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Disney CEO Talks Future of ESPN And Sports Within Company, How It Could Impact XFL

This weekend is the D23 expo in California. Disney says it’s ‘the ultimate Disney fan event, D23 Expo celebrates the Walt Disney Company and all of its beloved stories and worlds.’

Over the weekend, Disney released trailers for new content coming to its streaming service Disney+, new things coming to its Disney theme parks, new movies coming out over the next year, and so much more. Everything Disney at this event is discussed.

Back in May, the XFL signed a multi-year agreement with ESPN and The Walt Disney Company, giving the network exclusive broadcasting rights to the XFL. Since then, we have not heard much about the TV agreement.

If the XFL was planning to do a behind-the-scenes TV show on its streaming platform, this was the time and place to do it. Not much was said about ESPN at the event, but Disney CEO Bob Chapek talked with Variety about its cable channel and Disney’s view of live sports in the future.

“The Disney of the next 100 years will be more expansive than the Disney of the first 100 years. The brand’s elasticity is amazing – the capital D Disney. Each of the components of our company — whether it’s Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar, ESPN, ABC — they have their own identity. But they all play into a much more expansive view of what Disney is. … Our investors only know what we’ve shared with them to date. They don’t really know what our plans are for the future. We’ve got very ambitious plans for sports. Something like 95 of the top 100 (most-viewed) shows in the past year on broadcast TV have been live sports. So, if you’re in an advertising business, if you’re in a business of talking to people, that’s kind of a big deal.”

NFL games accounted for 75 of the 100 most-watched broadcasts in 2021. Football is king in the United States. Disney knows this, and Fox Sports knows this with it bringing back the USFL.

Chapek did not mention the XFL, but clearly, the XFL is part of Disney’s sports plans for the future.

Some have speculated that ESPN is a money loser for Disney. I have talked to people at Disney, and they said that is not the case at all. Chapek talked about the soaring fees for sports and Disney selling the World Wide Leader In Sports.

“The advertising demand for ESPN speaks volumes. But what else speaks volumes is that when the word was out on the street that will maybe Disney will spin off ESPN, we had no less than 100 inquiries of people that wanted to buy it. What does that tell you? That says we’ve got something really good. And if you have a strategic plan, a vision for where it fits into the company over the next 100 years, then you don’t exactly want to divest yourself of it. And we have that plan. We’ve not shared that plan.”

The Disney CEO mentions not sharing their sports plans to date in both quotes. He later said they would hold an event and discuss their sports plan.

“We will, at some point, do another investor day.”

The last Disney investor day was in March of 2022. If they did the same time frame in 2023, it would be the middle of the XFL season and a perfect time to drop their grand vision of sports and the XFL.

Why not do it now? Because the sports world right now is wrapped up in the NFL. See 75 of the top 100 programs in 2021 were NFL games. If anything, it gives you an idea that Disney is all in for sports, and the XFL will play a role in its grand plan.

If you recall, the XFL was featured at ESPN’s annual event called ESPN The Picnic for employees last month. The House Of The Mouse has big plans for the XFL.

But before Disney can get all excited about the XFL, they need to play games first and see how the XFL organization plays out and if Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Dany Garcia, and RedBird Capital can build something sustainable. With Disney and the NFL as their partner, the sky is the limit. The journey starts on February 18th, 2023, a week after the Super Bowl.

Be sure to join our XFL Discord server and connect with other XFL fans.

Mark is the founder and editor of XFL News Hub. The site was started in January of 2018, within days of the announced return of the XFL. Contact him directly by emailing mark.perry@xflnewshub.com

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