowed to leave during the AAF season.
“That’s something that obviously there’s been a lot of conversation around,” Ebersol said, adding that a decision on that topic will be made later in the year.
Plenty of other decisions will need to be made as the debut of the AAF approaches. But with fantasy football and the looming spread of legalized gambling, the time could be right to give football fans more football.