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Dwayne Johnson Pauses XFL Reboot Amid Discussions With CFL

“Neither league mentioned a possible merger in their statement, nor did they provide details on the discussions, only acknowledging they’re taking place.”

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The CFL has been an operational professional football league since 1958, while the XFL is preparing for its third reboot having never made it through more than one full season. And according to statements released by both leagues, they’re engaged in preliminary discussions about how they can work together.

Last August, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson partnered with Dani Garcia and RedBird Capital to acquire the XFL from Vince McMahon for $15 million. McMahon attempted to reboot the league last year after it failed in 2001, but the XFL 2.0 was ruined by the COVID-19 pandemic. Shortly after purchasing the league, Johnson and Garcia announced the XFL would return in 2022, but those plans are now on hold, pending the outcome of discussions with the CFL. 

Neither league mentioned a possible merger in their statement, nor did they provide details on the discussions, only acknowledging they’re taking place. 

“It’s clear through our early conversations that we share a passion for football, an expansive sense of possibility, and a deep desire to create more opportunity for players and fans across North America and around the world,” XFL president and CEO Jeffrey Pollack said. “Blending the CFL’s rich heritage with our fresh thinking, and the unique reach and experience of our ownership, could be transformative for the game.”

Johnson also acknowledged discussions with the CFL and expressed admiration for the league.

“As an owner of the XFL, our discussions with the CFL have been very exciting. There’s a real pulse here because you can feel the unique opportunity we can potentially create together,” he wrote. “Wherever it all leads, I can tell you this one is personal to me and is driven by all my passion – because me being cut by the CFL was the greatest thing that happened. It set me on a path that years later would lead me right back to the league.”

Like all sports, the CFL was hit hard by the global pandemic, but they were forced to cancel the 2020 season in anticipation of significant financial losses. After pledging to return, the CFL has announced a full schedule for 2021 set to kickoff in June, but lost income from a canceled season certainly has lasting impacts. 

A 63-year-old league, the CFL has a rich history in Canada. And even though the XFL is 0 for 2 in its attempts to get off the ground, it has some marketability within the United States, where the CFL’s presence is minimal. At the surface, a partnership seems like oil and water, but the CFL and XFL still represent two reeling football leagues with different qualities to offer.

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NBC Testing Nielsen Competitor for Super Bowl, Olympics

“NBCU is hoping a successful test leads to switching to iSpot.tv’s data going forward.”

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Networks have been unhappy with Nielsen for a while now, a recent issue involving Nielsen admitting to erroneously underreporting viewership numbers has not helped matters.

Most networks, however, have stuck with them due to Nielsen’s hold on the ad sales industry for decades.  NBCUniversal has decided to explore other options, going so far as to plan an upcoming test with an upstart Nielsen competitor during two of the biggest events in television: the Super Bowl and the Olympics.

According to a Los Angeles Times report from Stephen Battaglio, NBCUniversal will use data from iSpot.tv to provide viewing information on the two major events next month. Publicis Media, which owns several major ad-buying companies, has agreed to participate in the test with several of its clients.

NBCUniversal remains a client of Nielsen and will continue to use its ratings for the events. But the test with iSpot.tv — which has a multi-year deal to provide its services to NBCU — will be the most high-profile effort to promote a viable competitor to Nielsen.

The Times report states that this is more than just a bluff, as NBCU is hoping a successful test leads to switching to iSpot.tv’s data going forward. That would certainly mark a major shift, and it’s all tied back to NBC and other networks being dissatisfied with how Nielsen calculates non-traditional viewing. Considering that’s a growing portion of viewership, especially in key demographics, and that it’s only going to be more important going forward.

Obviously, the Super Bowl will pull numbers regardless, on traditional and non-traditional platforms. But NBC pays billions for the Olympics, and this move seems intended at finding more satisfactory tracking data it can present to advertisers.

But NBCU executives are of the mind that consumers have been watching more due to the variety of streaming options.  The network is hoping the data from iSpot.tv will confirm their assumption.

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Nabil Karim To Cover NHL and NBA For Turner

“Karim makes his debut Friday night on NBA TV.”

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Turner Sports and Nabil Karim have agreed on a multi-year deal. Karim will serve as a studio host and reporter for basketball and hockey programming.  An official announcement is expected later today.

Karim makes his debut Friday night on NBA TV. Most recently with ESPN, the British Columbia native was at TSN from 2011-2019, hosting a well-rounded suite of premier events.

He joined The Kyle Koster Show to talk about his new role, what he’s most excited about, and his career journey to this point.

“I think about broadcasters, and I wonder how many of them, their favorite two sports are hockey and basketball,” Nabil Karim said. “Being a Canadian, growing up with hockey, that was 1a and 1b for me. When Turner acquired NHL and this opportunity came up to work in hockey and basketball, it was a no-brainer.”

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Pete Thamel Joins ESPN as College Football Insider

“Richard Deitsch of The Athletic notes that Thamel will become a “major” part of College GameDay.”

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Just like the NFL, the news rarely stops in college football these days. That is why ESPN is hiring someone to cover the sport the way Adam Schefter covers the NFL. That someone will be Yahoo’s Pete Thamel.

Andrew Marchand reported Wednesday night that Thamel is expected to join ESPN in a insider role covering college football.

ESPN already has three reporters that it classifies as “college football insiders.” Those are Heather Dinich, Adam Rittenberg and Mark Schlabach. Thamel appears set to become the face of that operation though.

Richard Deitsch of The Athletic notes that Thamel will become a “major” part of College GameDay.

Thamel’s hire continues something of a trend for ESPN. Marchand points out that whenever the network is in the market for an insider to cover a sport, it tends to go shopping at Yahoo!. Pete Thamel joins Adrian Wojnarowski and Jeff Passan as insiders that left the site for Bristol.

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