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Volume 21 No. 43
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In his words: Charlie Ebersol, CEO, Alliance of American Football

I have the benefit of history and can look at what worked and what didn’t work. … Look at the number of tickets that got sold (by the XFL) in 2001; they were averaging 25,000 tickets a game. But where they started to lose audience and lose ticket sales, it was the overly violent and salacious stuff. On one side, it showed that people wanted football, but they wanted real football.

We spent two years getting exactly the right television partner, exactly the right digital team to build our direct-to-consumer gaming platform, exactly the right football people. And we’re only going to announce this when we have 100 percent of our partnerships in place. Most of these people announce and don’t have a plan, like sewing together a parachute after you’ve jumped out of a plane.

Anybody who says they can measure success in year one is not a serious contender. Our business model is not based on one year. If, after the first game, we have the greatest ratings in history, I’ll say, “OK.” If you tell me we had the worst ratings in history, I’ll say, “OK.” This is not short term, it’s long term. Ask the MLS.

My investors, I told them that if they’re looking to make their money back in year one, this is the wrong business. If you’re looking to make your money back in year 10, that’s the business model I’m building, and we’re fortunate enough to have partners who are only thinking about the five-, seven-, 10-year plan.

Launching a football league by itself would not work. Launching a football league by itself with just a media partner would not work. You have to be holistic and you have to have experts in each area, including financing.

— Michael Smith