The Rock isn’t done doing business with Vince McMahon. The WWE superstar turned box office megadraw, Dwayne Johnson is part of a group that reached a deal to buy the XFL just hours before the bankrupt league was set to go up for auction.
Vince McMahon’s attempt to revive the league, which first debuted in 2001, got off to a good start. Unfortunately, like the rest of the sports world, XFL 2.0 was derailed by the Covid-19 Pandemic. While McMahon said he was prepared for the league to lose money for its first three years, that was assuming that the WWE, McMahon’s true cash cow, was not also losing money.
Johnson partnered with RedBird Capital on the deal, according to Sportico. The company has several investments in the sports world already, including ties to the NFL.
Will Johnson’s name provide enough star power to satiate the XFL’s media partners? McMahon was able to secure TV deals with both Disney and FOX before the league launched. Last week it was reported that Disney wanted out if McMahon was not involved. FOX was willing to stay in business with the XFL, but wanted the terms of their deal significantly reworked.
XFL President Jeffrey Pollack oversaw the sale process for the league. It is estimated that Johnson’s group will assume assets and liabilities of between $10 million and $50 million.
ESPN Brass Divided Over Keeping ARod For Sunday Night Baseball
“I think it might be trending towards Rodriguez not coming back.”
Last month Matt Vasgersian exited Sunday Night Baseball to focus on his roles with the MLB Network and the Los Angeles Angels. It is now rumored that Alex Rodriguez could also potentially be on the way out of the booth for ESPN’s signature MLB broadcast.
The topic was discussed yesterday on the Marchand and Ourand podcast. Andrew Marchand said that it was about a “50/50” chance that Rodriguez will be coming back.
It was previously reported that ESPN likely wants Rodriguez back next season, but it now seems that two camps have formed at ESPN.
“There is a divide, some people want him back who are very important and some people aren’t as keen on A-Rod” said Marchand.
Marchand added that there are a number of obstacles in the way for Rodriguez to come back to Sunday Night Baseball. Rodriguez would need to want to work with Karl Ravech, who seems like the next play-by-play guy in line following Vasgersian’s exit. Marchand added that the money on the table for another deal for Rodriguez could also be another issue.
“I think it might be trending towards Rodriguez not coming back.” said Marchand although he added that is certainly not a final decision. He added that Magic Johnson was not expected to return to ESPN and he did, so certainly anything can happen.
“Jimmy Pitaro, the Chairman of ESPN is a huge Yankees fan and likes Rodriguez” added Marchand.
FOX Using Thanksgiving NFL Game To Give MLS Ratings Boost
“The expected help the NFL can provide is coming at a good time for the MLS. The league has set TV rights discussions to the side until after the December 11th Cup Final.”
FOX is giving Major League Soccer a big helping hand on Thanksgiving Day. The network will follow the noon kickoff between the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions with an MLS Cup Playoff game.
Major League Soccer’s TV audience is still relatively small compared to the other major American sports leagues, but ratings were up for the league in 2021. Games saw a 3% growth in viewership on traditional television this season. As Sportico’s Anthony Crupi points out, that is especially remarkable when fewer Americans are watching live television and MLS’s fanbase skews younger, into a demo that is more likely to give up linear TV for digital options.
The expected help the NFL can provide is coming at a good time for the MLS. The league has set TV rights discussions to the side until after the December 11th Cup Final. Once that date arrives though, MLS owners will be looking to lock in the most lucrative rights deal the league has ever signed.
“We’ve had numerous and productive discussions about our unique set of rights, but right now we’re most focused on how to build momentum through the playoffs,” Seth Bacon, MLS senior VP of media, said.
While you can bet that there is interest from American soccer club owners in just how much the English Premier League gets in its current round of American TV rights negotiations, the reality is MLS TV rights likely won’t be close.
Thanksgiving football could be the kind of boost that raises some eyebrows amongst the network executives involved in the discussions. 27.1 million people watched the last time the Bears and Lions met on Thanksgiving Day. FOX will be promoting the MLS Cup Playoff contest during the game. If those ads convince just 2% of an audience that size to stick with the network instead of headed to ABC to watch the Cowboys and the Raiders, it will be a huge success and a number that is most certainly brought up during rights negotiations.
Monday Night Football Audience Continues Year Over Year Growth
“One factor that ESPN didn’t have last year that is helping them in 2021 is the Manningcast.”
The national NFL audience can’t get enough of ESPN’s Monday Night Football. Year-over-year numbers went up again this week for the network’s premier football property.
The battle between Sean McVay’s Los Angeles Rams and Kyle Shanahan’s San Francisco 49ers was the network’s second-most-watched Week 10 game since 2012, with 12.3 million viewers across all platforms.
Week 10 represented the eighth consecutive week of year-over-year growth (3% increase from 2020 Week 10). The property’s ratings as a whole are up 15% from 2020 and 7% from 2019.
NFL fans are coming back to support the league in force after a multitude of factors kept them away from their TVs in 2020. The pandemic played a role, as did the limited number of fans attending each game. No one has been able to succinctly nail down why numbers were so down across all sports in 2020.
One factor that ESPN didn’t have last year that is helping them in 2021 is the Manningcast. Peyton and Eli are a roaring success with their version of Monday Night Football airing on ESPN2.
Ratings were down a bit for the Monday night Manning telecast this week, but they seem to be leveling out at a record-breaking median for ESPN. The brothers notched 1.554 million viewers in their first game where they didn’t interview any active NFL players. The Manningcast has delivered the five most-watched alternate telecasts in ESPN history since the network debuted them in 2014.
Peyton and Eli caught wind of the Manningcast curse and tried to throw it off-kilter, at least for one week. Every active NFL player to appear on the Manningcast has lost their following game.
“If somebody at ESPN said well the Madden curse, players kept doing it no matter what,” Peyton described on The Steam Room podcast. I said that’s because they were getting paid. If you get paid, you don’t care about a curse. Last time I checked, we are not paying anyone to come on the show. Obviously, I hope it is not true. Right now, it is what it is.”
We’ll find out if NFL players are returning to the show when Omaha Productions unveils the next guest list.
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