Among the many people coming out of the woodwork recently to dispute something NY Post sports media reporter Andrew Marchand has said or reported, you might not have expected Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to be on that list.
On last week’s episode of The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast, Sports Business Journal reporter John Ourand did a segment on how the XFL lost a ton of money in its first season back, noting that while that was expected, the news that the league was laying off of dozens of employees, including its biggest marketing executives, implied that the league did worse than expected.
Marchand then added that “the XFL is not getting any rights fee from ESPN” and that “they’re just on the air,” refuting what was reported in the Forbes piece, which said that the network “pays the league $20 million per season.”
That last piece of information was tweeted out by journalist James Larsen and it then caught the attention of The Rock.
ESPN is a stakeholder in XFL.
Long term partners.
Big plans for ‘24 season.
Back to work.
— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) June 14, 2023
“Not true,” tweeted Johnson. “ESPN is a stakeholder in XFL. Long term partners. Big plans for ’24 season. Back to work.”
On this week’s episode of the podcast, Marchand and Ourand followed up on The Rock’s feedback and offered a rebuttal of their own.
CLIP: The Rock tweeted about Marchand & Ourand pod last week, we addressed that the XFL is not getting a rights fee from ESPN.
— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) June 21, 2023
“They’re not,” said Marchand when asked if the XFL is indeed getting a rights fee from ESPN. “There’s no rights fee. That’s the bottom line.
“Of course, there’s a rights agreement, the games are on the air. There has to be an agreement. There’s no rights fee.”
As we presumed last week, this is really just a case of misunderstood semantics. The two entities are indeed financially linked and have a vested interest in the league’s success.
Unfortunately for them, and the rival USFL, it doesn’t seem like the 2023 ratings met the threshold they were hoping for.
Per Sportico’s Anthony Crupi, the 2023 XFL and 2023 USFL finished “in a dead heat” with the XFL averaging 602,073 viewers per game to the USFL’s 604,175. While XFL games on ABC performed the best overall, averaging 1.089 million viewers, that was dragged down by ESPN2 and FX numbers.
USFL Viewership by Network
XFL Viewership by Network
— Anthony Crupi (@crupicrupicrupi) June 21, 2023
So it turns out “Big plans for ’24 season” might have been the only incorrect part of The Rock’s tweet.