XFL announces 2023 kick-off with global Disney rights deal

Upstart NFL-rival the XFL has boosted its chances of success the third time around by securing a global rights deal with Disney.

The deal will see Disney own the exclusive global broadcast rights for all the league’s matches per season from 2023-27. The mouse house has said that it will broadcast matches on a combination of ABC, ESPN networks including streamer ESPN+, and FX, with international plans to be announced at a later date.

The season will kick off on February 18, 2023, and feature 43 games made up of 40 regular season games, two playoffs and one championship.

XFL was initially launched in 2001 as a joint venture of NBC and the World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment). The competition however only lasted one season, with a lack of interest from fans and talent in seeing it continue. 

The sports league was later revived by WWE CEO Vince McMahon in 2018 via his Alpha Entertainment company, and launched in early 2020 via deals with ESPN and Fox. This however was short-lived after the Covid-19 pandemic curtailed the inaugural season and it never came back. 

McMahon subsequently sold the IP to his former star entertainer Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and his long-time business partner Dany Garcia, who serves as chairwoman and said: “Without question, we have long admired Disney’s distinct ability to engage an expansive consumer fanbase across verticals, while also maintaining a deeply authentic, nuanced and heartfelt approach to storytelling much like our own. 

“To find a partner that honours our foundation and to be able to root our vision of unwavering passion, accessibility and the future of football with Disney as our home, is a dream come true. We are extraordinarily excited to explore the endless possibilities of this partnership – today is surely just the beginning.”

Jimmy Pitaro, Chairman, ESPN and Sports Content, said: “The XFL will tap into sports fans’ deep love of football by emphasising competitive action while dedicating itself to innovation and entertainment,” said “You can see a great path to success when you combine the reach and influence of ESPN and Disney with the collective vision of XFL leadership led by Dany, Dwayne and Gerry.”

The global superstar Johnson added: “This is a definitive moment for the XFL and the beginning of an incredible, long-term partnership for the league, building on my longstanding, very successful legacy relationship I’ve had with Disney throughout my career. We’re excited to be working with global visionaries that are aligned with the XFL’s values, are true team players and share our ambitious goals to grow the XFL as a global sports and entertainment business. 

“Through the combined power of Disney, ESPN and the XFL, together we will create a new powerhouse on the sports calendar and bring a dynamic game of football to fans everywhere. Time to ball out.”

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