College Football, XFL, Australian Open Headline ESPN Slate

Three major fixtures to open the college football season, the XFL, a new Australian Open agreement and two new “30 for 30” documentaries were announced Tuesday by ESPN as part of its presentation to advertisers in New York.

Three major fixtures to open the college football season, the XFL, a new Australian Open agreement and two new “30 for 30” documentaries were announced Tuesday by ESPN as part of its presentation to advertisers in New York.

The five-year deal with the XFL concluded the presentation. It covers all 43 games (40 regular season and the playoffs) on ABC, ESPN and FX. XFL Owner Dany Garcia and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson were in attendance to present the news. The XFL is scheduled to begin on February 18, 2023, with eight teams playing 10 regular season games and the playoffs.

ABC has a September 3 doubleheader to kick off the college football season. Georgia meets Oregon in the Chick-fil-A kickoff game in Atlanta at 3:30 p.m. EDT. Aside from the Bulldogs opening their national title defenses, it’s the first game for Ducks coach Dan Lanning, Georgia’s defensive coordinator for the past two seasons.

New Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman makes his road debut against Ohio State at 7:30 p.m. The day begins with ESPN’s College GameDay, which will be hosted from Columbus, Ohio with its first on-campus show of the season.

Former Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly takes the ABC spotlight the following night when LSU takes on Florida State in New Orleans.

Many thought ABC would have to abandon the Notre Dame-Ohio State game so Fox could release Joe Buck early from his contract to join Troy Aikman on the “Monday Night Football” booth. However, Burke Magnus, ESPN’s president of programming and original content, said it was not considered.

“Fox is #1 overall in the Big 10. This has historically been the State of Ohio-Michigan every year. We knew the No. 2 Notre Dame-Ohio State was coming to us, and then we didn’t want to give that up,” Magnus said. “This is just a tremendous matchup to open the season. Labor Day weekend has become such a franchise for us. There is no NFL competition and so many meaningful college football games are played.”

ABC will host the game on September 24 between Wisconsin and Ohio State, Texas versus Oklahoma in Dallas on October 8 and Florida in Florida State on November 25. The duel between the Sunshine State’s rivals will take place the day after Thanksgiving for the first time.

ESPN has extended his Australian Open contract to 2031. It extended its contract with Wimbledon to 2035 last year and has the rights to the US Open until 2025.

The nine-year deal with Tennis Australia will include an increase in hours on ESPN and ESPN2. Viewers complained about the drop in coverage of this year’s tournament on linear channels, particularly during the night hours, which are the night games in Australia. Those games were on the ESPN+ streaming service.

“Honestly, we have the availability, so we’re going to add some nighttime coverage on the linear networks. I think that will balance the linear vs. direct-to-consumer balance,” Magnus said. “There will still be hundreds of games on ESPN+, but the mix between linear and digital will tilt back more towards linear.”

ESPN+ will continue to provide exclusive coverage of all games not airing on ESPN or ESPN2, along with on-demand replays of completed games and a daily highlights show. An hour-long highlights show will also be broadcast on ABC during the middle and final weekends of the tournament.

Among other ESPN announcements on Tuesday:

ESPN Films will have two 30 for 30 documentaries sometime this year about pool great Jeanette Lee, nicknamed “The Black Widow,” and the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, who defeated the New York Giants in Super Bowl 35.

Black Widow is a documentary produced by ESPN Films in association with Words + Pictures, directed by Ursula Liang (9-Man, Down a Dark Stairwell) and produced by Cora Atkinson (Summer of Soul).

The Ravens film is being made in association with NFL Films, and will be co-directed by Ken Rodgers and Jason Weber.

Peyton’s Places on ESPN+ is expanding with new shows hosted by Sue Bird (college basketball), John McEnroe (tennis) and PK Subban (hockey).

Manning’s production company, Omaha Productions, will have its first UFC megacast with UFC 276 from Las Vegas on July 2nd. The middleweight championship fight between defending champion Israel Adesanya and Jared Cannonier forms the prelude.

Peyton and Eli Manning hosted ESPN’s segment of Disney Upfront, which also featured the Monday Night Football crew of Buck, Aikman and Lisa Salters.

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Joe Reedy, The Associated Press




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