Sports Film ’12 Mighty Orphans’ Due on Digital, DVD and Blu-ray Aug. 31 From Sony

The historical sports film 12 Mighty Orphans will come out on digital, DVD and Blu-ray Aug. 31 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

An official selection at the Tribeca Film Festival, the film stars Luke Wilson, Vinessa Shaw, Wayne Knight, Jake Austin Walker, with Robert Duvall and Martin Sheen.

It tells the true story of the Mighty Mites, the football team of a Fort Worth, Texas, orphanage who, during the Great Depression, went from playing without shoes — or even a football — to playing for the Texas state championships. Over the course of their winning season these underdogs and their resilient spirit became an inspiration to their city, state and an entire nation in need of a rebound, even catching the attention of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The architect of their success was Rusty Russell, a legendary high school coach who shocked his colleagues by giving up a privileged position so he could teach and coach at an orphanage. Few knew Rusty’s secret: that he himself was an orphan. Recognizing that his scrawny players couldn’t beat the other teams with brawn, Rusty developed innovative strategies that would come to define modern football.

Special features include deleted scenes.

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Disney, NFL and ESPN Reach Long-Term Agreement

The Walt Disney Company, ESPN and the National Football League have reached a long-term agreement that will result in ABC/ESPN joining the Super Bowl rotation, having additional playoff action, exclusive national ESPN+ matchups over the course of the agreement, and more regular-season contests including “Monday Night Football.”

The deal will also result in enhanced game quality and new schedule flexibility, according to a Disney press release.

The 10-year agreement begins with the 2023 season.

“This landmark agreement guarantees that ESPN’s passionate fan base will continue to have access to the best the NFL has to offer,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek said in a statement. “Bringing all the considerable and unique capabilities of The Walt Disney Company and ESPN to the table opens up so many opportunities across our industry-leading direct-to-consumer, broadcast, cable, linear, social and digital outlets. Special thanks to Roger Goodell and the NFL owners for continuing to embrace new ways to appeal to their fans, especially through increasingly important platforms like ESPN+.”

“When ESPN and the NFL work best together, the results are transformational for sports fans and the industry,” Jimmy Pitaro, chairman, ESPN and sports content, said in a statement. “Some of the most remarkable collaborative examples have occurred in the past 12 months and have demonstrated the extraordinary range of The Walt Disney Company that is fundamental to this agreement. There are so many exciting new components, including Super Bowls and added playoff games, new end-of-season games with playoff implications, exclusive streaming games on ESPN+, scheduling flexibility and enhancements, and much more. It’s a wide-ranging agreement unlike any we’ve reached with the NFL, and we couldn’t be more energized about what the future holds.”

“We are thrilled to extend and expand our partnership with Disney far into the future, as ESPN will continue to host cable’s most-watched series, ‘Monday Night Football,’ and ABC is returning as a Super Bowl broadcaster,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “We look forward to working with Disney as they use new platforms, including ESPN+, in innovative ways to reach even more NFL fans.”

ABC/ESPN will carry two Super Bowls (2026, 2030 seasons) as part of a rotation between the NFL’s media partners, marking the first time that an ESPN-NFL agreement includes such Super Bowl rights, according to the press release. ABC last televised the Super Bowl in February 2006 (2005 NFL season). Also, ESPN will present more playoff action, adding an annual divisional round game to its schedule, which will continue to include a wild-card matchup.

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ESPN’s increased regular-season package will include one annual exclusive national game on ESPN+. The game will take place internationally and will be aired live in the Sunday morning Eastern time zone window. Additionally, this agreement allows ESPN the opportunity to simulcast all ESPN/ABC game telecasts on ESPN+.

Also included is rights for the return of ESPN+ highlights show “NFL PrimeTime” each week on the streaming platform.

ESPN will increase its regular-season schedule by 35% — six more games per year (from 17 to 23). It will include an ESPN game on Monday nights (including three weeks with a separate game on ABC), a Saturday doubleheader the season’s final week and the Sunday morning game on ESPN+.

The added two Saturday games will take place during the final week of the regular season and will showcase matchups with playoff implications. Both of those games will be simulcast on ABC and ESPN.

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The agreement includes new elements that will enhance the caliber of the “Monday Night Football” slate, according to the press release. First, the schedule will be more flexible than in years past with the ability for the NFL to swap “a more meaningful” game into the “Monday Night Football” slot with 12 days’ notice from Week 12 on, according to the press release. Additionally, top teams will appear more often, as a result of the agreement which provides ESPN the ability to showcase any four teams at least twice, “leading to even more compelling games,” according to Disney.

With comprehensive NFL highlights rights, ESPN will continue to offer and/or develop NFL-branded programming, pre- and post-game shows, news, analysis and highlights studio shows, storytelling vehicles, digital and social content and more. The deal also includes data rights (e.g. – NFL’s Next Gen stats), according to Disney.

In addition, ESPN has once again secured rights to the annual Pro Bowl. Other key elements include opportunities for alternate telecasts, extending and expanding ESPN’s international rights (including areas in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Oceania, India), ESPN Deportes and more.

ESPN has also obtained rights to NFL Drafts, an event that has been an ESPN fixture since 1980, as part of the agreement.

The 2021 season will be the last in ESPN’s current arrangement with the NFL. ESPN and the NFL have reached a bridge agreement for 2022 — the year between when the previous agreement expires and the new 10-year extension begins. For both the 2021 and 2022 seasons, all the foundational components from the agreement expiring in 2021 will be included (e.g. – weekly “Monday Night Football” games), in addition to select elements from the new 10-year agreement. For example, in 2021, ESPN will be adding the two Saturday games with playoff implications on the last weekend of the regular season. For the 2022 bridge year, ESPN will showcase the two Saturday games with playoff implications on the last weekend of the season, a Sunday morning ESPN+ game and one ABC “Monday Night Football” broadcast on a week there is also an ESPN Monday Night Football telecast.

Doc ‘Maybe Next Year’ Coming to DVD and Digital HD Nov. 10 From Virgil

The documentary Maybe Next Year, about Philadelphia football fans, will come out on DVD and digital HD Nov. 10 from Virgil Films.

Since 1776, Philadelphia has existed in the shadows of New York City and Washington D.C. Counted out and overlooked, Philadelphians turned to football as a way to let out their frustrations. After 58 years of coming up short, a Super Bowl title has become Philly’s holy grail. What started out as the most promising year in decades, the 2017 season quickly unraveled with the season ending injury of their MVP quarterback. With the deck stacked against them, an “underdog” city bands together and puts their faith in an unlikely backup.

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From throwing snowballs at Santa Claus to having a jail in their stadium, this fan base has earned their title of “worst in the NFL.” Maybe Next Year peels back the veil and offers an intimate look at the lives of four very different and very dedicated Eagles fans, unified by their commitment to family, unwavering passion, and the common dream of becoming Super Bowl Champions. Eagles fans paint their own portrait of what brotherly love truly means in this comeback sports story.

XFL Cancels Reboot Season, Vows 2021 Return

WWE founder Vince McMahon’s alternative professional football league, the XFL, is canceling the remainder of its inaugural season due to the coronavirus. The move follows other professional sports leagues and organizations shutting down venues and events to help thwart the spread of the pandemic that has infected more than 125,000 people and killed about 5,000.

Games have been streamed on Disney-owned ESPN’s ESPN Player, the standalone service only available outside the United States.

With many state and local governments issuing moratoriums on large gatherings of people (limited to 250 or less), the decision was largely out of McMahon’s hands.

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“Currently, the XFL will not be playing its regular-season games,” the league said in a statement. “However, all players will be paid their base pay and benefits for 2020 regular season. All XFL ticket holders will be issued refunds or credit towards future games. The XFL is committed to playing a full season in 2021 and future years.”

The XFL, which had completed five weeks of its season, was scheduled to hold its championship game on April 26. The NFL doesn’t begin play until September.

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