Ed Hartman, the USFL’s executive vice president of business operations, was a recent guest on the Outkick 360 show. The show was on location to the Super Bowl, but this segment was all about the USFL.
Hartman talks about the current build-up to kick-off on April 16th and that more exciting USFL announcements are to come.
“There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes. There has been for many months. We’ve made a number of exciting announcements over the last few months. You can rest assured that many more will come in the coming weeks and months to kick-off. But look, it’s a lot of work starting a new football league, but we’re very confident with what we’re building and very excited about the kick-off on April 16th.”
He was asked about the XFL and the lessons learned. Fox did cover the league in 2020 and was rumored to be interested in buying it. He talks about the idea that the XFL in 2020 was a failure is false.
“I think, firstly, it’s a misconception that the XFL was a failure last time around. The ratings of the XFL and the three weeks that was around for before COVID was outright exceptional. It was out-rating the NBA for those three weeks…. based on that and based on other research we’ve done, we’re very confident that there is a strong demand for additional football in the spring.
I think the lesson that we’ve learned from previous leagues is that you need to keep your costs in check. And to that end, we are utilizing a Hub model for the first one to three years in Birmingham, Alabama… that will enabled us to keep costs in check and that side of things under control.
We think we have the best broadcast partners of any startup League in history in Fox, NBC… we have the best broadcast exposure, free web broadcast exposure of any League period in the spring, with over half the games being on a free web broadcast television and the other half being on fully distributed… And we have what we think is the best promotion of the lead via both Fox and NBC. So keeping the costs in check, using the Hub model, having the broad support of Fox behind us, and the media exposure that we have, we think it’s a recipe for success.”
Due to the country’s interest in football, they talk about the idea of why Fox Sports decided to own a spring football league.
“Extra football will definitely work on television in the springtime. There’s a massive amount of talent out there in this country that wants to play professional football. They are good enough to play professional football but might not necessarily make the NFL for many reasons…. so those two things combined led us to believe that this is a product that’s really going to resonate.”
Hartman then talks about how sports betting fits this league, and leading betting sites are already aligned with the USFL.
“It’s another kind of key part of our thesis to building this out. If you look at the initial teams that we’ve picked out of all the US… it’s no fluke that over half of those teams are in legal or they have names that are based in legal betting states.
You’ve seen so far as betting is rolled out in the United States, that something like 60 or 70% of all user acquisition happens during football season… so we think by extending that football window, you’ll get significant interest from betters.
Instead of say that we’ve had a lot of inbound from all the leading betting companies wanting to be involved in different ways with the league, either by making markets or being aligned in some other way.
So as I said, it’s very clear that Americans love betting on football. And so providing the next ten or twelve weeks of football to bed on, we think again is a winning strategy.”
They talk about the coaches the USFL hired, the team in place running the league, and why they picked Birmingham to play their hub season.
The question was asked about how the USFL plans on connecting fans from the eight locations to a team playing in Birmingham.
“We think we’ve got a big tailwind given that the USFL has so much equity value in it. On top of that, obviously, Fox has owned an off road television station and affiliates in many of these markets.
So using those local television stations to help activate local fans is going to be one weapon we use on top of the USFL IP.
It is something we are super focused on. We think the combination of those two things and other tactics will make it possible to build out the local following despite the fact that teams are playing in one market, at least for the first year.”
They go on to talk about the $10 tickets, how Eric Shank came up with the idea to simulcast the first game on Fox and NBC. Hartman also talks about new USFL merchandise coming soon.
“We’ll be making some big announcements around Merch in the coming weeks. And expect to see some really fantastic items going on sale again”
There is much more to this interview, including Fox’s interests in betting.
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