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The Rock’s XFL & USFL Merger Is Reshaping Spring Football’s Lucrative TV Rights

By CultureBanx Team

  • Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s XFL and its  rival spring football league USFL concluded their merger’s antitrust review process
  • Nearly one-quarter of the XFL’s income came from ESPN which pays the league $20M per season

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s XFL and its  rival spring football league USFL concluded their merger’s antitrust review process and are ready for kick off. This merger’s successful completion brings a new era in spring football with the joining of forces between Fox, which owns the USFL, and ESPN, which has the XFL’s media rights. As we await the new entity’s name, cities, and broadcast schedule, let’s delve into the implications of this development.

Why This Matters: The second iteration of the XFL folded in 2020, but Johnson and team were hopeful it would be different this time around. All 43 games of the 2023 season aired across Disney-owned networks including ESPN, ESPN+, FX, and ABC as part of a five-year domestic media rights deal. Nearly one-quarter of the XFL’s income comes from ESPN, which pays the league $20 million per season. 

More than 22,000 XFL fans were in attendance at its 2023 championship game and was reportedly watched by 1.4 million people on TV. Financially, the XFL faced a loss of $60 million in the previous season. Despite this setback, the league remains optimistic about its future prospects. It is projected to generate a revenue of $100 million in the upcoming season.

The XFL, like the NFL, is more than 70% Black when it comes to players, with two of the league’s eight teams being helmed by Black head coaches/general managers. As of late May 2022, 67 players who participated in the XFL during the 2023 season had been invited to workout for NFL teams. Twenty-two of them signed NFL contracts, according to the XFL.

What’s Next: Two distinct workforces are coming together as USFL players, through the United Football Players Association and United Steelworkers negotiated a Collective Bargaining Agreement with their league that includes a weekly salary of $5,350 and team contributions to a 401(k). XFL players, on the other hand, voted against unionization and are employed through contracts. The merged entity’s approach to integrating these different employment structures remains to be seen. Let’s watch to see how it all plays out when the combined entity kicks off its inaugural season in March 2024.

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