Video transcript provided courtesy of Descript AI. May contain minor errors.
The peak of Gridiron glory has been the NFL for what seems like forever. And while other leagues have changed drastically to avoid the NFL’s scope, the XFL has continued to step onto their field with ambitions as big as their touchdowns. However, their ambitions are not just on the field, but also to change the long standing game.
And while many thought it would just be another flash in the pan, the XFL has consistently demonstrated they are here to stay. Stay even though it’s been in a constant state of ups and downs, the XFL has been unshakable tenacity and determination to offer fans a worthy alternative to the NFL, which is a mighty task indeed, seeing as the NFL is experiencing its highest viewership this year since 2018.
So I’m here to talk about how did this alternative to the grandest stage of football begin and why does this plucky XFL league just not staying down? So we have to talk about the history of the XFL. It’s debut was a joint venture between the World Wrestling Federation, WWF, and NBC. Spearheaded by Vince McMahon and NBC executive Dick Erbasol in 2001.
Welcome to the XFL! On behalf of players and coaches in the XFL, we welcome you to our brand of football. And if you talk to anyone about the journey of the XFL, They’ll say it hasn’t been easy. The XFL debuted, and had one season wonder. And despite having strong ratings for the first game, viewership eventually nosedived, resulting in the league folding with both partners losing 35 million.
And McMahon would later go on to say it was a colossal failure, but he was proud of the players, especially the ones that went on to the NFL. He enjoyed it. So, end of video right? No. Vince McMahon came back on the scene 17 years later, investing 5 times as much of his original 2001 investment with his new venture, ALF Entertainment, to bring it back in 2020.
We’re gonna give the game of football back to fans, but sadly, as you know, like everything in 2020, the pandemic caused the XFL to go bankrupt and was expected to lose tens of millions of dollars. A real shame considering it barely had enough time to get going. There is no XFL this year. The league fold.
And nevertheless, the XFL was like a phoenix and was reborn from the ashes of 2020 by Danny Garcia and Dwayne Johnson for 15 million to bring the XFL back in 2023, with a 10 week season to run from February 18th through April 22nd, consisting of 40 regular season games. And if you have never watched the XFL, but are into the NFL, now would be a good time to show you some players you may recognize.
First we have the former Pittsburgh Steeler W. R. Martavius Bryant, former Falcons and Titans and Raiders L. B. Vic Beasley, then we have the former Alabama great on and off again Cincinnati Bengals backup quarterbacker A. J. McCarron, and then NFL pariah and all around football playing journeyman Josh Gordon.
Now, money and known players are not the only thing they’re using to tackle the massive opponents. They’ve also changed the rules of the game not once, but twice. The first was in 2001, and the second in 2023, but we’ll get to that in more detail with the rules later on. However, updating the rules is not the only thing.
They’ve also carved their spot on TV. Instead of going head to head with the NFL in the fall, the XFL, like some other competitors, have wisely chosen the spring for its game, giving football star fans a year round action. And sticking with the spring season, they announced a merger with their spring league companion USFL, which is United States Football League for 2024.
This puts the wheels in motion for them to become the ultimate spring league powerhouse. We’ll get to that later on as well, because that is a big segment to talk about. As you can see, the SFL started off with high hopes at the start, but never amounted to anything. Came back for round 2, and was halted due to the pandemic, but it’s now 2023, and they’re in the best position they could possibly be in.
Now how about we close this history book on XFL, and open a really old one that takes us back in time to look at how the NFL has, time and again, handled upstart challenges knocking on its door. Established in the 1920s as the American Professional Football Association, the NFL took its current name in 1922, starting in teams mainly from the Midwest, the Decatur Stadies and the Akron Pros.
Over time, it transformed from a fledgling association into an American dominant football institution. Today, the Super Bowl is the 8th most watched sporting event in the world, with a whopping 115 million eyes on the league’s championship game. With success starting decades before the Super Bowl was even introduced, entrepreneurs Across the countries, I’ve long been asking how they can get a slice of the football pie, setting up run ins with a bunch of challenging leagues over the years.
And when I say a bunch, I mean it. It starts in 1949 with the All American Football Conference, which introduced innovations like the shotgun formation, and the merger to the NFL brought modern teams to the league like the San Francisco 49ers and the Cleveland Browns. Then we have the 1960s and 1970s.
AFL, American Football League, were one of the most successful rivals to the NFL. They introduced major innovations, including player names on jerseys and shared revenue for television broadcasts. At its peak, it fielded 10 teams, but then the NFL swallowed its second challenger, merging with the AFL in 1966 and paving the way for the most watched and celebrated sports league in the US.
The league kept individual regular season schedules from 1966 to 1969 before Fully U 19 19 70, creating a single league split into two intervening conferences the way the NFL exists today. But the EL attempts of football just doesn’t end there, not even close. There was the world of football league WFL from 1974 to 1975 that was shut down due to financial troubles.
Just two years before another short-lived NFL Field League revival. That played from 2008, 2010, which was the Arena Football League, which was a beast hole on its own. Played with padded walls and much smaller field, it was just too different from any traditional football fans used to watching NFL in the college games.
Then, we have the United Football League, the UFL, from 2009 to 2012, which had a spring schedule, but just with five teams that struggled with television deals before dying a slow death. Another league with a financial woes was the Alliance of American Football, AAF, in 2019. It stood out with its tech innovations, like a real time in game fantasy football app.
Despite a promising start of 8 teams, it abruptly folded mid season. As you can see, challenges came and go, but they all fell one by one by NFL, as it got stronger and very clearly cemented its place in the ultimate destination for football glory. So what did the XFL do, other than being 10 letters down the alphabet?
Well, as you know, the absolute madman Vince McMahon gave it a shot, by nicknaming it the Extra Fun League, with the hope to inject the sport with drama, much like his wrestling empire. Some suggest that the NFL stands for the No Fun League. The XFL is gonna be the Extra Fun League. So Vince and his team came up with some new rules.
The first, instead of a traditional coin toss, the league introduced a scramble for the ball possession at midfield.
Whoever possesses the ball gets his choice, not only for the start of the game, but also for overtime, should that be necessary. Good luck, guys. A couple of safeties gonna scramble for the right to possession. The hometown hero is on it, but the ball’s still alive. Jamel Williams jumps on it. Yes! And the hometown guys have right to kick and receive.
Then there was the player’s freedom in jersey customisation, which gave rise to the unforgettable choices, like Rod Smartz’s jersey, which we’ll just play the promo for you right here.
He hate me. He hate me because I love the game of football. He hate me because I will outplay my opponent. He hate me because I’m an outlaw. He hate me. There was no fair catch rule, one of the biggest in terms of safety for the players during the game, extra point kicks, non existent, a trend that persisted in later iterations including the 2023 season.
So with these rule changes and the nickname, it was time for the premiere, and like Jeff Brom would say, Do I, do I not currently have a pulse? Yes I do, let’s play football. A two game double header which boasts a notable 9. 5 Nielsen rating for the night, even surpassing the viewership of the 2001 Pro Bowl.
However, innovation and premiere results alone weren’t enough to save the league. The XFL battled a long list of challenges, poor gameplay quality, sagging ratings, and attendance. As in 40 games, the league drew 936, 000 fans, with an average attendance of 23, 000. The XFL would have probably drawn even better in the second half of the season, but it was seen as a dead product by the public and mainstream by week 7.
So maybe the best example of these problems was the February blackout and SNL debacle. Join the XFL’s Second Saturday Night Broadcast, NBC faced a raising nosedive as the game overran, pushing back the start time of Saturday Night Live by almost 45 minutes. And if you know if you work in TV, that’s a big freaking deal.
So Vince wasn’t lying when he said it was a colossal failure. So when it got to 2020, we can skip over that because it didn’t really happen. So how did Danny Garcia and Dwayne Johnson bring it back to life? Well, by fine tuning a couple of the details, XFL 3. 0 emerged in the spring of 2023, with 8 teams, all renowned coaches, playing in prominent stadiums.
Once again, the rules were updated, but the changes were more refined this time. The scrambles act for a revamped kickoff, players sported their actual names to take things a little bit more seriously, and there were multi point play options post touchdown. Something XFL 1. 0 had experimented with mid season.
Innovations like the double forward pass, and the fourth quarter ball possession strategy have added layers of excitement to a league that’s still struggling with players proudness. Like unique kick off formations, quicker play clocks, and exciting 1, 2, or 3 point after touchdown options. These rules don’t just differentiate the league, but they gave the game a different feel, making them feel arguably, and more excitingly, albeit with a few big names, but not none.
And after all the tinkering, The Rock, Danny Garcia, and the XFL Frontrunners sure seem to believe that the league have found a tremendous amount of success in year one. Even though it lost an estimated 60 million in 2023, according to industry sources, and cut some jobs, the next season of Leap projects 100 million in revenue.
So if they believe it, let’s review it ourselves. Honestly, as they gear up for year 2, it’d be hard to say anything about the XFL 3. 0 besides, so far, so good. Because even if they face a losing and reported 60 million, ownership has a rosy look out on the future. Smartly, the league was never set up to be a direct competitor with the NFL.
Instead, XFL 3. 0 was designed as a sort of a feeder league, allowing fringe NFL players to showcase their talent while engaging with fans across the country, adding to the available options for football fans, rather than to steal their eyes from the big boys. So if revenue wasn’t the key metric for the XFL, what was?
For starters, while there was a slight decrease in TV viewership over the course of the season, key metrics like the average margin of victory, pace of play, and digital impressions were set as KPIs, all of which are crucial to determine the quality of on-field production and fan engagements.
Additionally, the XFL serves a massive job creation in the football world. In 2023, rosters expanded to 51 players, four six of whom were active on the game day with eight teams in the league. At any given time, there are 400 players of jobs in the league. Plus tons of coaches and support staff. And if you don’t think the pipeline is real, you probably don’t want to check out the XFL’s website, page literally titled, From XFL to NFL.
And of all the XFL players who came and went during the 2023 season, dozens were given opportunities with NFL teams during training camp time, and over 65 had since transitioned to the big show. While you might see this could lead to a talent drain, league ownership sees this potential issue as an opportunity.
League leaders believe in scouting and evaluating programs that are supposed to ensure a continuous flow of talent. This pipeline, Prowess, made the XFL an attractive proposition for talented football players outside the NFL. So they’ve got a really good system going on. But, we hear you, that’s enough about the XFL and NFL.
What about the USFL and the merger? Well, on September 28th, 2023, the XFL and USFL announced the intention to merge leagues before XFL 3.0 in 2023. The USFL was able to stand alone in 2022, but when the XFL showed up, the two leagues clearly showed very similar ordinances and were fighting for lot the same attention as the week one of the USFL season averaged 784,000 views across Fox, NBC and FC one, which is down 50% from last year’s inaugural weekend.
And to go into a bit more detail, both of these seem to be working somewhat successfully. USFL clocked in at an average viewership of 604,000 and the XFL at 622,000. The X L’S title game earned 1.4 million. Viewers, a little more than us l’s, 1.2 million. So you can see they have so close together that the merger just makes sense.
But the one weird thing about this is that USFL has a Hob model. For all eights of its teams, the USFL’s 22 season took place entirely in Birmingham, Alabama, at the Protective Stadium, before Forefield in Detroit, Michigan, Canton Hall of Fame Village in Canton, Ohio, and Simone Banks Liberty Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee.
All hosted home games for two teams in 2023. Only the Michigan Panthers, Ford Field, and the Birmingham Stallions, Protective Stadium, played in the same as tied to their respective geographical places. So with no real roots in those places, it’s hard to see the new combined leagues aiming for a full 16 league team.
But details of any kind have been scarce, besides just reiterating that the league’s combining, and some staff changes. But no matter what ends up happening, the league are putting on a brave face about any possible concerns and marching forward to glory. Here’s their joint statement. If the transaction is consummated, the new league will establish best in class operations based on the most recent seasons of both leagues.
This historic combination will anchor professional spring football with substantial capabilities and resources to ensure future growth and continue to enhance the development of the collective players, coaches, and the staff that are coming together. So you can see, the reality was, it was extremely unlikely for both leagues to succeed independently.
So they very likely looked at each other across the table and realised together that neither was going to fully distinguish itself by competing. So at the end of all the attempts to outdo each other, these leagues simply said, We can’t beat them, join them. So to conclude, the XFL has learned from past competitors, and has taken the path of least resistance on its way to three, soon four different attempts at success.
From implementing new rule changes meant to breathing life into the game, to the spring schedule and even angling themselves as step in stores at the big time. The league has fine tuned its approach, and has taken massive leaps forwards each time. And while we don’t know much about what XFL 4. 0 will look like yet, besides possibly being called the National Spring Football League, we expect it to be greater than the sum of its parts, thanks to a track record both parent leagues have of standing up to the NFL.
These are two leagues. with different approaches that really seem to understand that there is a bunch of just short of the NFL talent that want to play and just need someone to do it just like the major league baseball has the minor leagues as far as we can tell the XFL and USFL both wanted to be spring football so together they should be absolutely able to accomplish their goals and there we have it that is the XFL as a spring football revolution and it will continue on to 2024 if you enjoyed that give us a like If you really enjoyed it, give us a subscribe, and if you want to watch more content that comes out in the future, hit that notification bell down below.
Thanks for watching, guys.