The XFL is the latest spring football phoenix, rising from the ashes of the AAF. The ascension (or not) of Vince McMahon’s mulligan will be televised on a pair of networks.
FOX, ABC, FS1, and ESPN will televise the games of the reconstituted XFL, the league announced on Monday.
According to John Ourand of SportsBusiness Daily, the deals will result in no rights fee to the XFL, which is still better than paying for air time (which the AAF did, or at least was supposed to do). The networks will pay for the production costs of the XFL’s games, which per Ourand can amount to roughly $400,000 per game.
Of the 43 games to be played next year (40 regular season, three postseason), 24 will be televised on three-letter broadcast networks. The regular-season games will be played on Saturday and Sunday, with the exception of two late-season Thursday night games on FOX, which also televises Thursday night games for the NFL.
The playoffs will be televised by FOX and ESPN on the weekend of April 19, and ESPN will televise the championship on Sunday, April 26 — one day after the NFL draft concludes.
“Spring football is going to work,” ESPN Executive VP/Programming & Scheduling Burke Magnus told Ourand. It’s unclear whether the intended punctuation mark would be a period or an exclamation point. In all fairness, the best way to end that sentence would be with a question mark.
Spring football has never worked. People simply aren’t naturally interested in spring football. Until they are, it’s going to be a challenge to make it survive until it can thrive.
At some point, maybe someone with a billion or so to burn will drop an alternate pro league on Tuesday and Wednesday night during football season, giving the people what they want during the time of the year that they want it — and with college-age players not yet eligible to enter the NFL draft. Until then, spring football leagues may come and go.
The XFL is coming back in less than a year. Whether it goes away after only one season (like it did in 2001) remains to be seen.