MEDIA: Media Watch - NBC takes a stake in McMahon’s ’Extreme’ football

In announcing NBC’s 50% equity investment in the World Wrestling Federation’s new ’extreme football’ league (XFL), Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Sports, and Vince McMahon, co-founder and chairman of the WWF, promised a high-intensity ’smash mouth’ version of professional football.

In announcing NBC’s 50% equity investment in the World Wrestling Federation’s new ’extreme football’ league (XFL), Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Sports, and Vince McMahon, co-founder and chairman of the WWF, promised a high-intensity ’smash mouth’ version of professional football.

In announcing NBC’s 50% equity investment in the World Wrestling

Federation’s new ’extreme football’ league (XFL), Dick Ebersol, chairman

of NBC Sports, and Vince McMahon, co-founder and chairman of the WWF,

promised a high-intensity ’smash mouth’ version of professional

football.



It seems NBC, the only major network without an NFL TV contract, has

found a way to get back into football broadcasting.



Ebersol appears to have been successful in communicating that NBC did

not just have broadcasting rights. CARMA International’s analysis of

ensuing coverage found that nearly every article or broadcast noted that

NBC would be a co-owner and co-manager of the XFL. Daily Variety (March

30) quoted Ebersol as describing the deal as ’incredibly important’ to

NBC for just that reason. ’This is not a standoffish investment. We’re

partners - heart and soul - in editorial input and production,’ he

stated. This arrangement was occasionally contrasted with the NFL’s

business model.



Coverage also frequently focused on the benefits that the move would

bring to NBC. The network was portrayed as very matter-of-fact about its

intentions and what it hoped to gain through the XFL. The Washington

Post (March 30) quoted Ebersol as saying, ’NBC’s greatest interest in

this new league is its ability to get young males to the

television.’



Media coverage also highlighted the marketing talents of McMahon

personally.



This praise came from both journalists as well as Ebersol, whom USA

Today (March 30) quoted as saying, ’Vince McMahon is the most powerful

marketer to young males in the world. McMahon takes people and builds

them from scratch into popularity.’ Meanwhile, the New York Post (March

30) described Ebersol as ’nearly giddy with joy’ in lavishing praise on

McMahon.



There was also coverage addressing the benefits of NBC’s investment to

the WWF and the XFL. The New York Times (March 30) described NBC’s move

as ’a mammoth injection of credibility’ for the XFL. Reports suggested

that the XFL had little chance of ever becoming a reality before the

support of the network.



Ebersol and McMahon presented the XFL as different from other football

leagues in that it will be more ’fan friendly.’ Among the ways cited to

accomplish this is to speed up the game, use microphones in the huddles;

on the sidelines and in the locker rooms; and allow less-restrained

defenses.



And unlike the scripted action of the WWF, the XFL promises to be truly

competitive.



Unfavorable reaction to the XFL announcement was limited. One of the

concerns that appeared most often was the potential lack of public

demand.



Neal Pilson, former CBS Sports president, told The Wall Street Journal

(March 30), ’They’re going to have to work hard to get representative

crowds at the stadium, and I remain skeptical that there is public

demand.’



For now, the success of the XFL remains to be seen, but media reports

suggest optimism for the new winter-spring outdoor football league. If

the XFL proves successful, will other mainstream professional sports

partner with TV networks under similar auspices?



Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International, Media Watch can be found

at www.carma.com.



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