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  • Wednesday, March 29, 2000

    NBC joins WWF in XFL

    NEW YORK (AP) -- The XFL is going mainstream.

    NBC will take a 50 percent stake in the XFL and broadcast the new football league's games under a partnership agreement announced today with the World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc.

    NBC is also buying $30 million worth of WWFE stock, giving it a 3 percent stake in the company.

    The deal would bring pro football back to NBC, which was shut out of the $17.6 billion, eight-year NFL deal negotiated in January 1998. NBC had also tried to form a separate football league with Turner Broadcasting, but gave up the deal after deciding it was too risky.

    WWF chief Vince McMahon introduced the XFL last month, saying the start-up costs for the eight-team league would be "somewhere south of $100 million." He said there were already teams slated for New York, Washington, Miami, Orlando, Fla., Los Angeles and San Francisco, with two more teams to be announced.

    The league is to open play Feb. 1 for a 10-week season.

    "I believe that the combination of these two organizations will make XFL football one of the best built brands in all of sports," McMahon said in a statement.

    XFL rules: No fair catch, microphones in huddles

    Highlights of planned rules in the XFL, a new pro football league being started by the World Wrestling Federation in February 2001:

  • No fair catches on punts.
  • Only one foot required in bounds on pass receptions.
  • A 35-second play clock. (In NFL, "time between plays will be 40 seconds from the end of a given play until the snap of the ball for the next play, or a 25-second interval after certain administrative stoppages and game delays.")
  • Halftime of 10 minutes. (In NFL, "halftime is 12 minutes, unless otherwise specified.")
  • Cameras to be placed in locker rooms, sidelines and in helmets of selected players.
  • Players, coaches locker rooms and huddles will be miked.
  • Players will be paid salaries but also will receive bonuses each week if their team wins.
  • "The absolute key to the success of this league lies in the incredible success Vince McMahon has had throughout his career in reaching the most elusive audience in television -- young males," NBC Sports chief Dick Ebersol said.

    Ebersol told reporters that the XFL is expected to turn a profit after about three years.

    As part of the deal, NBC will become a 50 percent owner and operator of the XFL and its eight teams.

    The network will broadcast XFL games during prime time on Saturday nights from February through April after the league starts play on Feb. 3, 2001. It also will broadcast the XFL Championship game, the first of which will be played on April 21, 2000.

    The league is to open play Feb. 1, 2001.

    This announcement likely ends any speculation of the WWF leaving USA Network in order to join up with CBS for the XFL, and having RAW and Heat air on the CBS-owned TNN.

    -- with files from SLAM! Wrestling, CANOE wire services



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