Vince McMahon’s second attempt at the XFL includes a lot less McMahon bombast and a lot more planning. The original XFL game quality was hampered by rushing the game onto the field and the ill-conceived notion that softening defensive restrictions would make the game more exciting (as opposed to what happened, which was crippling the offenses’ ability to score). This time around, a lot more planning and more prudent and thorough vetting of rule changes is taking place.
Today’s Washington Post detailed the XFL’s approach this time around, which includes zero quotes from Vince McMahon about the NFL being the “No Fun League” and no references to celebrity color commentators or cheerleaders. It’s all about “reimagining” pro football into a swifter, more exciting sub-three-hour experience. (Yes, ironic considering WWE – the NFL of Pro Wrestling, one might say – bloating their cable shows and Sunday PPVs for extra revenue and “hours consumed” bragging points.)
The Washington Post article describes the strategy this way: “This time around, the XFL didn’t race to market with colorful packaging. Instead, it opted for a methodical approach, applying principles borrowed from Silicon Valley on launching a start-up business and fine-tuning a product to suit customer desires.”
Game play changes include:
- Shorter games with less downtime and more impactful plays.
- The traditional kickoff won’t resemble anything seen before.
- The overtime will look more like a hockey shootout.
- There could be 9-point scoring opportunities (scoring the points-after-touchdown from the 15 yard line).
- Multiple forward passes on a single play and a shorter play clock.
“I think there’s a really fine line between innovating and being gimmicky and we’re trying to stay on the proper side of that,” Oliver Luck, head of the XFL, said recently. In another conversation, he pointed out, “We don’t want to do gimmicks. Gimmicks in XFL 1 didn’t work very well. These are legitimate improvements to the game.”
Football fans won’t have trouble finding the XFL. As announced a few days ago, the XFL will be broadcast on ESPN and Fox in prime time slots starting next spring. While ESPN and Fox are not paying any broadcast right fees, they are paying production costs, so there’s a partnership element with all parties having something to gain and a mitigation of the incentive to cut their losses if it doesn’t take off early.
The Post article ultimate brings up key questions: “The XFL will no doubt face litmus tests that have crushed so many similar ventures in the past. Will fans watch second-tier players? Does anyone really want football in the spring? Can the XFL become economically viable?”
Read the full article, which also details the various ways the XFL has done “test runs” so far and consulted football experts for feedback and guidance.