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NFL Flag Football Championship to Air on ABC, ESPN, Stream On Disney+

NFL Flag Football Championship to Air on ABC, ESPN, Stream On Disney+

The NFL‘s flag football championships will be getting prime TV and streaming real estate under its new deal with The Walt Disney Co.

Back in February, ESPN inked a five-year deal for the rights to NFL Flag, and the league now says that the championship games will get distribution that would make other professional sports leagues green with envy.

The flag finals will run on ESPN, the ABC broadcast network, Disney Channel and Disney XD, and it will stream on Disney+ in a further expansion of the streaming service’s live sports efforts. It will also stream on ESPN+ and NFL+, and air on ESPN Deportes.

ESPN itself will televise 32 hours of matches, with all games also streaming on ESPN+ and NFL+ and some games also to be played on ESPN2 and on YouTube.

The NFL says that 280 boys and girls teams are participating this year, with six international teams also set to compete. The event will take place from July 18-21, at the Hall of Fame Village in Canton, Ohio. Toyota is the presenting sponsor of the event.

“Combining ESPN and Disney platforms with the NFL’s commitment to flag football, the NFL Flag Championships will be the showcase event of the summer for the world’s fastest growing sport,” said Julie Sobieski, ESPN senior VP of league programming and acquisitions, in a statement. “Through our presentation and robust global distribution, we will spotlight the highly talented boys and girls within the tournament, while also highlighting the exciting, inclusive, and accessible nature of the sport. We look forward to being a gateway for many fans, including the peers of the participating athletes, to experience competitive flag football for the first time.”

The NFL has leaned into flag football in recent years, partly in response to concerns around tackle football injuries like concussions, but also as a means to grow the game among kids and young people.

The league also changes its annual Pro Bowl to culminate in a flag football match between the teams, eliminating the full-contact version of the event.

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But the NFL’s flag efforts are also a long-term play to build a new version of the sport, one that could have a robust audience of its own. And the deal with Disney is a big push in that direction.

“The NFL Flag Championships presented by Toyota, being held at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in Canton, Ohio, amplifies the goal for this tournament and for the NFL,” added Stephanie Kwok, VP of Flag Football for the NFL. “This championship will showcase highly competitive games with competition from all 32 NFL clubs around the country. It also exemplifies that flag football at the grassroots level is inclusive and accessible, every girl or boy that wants to play will have every opportunity to play this game.” 

Disney, meanwhile, is quietly adding yet more sports content to Disney+. Its first event was last month, featuring Caitlin Clark’s WNBA debut. The company also said that it will add an ESPN tile to Disney+ later this year, with select live games and studio programming.

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