Disney Strikes Deal to Put XFL on ESPN, FX, ABC
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (Courtesy of Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)
Disney is throwing a pass at spring football.
The entertainment giant formed an alliance with the XFL, the start-up football league led by actor Dwayne Johnson. The pact will put XFL games on ESPN, FX and ABC and gives Disney more football to offer fans across the calendar just as rivals Fox and NBC play up games from the USFL, in which Fox is an investor.
“We have entered into an exclusive multi year deal with our partners with Walt Disney to produce and distribute all of our games,’ Johnson told attendees at Disney’s upfront presentation Tuesday. The games are expected to start in 2023, and the deal will last through 2027.
Under the pact, each season — 40 regular season games, two playoffs, and one championship —will be featured on a combination of ABC, ESPN networks and FX. The deal includes exclusive rights across Disney and ESPN’s digital, social and direct-to-consumer outlets, including ESPN+.
The inclusion of FX is notable, since the cable outlet is typically focused on premium scripted drama and comedy under the direction of Jon Landgraaf. But other companies are tilting big cable outlets more toward sports, as Warner Bros. Discovery has recently been doing with cable giants TNT and TBS.
The games are “also going to feature technological innovation designed to create a really unique viewing experience for fans all over the world and advertisers,” said Johnson. “We are building this brand and your brands to create something that is truly special and iconic.”
“We are extraordinarily excited to explore the endless possibilities of this partnership – today is surely just the beginning,” said Dany Garcia, the new league’s chairwoman.
The XFL’s ownership group is led by Garcia, Johnson, and Gerry Cardinale’s RedBird Capital Partners.
Variety's Brian Steinberg contributed to this post.