XFL Inks Broadcast Deals, Betting Plans Still Unclear
Announcing multi-year agreements with ESPN and Fox Sports today, the XFL is already making sure to avoid some of the mistakes that led to the AFF’s demise earlier this year.
Led by seasoned WWE executive Vince McMahon and former West Virginia University Athletic Director Oliver Luck, the XFL inked a deal with the major broadcasting networks to air XFL games on broadcast TV as well as cable throughout its 10 week inaugural season, which is set to kick off February 8th, 2020.
McMahon is also committed to funding the venture for multiple seasons, which will give the league time to find its footing.
Where the AAF went wrong
The first week of the AAF was shown on CBS where the first AFF broadcast drew a 2.1 rating and more views than the Houston Rockets vs Oklahoma City Thunder game shown on ABC that same day. Unfortunately for the AAF, the success didn’t last long. League games transitioned to exclusively to cable channels CBS Sports Network and NFL Network in following weeks, going defunct before its Championship game could make it back to CBS.
While its relative inaccessibility played a role in the AAF’s implosion, it wasn’t the only factor at play. The AAF lacked sufficient funding and dropped the ball in its attempt to reach sports betting and fantasy communities.
Despite stating their goals to appeal to bettors and going as far as making MGM their official gaming partner, the AAF did little to promote betting on its games or utilize the technology in development with MGM, which is now the subject of a lawsuit.
Injury and statistical data was hardly available. There were no box scores for the games, and if it wasn’t for an unaffiliated website keeping track, we may have never seen AAF stats.
Unlike the Arena Football League’s recent deal with the DraftKings, the AFF never reach an agreement with DFS and new sports betting operators DraftKings and FanDuel.
XFL ready to take bets?
The XFL hinted at gambling in its first promotional video released in January 2018. The voice-over said, “This is gaming and fantasy. This is padded roulette. Make a trade, make a team, make a move, make a bet.”
In a more recent interview, Luck told Bloomberg Business, “We want to offer a league with integrity and consistency so that folks do want to in fact gamble, wager. We want Vegas to put a line on our games, which is difficult for a brand-new league. The Alliance is finding that out as well,” but XFL executives have been rather vague beyond that.
Vegas sports books did post lines during the XFL’s initial 2001 attempt.
With state legislatures introducing sports betting bills at a rapid pace, the XFL would be smart to learn from AAF’s mistakes and listen to their own promotional video.
Broadcast television coupled with padded roulette may be just enough to finally keep a spring football league afloat.