Expected to be revealed at a press conference Thursday afternoon, the XFL is on the way back. A return date has been set for 2020, and the wheels are in motion once again for an alternative to the NFL. While the league’s first iteration was a joint venture between WWE and NBC, neither of those companies will be involved in the revival.
The XFL will be owned by Alpha Entertainment, a completely separate company set up by WWE chairman Vince McMahon. The company is totally separate from WWE, and Vince McMahon sold 3.34 million shares of WWE stock (about $100 million) to help with the production.
The XFL was initially a joint venture between McMahon and his longtime friend Dick Ebersol. The first season was a financial disaster, with bad ratings at the forefront of the problems. Because the ratings were such a disappointment, reports indicated that about one-third of ad spots were given away as “make-goods” to advertisers who had been promised success. In total, the first season produced a loss of approximately $70 million.
XFL didn’t run out of money in the first season. The killing blow came when UPN declined to pick up the XFL for a second season. NBC, which had been airing games on Saturday nights, had already backed out.
In a new XFL, broadcast rights are not a problem. Streaming will be a boon for the XFL, which now has multiple online platforms vying for live sports content.
While unclear at first, it’s now blatant that Alpha Entertainment will be the vessel for the XFL. In December, Darren Rovell reported that five trademarks for the XFL were filed by Alpha Entertainment. WWE abandoned the trademarks between 2002 and 2005.
In addition to the five XFL trademarks, Alpha Entertainment also trademarked “URFL” and “UrFL.”
Alpha Entertainment doesn’t have anything on their website, other than a brief bio on McMahon and the address of an office suite in Connecticut. The twitter account has just two tweets before Thursday’s announcement.
Thursday is a small step for the league, which is projected to start in 2020. The original XFL was first announced in February of 2000, and the first game was played exactly one year later.
While the product wasn’t always entertaining, the XFL brought several innovations to the way football is presented. The most notable of which could be the SkyCam, which has been a staple of primetime NFL broadcasts for over a decade. During the 2017 season, NBC broadcast a Titans-Steelers game using the SkyCam as it’s primary camera.