It seems like every year around this time someone tries to start a new professional football league. Americans love their football, right? So why not try to give them more pro football… but different? Surely there can be a Pepsi to the NFL’s Coke. Right?
One businessman to try his hand is Vince McMahon. The XFL, as you’ll recall, was a minor sensation when it launched. A split venture between the WWE and NBC, the XFL had as good a shot at catching on as any competitor since the USFL.
And it lasted all of one season.
Shortly after the press conference was announced, CBS reported that McMahon will announce later today that the XFL is indeed coming back in 2020.
While the return of the XFL will be made official Thursday, CBS Sports has also learned that the league is not expected to start up again until 2020. McMahon, who rushed the original XFL into existence without so much as a full slate of offseason practices to prepare for the league’s inaugural year, has apparently learned his lesson from one of the XFL’s biggest initial mistakes.
One distinction from the XFL 1.0 that McMahon is doing this on his own, not as a WWE venture. He reportedly sold $100 million of his WWE stock to fund Alpha Entertainment.
This will be a separate venture from WWE, in every way, shape and form.
Vince McMahon: "There will be no WWE-XFL crossover."
— Jimmy Traina (@JimmyTraina) January 25, 2018
McMahon stresses the XFL will have nothing to do with political or social issues. "They want good football. That's what we're going to deliver."
— Ben Axelrod (@BenAxelrod) January 25, 2018
Although one XFL-like figure is already lobbying to join the league.
— Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2) January 25, 2018
The league will compete in eight cities — which McMahon said he isn’t close to naming — with the goal of completing games in under two hours. “It’s still football, but what would you do?” McMahon said. “Would it be a faster game? We really want to have a faster game. Would we have less commercials? Would you stream it as well as broadcast it? How would that look?”
The new league’s distribution package will be key here, and it’s not likely that NBC is signing up for a 50 percent ownership stake this time around. “We want to keep the older demographic who won’t be using a second device when watching at home,” McMahon said. “We want to appeal to a younger demographic who may not be watching football, and everyone in between.”
And while it seems McMahon has learned from his business mistakes this time around, it will be interesting to see if he recognizes the football-related opportunity he missed in the XFL’s first life. The public’s attitude to football is different in 2018 than it was in 2001, so McMahon will have to change the product to match that.
USFL had Jim Kelly running Mouse Davis’s run and shoot and pre-Florida Steve Spurrier slinging it. The XFL had Galen Hall and Gerry DiNardo running offenses from the late 1970s. Imagine an XFL in 2001 with Rich Rodriguez, Mike Leach, Bobby Petrino and Urban Meyer as head coaches
— Chris B. Brown (@smartfootball) December 16, 2017
Of course, McMahon has built his entire career on envelope-pushing ideas, so expect XFL 2.0 to provide something that the NFL does not.