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ESPN upfronts: Disney's deal with XFL, plus new productions for "30 for 30," "Places"

Disney in its new XFL deal, announced at an upfront presentation in N.Y., will "put XFL games on ESPN, FX and ABC," according to Brian Steinberg of VARIETY. The games are "expected to start" in '23, and the deal will last through '27. Under the pact, each season -- 40 regular season games, two playoffs, and one championship -- will be "featured on a combination of ABC, ESPN networks and FX." The deal includes "exclusive rights across Disney and ESPN’s digital, social and direct-to-consumer outlets, including ESPN+." The inclusion of FX is "notable," since the cable outlet is "typically focused on premium scripted drama and comedy" (VARIETY.com, 5/17).

NEW DOCUMENTARIES COMING: In Baltimore, Jonas Shaffer notes ESPN Films revealed that production has "started on a '30 for 30' documentary" on the '00 Ravens, whose "dominant defense powered the team to a Super Bowl XXXV title." Those Ravens were "led by colorful coaches like Brian Billick and players like inside linebacker Ray Lewis." The documentary will be co-directed by Ken Rodgers, who has "directed several NFL documentaries" for the "30 for 30" series, along with NFL Producer Jason Weber (BALTIMORE SUN, 5/18). AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Sean Keeley noted the "other doc announcement was for a film about professional pool player Jeanette Lee, commonly known as 'The Black Widow.'" ESPN viewers in the '90s were "often treated to Lee’s dominating performances" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 5/17).

GROWING THE FRANCHISE: DEADLINE's Patrick Hipes wrote the "Places" franchise on ESPN+ is "growing." New additions include "Sue Bird exploring college basketball with Sue’s Places; three-time NHL All-Star P.K. Subban toplining P.K.’s Places; while McEnroe’s Places will serve up tennis tales with 17-time Grand Slam champ John McEnroe." The "Places" franchise is "produced by NFL Films in collaboration with ESPN+ and executive produced by Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions" (DEADLINE.com, 5/17).

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