WWE chair Vince McMahon said he plans to relaunch the XFL, a professional football league that will start playing in January of 2020.
Related: WWE’s McMahon Expected to Launch New Pro Football League
The league, which will be owned by a separate McMahon company called Alpha Entertainment, has not yet had conversations with potential media partners, McMahon said, adding, “We just know there’s interest there.”
McMahon said distribution of the games was one of the aspects of football the XFL would be “reimagining.” He said he expected the games to be available on multiple platforms and viewed on everything from the big screen to mobile devices.
“We can customize the viewers' experience in ways that were never imagined,” he said, citing as an example customized feeds for individual demographics and other groups.
McMahon’s announcement comes at a time when the NFL is TV’s most watched property, but its ratings and ad revenues have begun to fall.
Related: Spending on NFL Game Ads Dropped 1.2% During Season
McMahon said the XFL will be listening to fans to see what kind of football they want to watch.
“What would you do if you could reimagine the game of football?” McMahon said on a conference call announcing the league Thursday. On the table are eliminating half time, having fewer commercial breaks, and having a faster game with simpler rules.
The most important thing he learned from the first time he launched the XFL, a joint venture with NBC, which ran for one season in 2001, was quality of play, McMahon said.
He said he will be bringing in executives who understand the game to set up the league and that he will retain his current responsibilities at WWE.
The league will start with 8 teams playing 10 games. There will be a playoff and a championship game.
The new XFL will play when the NFL and college football are not on the gridiron. “There are seven months of football and 70 million fans,” he said, explaining why he thought there was a market for more football.
He said he wanted to keep politics out of his brand of football, and the players would understand that the field of play was not the right place to make statements about social issues. McMahon is a longtime friend and supporter of President Trump, who has been down on the NFL over players kneeling during the national anthem. McMahon's wife, Linda, is a member of Trump's cabinet, as head of the Small Business Administration. Asked if Trump was supporting the XFL venture, McMahon said he didn't know.
McMahon was also asked about the problem football players are having with brain injuries caused by playing the game, McMahon said that part of reimagining the game would be looking at ways to make it “as safe as possible and still be football . . . we will bring in experts and heed their advice.”
McMahon said the NFL’s current issues had nothing to do with the timing of the new XFL announcement.
“I always wanted to relaunch the XFL,” he said.
Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.
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