Reborn XFL Strikes TV Rights Deal With Disney

The third iteration of the XFL has found a TV home.

The league and Disney have struck a global rights deal that will see all XFL regular season and playoff games running on ESPN, ABC and — in its first sports rights deal since becoming part of Disney — FX. The spring football league is set to begin play in 2023.

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Dany Garcia and Dwayne Johnson, who are part of the league’s ownership group along with Gerry Cardinale’s RedBird Capital, announced the deal Tuesday during Disney’s upfront presentation.

“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,” said Garcia, who is chairwoman of the XFL. “To find a partner that honors 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.”

Added Johnson, “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 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.”

The 2023 version of the XFL will be the third try at the league. Founded by Johnson’s former boss, WWE head Vince McMahon, it lasted one season in 2001. McMahon revived the league in 2020, but its season was canceled halfway through as the onset of the coronavirus pandemic shut down play.

After the XFL declared bankruptcy, Garcia and Johnson’s group acquired its parent company in August 2020 for $15 million.

“The XFL will tap into sports fans’ deep love of football by emphasizing competitive action while dedicating itself to innovation and entertainment,” said ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro. “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.”

When the XFL begins play next year, it will (most likely) be one of two spring football leagues. A reconstituted USFL is currently in its inaugural season, with games split between Fox Sports and NBC Sports.

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