The NFL’s effort to work with the XFL doesn’t mean the NFL will be working against the USFL.
Speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference, Fox Corporation CEO Lachlan Murdoch said Thursday that the NFL has been supporting the launch of the USFL.
“The NFL has actually been tremendously helpful to us in thinking through and setting up the USFL,” Murdoch said, according to Dade Hayes of Deadline.com (via Ben Fischer of Sports Business Journal). “They haven’t tried to obstruct it at all. In fact, it’s the opposite. They’ve helped us.”
Fox owns the USFL, and the games will be broadcast by Fox and NBC. Murdoch said that “the financial risk to us is not significant, but the upside and the opportunity is significant.”
If Murdoch mentioned the effort by the original USFL to block the use of the name of the league and eight of its teams via legal action, it wasn’t mentioned by the Deadline.com article. Even if Fox regards that case as meritless or even frivolous, it has to deal with it. Until a victory is secured, a defeat is possible.
Murdoch also noted that the eight franchises could eventually be purchased by outside investors. In our view, the NFL could be that investor, frankly.
The league got out of spring football some 15 years ago for one primary reason. It wasn’t profitable. The proliferation of legalized gambling could make spring football very profitable. People will bet on the games and various propositions arising from them, and those with skin in those games will be more inclined to watch those games.
And if it’s: (1) profitable; and (2) football, the NFL will be paying attention. That’s why the league is involved with both of these spring football operations. It’s keeping its friends close and its potential enemies closer, so that it could maybe buy a potential enemy before it becomes a potential enemy.
How can spring football be an enemy to the NFL? The NFL currently attracts the full attention of football fans, all year long. Actual football games in April, May, and June could siphon some of that attention and interest away from Big Shield.
Then there’s perhaps the best way to make the XFL or USFL even more profitable. Forget the spring and play on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, or even Fridays and Saturdays, in the fall.
The NFL won’t want that, at all. And the best way to keep a football league from doing that is to own the football league.