Back in 2000, the XFL was born. It was designed to be more fun and action-packed alternative to the NFL, which the XFL founders thought had too many rules and regulations. They wanted football to be exciting — and more dirty and dangerous. The XFL signed major network deals with NBC, TNN, and UPN, and they promised to offer viewers unique perspectives of the players and referees. In 2001, the XFL officially debuted with eight teams.
Despite this thrilling premise, the XFL only lasted one season. Initially, they had strong ratings, with the first game reportedly having 54 million viewers. But the media and fans quickly lost interest in the league. They didn’t like how the rules of the game were constantly changing, and many fans found that the number of injuries reduced the quality of the gameplay. The WWE influence — with skits, characters, and storylines — also wasn’t popular, and led many fans to believe that the games were staged. Still, the XFL pioneered the use of sky cameras and on-the-field cameras (which got up close and personal with the action) and even produced a few valuable players.
When the XFL relaunches in 2020, owner Vince McMahon has promised that it will be different from its previous version. They’ve severed ties with the WWE, and they have plenty of new ideas for improvements. Here are some of the ways the XFL hopes to amp up engagement for the 2020 launch.
With the XFL already set to broadcast on several major networks like ABC, ESPN, and FOX, the XFL is hoping that this will increase general viewership and interest in the league. But they’re also hoping to improve engagement by amping up XFL betting across the spectrum — in casinos, online, and through sports betting apps like FOX Bet, which will debut this fall, just ahead of the 2020 launch.
Besides betting on live games, expect the XFL to also encourage betting on fantasy league games and eSport games in order to get a bigger slice of that betting action. And now that more states have legalized sports betting in some form, this method is likely to work well for improving XFL engagement.
One of the big questions surrounding the 2020 launch is: Will there be an XFL video game? It would offer the current NFL games on the market some real competition, and gain new fans. An XFL video game could also be successful because it could be even rougher and bloodier than the real deal. They could add in fantastical elements or special features that would be especially appealing to a younger crowd, a crowd which often prefers video games to real-life sports. Either way, producing an XFL video game is another way to land fans and improve engagement, and in today’s society, it’s a must for any sports league.
Most of all, McMahon wants the XFL to take advantage of fantasy leagues to improve fan engagement. Fantasy leagues are extremely popular across the board, no matter the sport. They’re one of the best ways to get fans involved and interested in the real games. When involved with fantasy leagues, fans pay more attention to what’s going on during games and off the field, and they’re more likely to buy merchandise and get involved with the leagues in other positive ways. Although we don’t completely know what McMahon’s vision for XFL fantasy leagues looks like, it probably includes daily fantasy football, which didn’t exist two decades ago.
In addition to partnering with the big networks, another way to improve engagement is for the XFL to stream live games online. This will help to reach a broader audience and reach viewers who don’t own a TV or have a cable package. Although no partnerships have currently been announced, it’s likely that the XFL will feature live streams on Facebook and Twitter, where they currently share live announcements.
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