The CFL has been an operational professional football league since 1958, while the XFL is preparing for its third reboot having never made it through more than one full season. And according to statements released by both leagues, they’re engaged in preliminary discussions about how they can work together.
Last August, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson partnered with Dani Garcia and RedBird Capital to acquire the XFL from Vince McMahon for $15 million. McMahon attempted to reboot the league last year after it failed in 2001, but the XFL 2.0 was ruined by the COVID-19 pandemic. Shortly after purchasing the league, Johnson and Garcia announced the XFL would return in 2022, but those plans are now on hold, pending the outcome of discussions with the CFL.
Neither league mentioned a possible merger in their statement, nor did they provide details on the discussions, only acknowledging they’re taking place.
“It’s clear through our early conversations that we share a passion for football, an expansive sense of possibility, and a deep desire to create more opportunity for players and fans across North America and around the world,” XFL president and CEO Jeffrey Pollack said. “Blending the CFL’s rich heritage with our fresh thinking, and the unique reach and experience of our ownership, could be transformative for the game.”
Johnson also acknowledged discussions with the CFL and expressed admiration for the league.
“As an owner of the XFL, our discussions with the CFL have been very exciting. There’s a real pulse here because you can feel the unique opportunity we can potentially create together,” he wrote. “Wherever it all leads, I can tell you this one is personal to me and is driven by all my passion – because me being cut by the CFL was the greatest thing that happened. It set me on a path that years later would lead me right back to the league.”
Like all sports, the CFL was hit hard by the global pandemic, but they were forced to cancel the 2020 season in anticipation of significant financial losses. After pledging to return, the CFL has announced a full schedule for 2021 set to kickoff in June, but lost income from a canceled season certainly has lasting impacts.
A 63-year-old league, the CFL has a rich history in Canada. And even though the XFL is 0 for 2 in its attempts to get off the ground, it has some marketability within the United States, where the CFL’s presence is minimal. At the surface, a partnership seems like oil and water, but the CFL and XFL still represent two reeling football leagues with different qualities to offer.
All 3 Thanksgiving Games Pull Big Audiences For NFL
CBS’s production of the overtime thriller between the Dallas Cowboys and the Las Vegas Raiders brought in a whopping 38.5 million average viewers.
The numbers are in for the NFL Thanksgiving day games, and the results are overall a positive for the league. CBS received the highest viewership of all the networks this Thanksgiving, and put up some record numbers in the process.
CBS’s production of the overtime thriller between the Dallas Cowboys and the Las Vegas Raiders brought in a whopping 38.5 million average viewers. This is a 26% increase from last year’s comparable window and the highest viewership for a regular-season game on any network since 1990.
The game is also the most-watched television program on any network since last year’s Super Bowl on CBS.
Paramount+, featuring live NFL ON CBS local market games, scored an NFL regular-season viewership record for total streams, streaming minutes and unique viewers while registering triple-digit year-over-year growth in streaming minutes and unique viewers from Thanksgiving Day 2020 in a huge success for CBS on the day.
FOX also faired well, as their viewership for the first game of the day between the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears was up 14% over last years window, sitting at 26.7 million average viewers.
Despite the game itself not being super exciting, the game set a record for the most-streamed Thanksgiving day game across FOX Sports properties in their history.
The primetime game on NBC did not fair as well, as they came in at an average of 19.3 million viewers, a 7% decrease from 2019, as 2020’s game was postponed due to COVID protocols. NBC was not aided by what was mostly a one-sided game most of the night.
Disney Investing In Content To Combat ESPN Subscriber Decline
Disney revealed that they have seen a 10% drop in pay-TV subscribers with access to ESPN.
Disney has decided to ramp up spending while ESPN faces a tricky situation of losing subscribers for their traditional audience of cable subscribers, but an increase in streaming numbers.
Disney has said that it would spend $33 billion on content in fiscal 2022, which began on October 1st. The company’s annual reports shows that this number is up 32% from last fiscal year, where the company spent $25 billion.
Of the $33 billion, which spans all Disney networks and studios, with a target of 140 scripted and unscripted series, $10.3 billion is earmarked for sports programming, per the filing.
Disney revealed that they have seen a 10% drop in pay-TV subscribers with access to ESPN. This number fell to 76 million, from 84 million at the end of fiscal 2020.
These numbers show the steady decline coming from not only traditional TV but ESPN in particular. The tally is well below ESPN’s peak of just north of 100 million homes nearly a decade ago.
ESPN News and ESPNU, which each had 62 million pay-TV subscribers a year ago, dropped to a respective 59 million and 51 million in fiscal 2021.
All is not gloom for ESPN however, as they have been putting up impressive numbers for their streaming service ESPN+. ESPN+, which costs $6.99 per month, ended the fiscal year with 17 million subscribers, up 66% year-over-year.
Disney has denied that they would spin off ESPN but indicated that it may consider bundling ESPN+, Disney+, and Hulu into a single service at a later date.
For the time being, they have added ESPN+ and Disney + to their Hulu Live TV package, a move set to affect Hulu customers in December with a $5 increase to $64.99 per month.
ACC Network Set To Debut On Comcast Xfinity
“No official date has been set for the network’s debut on Xfinity.”
There is always a mad scramble to work out carriage deals before a company launches a new cable network. Before the ACC Network debuted in 2019, Disney and ESPN secured deals with AT&T, Charter, DirecTV, DISH, Google Fiber and Verizon Fios. It was missing Comcast. That company’s Xfinity cable system is the largest in the country.
Xfinity subscribers will get to see the ACC Network for the first time in the coming weeks thanks to a deal between Disney and Comcast. As part of an agreement to renew the carriage of ESPN networks, the Disney branded channels, Freeform, the FX networks, and the National Geographic channels, Comcast has agreed to pick up the conference network and pair it with the SEC Network, which was already a part of Xfinity packages.
“We are very pleased to have reached this comprehensive agreement with Disney to continue providing Xfinity customers access to their content across our industry-leading platforms,” Rebecca Heap, Senior Vice President of Consumer Products & Propositions for Comcast Cable, said in a press release.
ACC Network will now be available in nearly 20 million more homes as a result of the deal. No official date has been set for the network’s debut on Xfinity.
“We’re very happy to extend our longstanding relationship with Comcast and continue to provide their Xfinity customers with Disney’s best-in-class programming,” Sean Breen, Executive Vice President of Platform Distribution at Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, added. “In addition to our news, sports and general entertainment offerings, the launch of the ACC Network in the coming weeks, paired with the renewal of the SEC Network, will give Xfinity’s college sports fans long-awaited access to their favorite games.”
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