Networks seek new football leagues’ content
Two startup football leagues will have deals with the country’s biggest broadcasters when they launch over the next 12 months, underscoring the popularity of the sport to U.S. audiences and the desire for television networks to have more live content.
Charlie Ebersol’s Alliance of American Football kicks off on Feb. 9, six days after the Super Bowl, with games on the broadcast network CBS — which will have just aired the Super Bowl. CBS, which will carry a promo for the AAF on Super Bowl Sunday, also will have the league’s championship game on its broadcast network in April. Its cable channel, CBS Sports Network, is committed to carry at least one AAF game per week.
Where to watch AAF
Television: CBS Sports, CBS Sports Network
CBS will broadcast the league’s debut games — Atlanta at Orlando and San Diego at San Antonio — in the same 8 p.m. time slot on Feb. 9, and the championship game on April 27, while CBS Sports Network will air one regular-season game each week. All league games will be available on the AAF app.
The AAF also is in talks to have NFL Network carry several of its games. Sources describe an NFL Network deal as likely, adding that one could be finalized over the next several weeks. NFL Network is in more than 65 million homes and has more distribution than CBS Sports Network.
“Live football is still the best thing for us,” said Mark Quenzel, NFL Network senior vice president of programming and production. “They play at the right time, so we’ll see. We’re always open to discussing live football and anything that grows football. … Charlie’s group has a lot of players signed up, and they’ve got some incredible coaches; so we’re looking at it.”
Meanwhile, Vince McMahon’s XFL is having serious conversations of its own with broadcast television executives. Sources say the league expects to have at least two-thirds of its games appear on broadcast television, underscoring the league’s strategy to get its games in front of the biggest potential audiences.
The XFL is deep in discussions with Fox and ESPN, in a pair of deals that would see games on ABC and Fox, as well as ESPN and FS1. So far, talks do not involve ESPN’s streaming service, ESPN+, sources said.
At a press conference last month, XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck described his media negotiations as “deep and meaningful … with all of the major media players.”
“We are confident that our games will be widely available on multiple platforms, giving us an incredible level of exposure come launch date in February 2020,” he said.
Part of the AAF’s media strategy is to push interactivity. When the AAF launches next month, it will have an app that allows for in-game fantasy that, eventually, will include in-game gambling. The AAF believes that the amount of interactivity that comes with the app will appeal to younger, more advertiser-friendly fans.