NBC and World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Form Strategic Partnership for XFL
XFL Football To Be Broadcast on NBC Primetime on Saturday Nights Starting February 2001
Stamford, CT/New York NY, March 29, 2000 – NBC and World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. (NMS: WWFE) today announced a strategic partnership to jointly own and run the XFL, a new professional football league that will begin play on February 3, 2001. The agreement calls for each party to own 50% of the league and its eight teams. In addition, NBC has committed to broadcast regional and national XFL games on Saturday nights in primetime from February through April. NBC will also broadcast the XFL Championship game, the first of which will be played on April 21, 2001.
XFL football will be 100 percent competitive sport – the brand of “smash mouth” football that fans crave. The league will connect with fans by returning football to its tougher roots and the wide-open way it was played in the ’60s and ’70s. The XFL will encourage individuality and the natural expression of joy and emotion on the field of play. Through rules changes designed to enhance the action and speed of the game, along with broadcast television innovations that will bring fans “inside the game,” the XFL will recapture the natural personality, fun and intensity of pro football.
Dick Ebersol, Chairman, NBC Sports and Olympics said, “The absolute key to the success of this league lies in the incredible success Vince McMahon has had throughout his career in reaching the most elusive audience in television young males. For example, in weekly head-to-head competition with “Monday Night Football” over 17 weeks in 1999, McMahon’s live event programming outdrew “Monday Night Football” among young adult males, ages 12-24, by 47 percent*. That is an incredible triumph of marketing and promotion by the McMahon organization.”
Ebersol added, “We’re excited to be a part of this historic and unique opportunity to launch a new football league to air on NBC in primetime beginning each February at a time when the public’s interest in football is at its absolute peak – one week after the Super Bowl. Together with the McMahon organization, we want to put the fun back into professional football.”
Vince McMahon, Chairman of World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc., said, “The combined talents of both NBC and WWFE, which include original television programming expertise, complementary audience reach, and brand-building success is a sum much greater than its parts. Saturday nights have always been special on NBC and we’re proud that XFL football has found a home here. In addition to having a long history of working strongly together in the past, I believe that the combination of these two organizations will make XFL football one of the best built brands in all of sports.”
Scott Sassa, President, NBC West Coast, said, “The XFL will be a great addition to our Saturday night lineup. Vince McMahon’s unprecedented ability to reach the important young adult male demographic across multiple networks, coupled with NBC’s multiple promotional platforms in both entertainment and sports, ensures a terrific launch. The awareness factor at the launch of this league next February should be – especially among young males – almost 100%. NBC is in the business of appealing to younger viewers and this is a great opportunity to attract even more young adult males to the network. NBC Entertainment looks forward to working with the XFL and NBC Sports on this unique venture.”
Television viewers will be given unprecedented access with cameras positioned in locker rooms, on sidelines and in the helmets of selected players. XFL players, coaches, locker rooms and huddles will also be miked, providing viewers with unique insight into the strategy of the game and enabling them to fully experience the true emotion, attitude, and intensity of the players, both on and off the field. Both NBC and WWFE will cross-promote the XFL during their respective programming.
To encourage more wide open offensive play and to keep game times under three hours, the XFL will adopt a number of rules changes, including: Eliminating the fair-catch rule (making punts live balls), requiring only one foot inbounds on pass receptions, instituting a 35-second play clock and limiting halftime to 10 minutes.
The objective of every XFL player will be to win games. XFL players will be paid salaries to play, but they’ll be paid more to win. Each week the winning teams will share in a victory bonus pool – giving added significance to each week’s matchups.
The XFL has already begun building a highly qualified team to launch the new league. Basil V. DeVito Jr., a sports business veteran whose resume includes WWFE, National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), and the Indiana Pacers will serve as President of the XFL. Billy Hicks, the XFL’s Vice President of Administration most recently served at President and General Manager of Major League Soccer’s (MLS) Dallas Burn and has also worked as a General Manager in the World League of American Football (WLAF) and as an administrator with the Dallas Cowboys.
Heading up Football Operations as Vice President is Michael Keller, a former linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys and former senior executive with the National Football League, United States Football League (USFL) and WLAF. Michael Weisman, a highly respected, award-winning producer whose credits include seven Super Bowls and 15 Emmy Awards, has been brought on as a broadcast production consultant.
A talented and experienced scouting staff is in place and an XFL Advisory Panel has also been created. The advisory panel features several highly respected football and sports industry veterans, including Dr. Larry Lemak, a respected orthopedic surgeon and former owner and manager in the USFL, WLAF and the Canadian Football League (CFL); George Martin, a 14-year veteran of the New York Giants and former President of the NFL Players Association; and former Dallas Cowboys superstar Drew Pearson.
The XFL is actively negotiating with a second television partner to complement the NBC portion of the XFL broadcast package. As part of the pact, NBC and WWFE have agreed that the XFL will control 100 percent of the advertising inventory sold during all XFL broadcasts by a dedicated sponsorship and advertising sales force. Six cities have been announced to date: Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Orlando, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Two more teams will be announced in the next 30 days. WWFE announced the formation of the XFL on Feb. 3, 2000.
*WWF’s fall 1999 2-hour programming block from 9-11 p.m. on Mondays on USA Network averaged an 8.5 national rating among young adult males ages 12-24. ABC’s “Monday Night Football” averaged a 5.8 national rating in the same demographic over the same 17-week period in the same head-to-head 9-11 p.m. time period.