Fight Biz Quote: Detroit Free Press

October 27, 2008

• As Rick Morrissey exits, I ask the veteran Chicago Tribune columnist if he’ll be back at a UFC event anytime soon.

• “Yeah, I might,” he said. “I like it.”

• It’s been a long time coming, but maybe the UFC is finally starting to make a few fans in the mainstream sports media. We can only hope.

-Nick Meyer of the Detroit Free Press, commenting on the long awaited embracing of MMA by the sports media.

Rachelle In Playboy (Pic)

October 27, 2008


UFC personality Rachelle Leah recently appeared in Playboy, but also included in the issue was one of the first media buys for the partnership between the UFC and Bud Light. Leah was featured in an ad for the beer company elsewhere in the issue.

Canada's Network TV Landscape

October 27, 2008

Roger’s Sportsnet Poised To Lead MMA Coverage in Canada

He’s perhaps the most influential referee in the sport, he’s the man who coined the phrase “let’s get it on!,” and he’s also the man who made waves through the Canadian MMA community earlier this month when he announced his departure from The Fight Network [TFN].

To many an MMA fan in Canada, TFN is considered to be the only source for consistent MMA media coverage in the country; but, sadly, “Big” John McCarthy’s departure, in addition to the loss of their UFC content privileges, and rumoured financial trouble, have seriously put the broadcast network’s future in doubt.

All of this begs the question, if not TFN in Canada then whom? The answer, while not immediately apparent, seems to be Roger’s Sportsnet.

While Sportsnet has long played second-fiddle to the mighty sports juggernaut that is TSN, they now appear poised to gain the upper hand with MMA – a sport that is increasingly attracting greater amounts of attention, not only from viewers, but also advertisers.

To start, Sportsnet has – for a major sports network – been granted unparalleled access to the UFC. In fact, so much so that they were able to broadcast UFC 89 live and in HD, a full six hours before any other network in North America. Sportsnet’s relationship with the UFC also gives them an opportunity to broadcast Ultimate Fight Nights, episodes of The Ultimate Fighter, and full, week-long coverage of UFC PPV events. Sportsnet viewers are getting the full gamut of fighter interviews, press conferences, weigh-ins, and fight predictions the week leading up to a major UFC PPV – all in addition to a Sunday afternoon wrap-up.

The network is also succeeding where others have failed. Contrary to the myopic approach that most sports outlets have taken to MMA, Sportsnet’s coverage is not exclusive to the UFC. In what seems like an ironic twist of sorts, Sportsnet’s access to the UFC has actually provided a platform to launch a more wide-ranging coverage of the entire sport of MMA. This is particularly evident online; where the MMA enthusiast can find an array of content and information for a variety of promotions.

I had the privilege of speaking with Sportsnet’s chief MMA expert, Joe Ferraro, last week and he’s promised “explosive stuff” from the network in 2009. Ferraro emphasized the need for an increasingly global approach to MMA with regard to Sportsnet’s future coverage. He also noted that, “the real difficulty for [Sportsnet] is attracting the hardcore fan. We’ve already got the casual fan via the rest of our programming.” He then added, “and in that sense, I suppose [Sportsnet’s] challenge is the exact opposite of MMA’s.”

And if there were ever any doubt as to the current demand for MMA content and MMA-related advertising within Canada, Ferraro put that debate to rest, “our [advertising slots] are bought-out almost immediately. [Advertisers] understand the value of reaching the MMA demographic.”

Other Networks Need To Wake Up

And who would have ever figured Sportsnet to snatch the MMA ball and run with it?

My immediate reaction to TFN’s decreasing role led me to Canadian sports juggernaut, TSN. The subsidiary of CTVglobemedia Inc., TSN [The Sports Network] is the number one specialty channel in Canada and essentially the Canadian equivalent of ESPN – it even has its own Sportscentre.

Unfortunately, TSN’s only MMA offerings to date have been tape delay broadcasts of WEC events (sometimes 2-3 weeks behind). Their programming content seems to reflect an older demographic as they’re heavy on the NHL, the Canadian Football League, and Tough Man competitions (if you can believe it). Within the last year, however, they’ve won bids for the right to broadcast Monday Night Football and the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.

Moreover, TSN’s online content is nearly non-existent. They’ve got a wealth of information and blogs dedicated to just about every other major sport – including boxing – yet scarcely more than an Associated Press copy-paste mention of the UFC and absolutely nothing on any other promotion except if it involves Kimbo Slice.

To be fair, however, TSN is anything but short for programming these days and it’s entirely plausible that increasing their MMA content could threaten the company’s existing audience. And why bite the hand that feeds you?

So, needless to say, I then turned to the other remaining sports media outlet, The Score. The former broadcast home of the Alberta-based Hardcore Fighting Championship and Calvin Ayre’s Bodog Fights, the score is a low-budget network that fills much of its programming line-up with looping coverage of sports highlights, poker tournaments, and a mix of European football and NCAA programming. They also recently signed a distribution deal with Scott Coker’s Strikeforce. Interesting, but enough? Not nearly – especially considering they have zero online MMA presence.

Conclusion

Yes, there is an incumbent on the MMA scene – its name is Roger’s Sportsnet and it’s led by one of the better analysts in the sport today, Showdown Joe Ferraro.

They might not be the 24/7 combat channel that TFN was, but be rest assured that they’re about to set a major sports network precedent for MMA coverage in the future.

For more information about Roger’s Sportsnet and its MMA content, check out www.sportsnet.ca/mma.

Also, be sure to listen into Showdown Joe Ferraro’s next podcast through www.showdown.ca/.

UFC 90 Bonuses and Gate Numbers

October 26, 2008

Fight of the Night – Sean Sherk vs Tyson Griffin
Knockout of the Night – Junior Dos Santos
Submission of the Night – Spencer Fisher

Bonus amounts for UFC 90 – $65,000

15,359 attendance for a $2.85 million dollar gate.

Figures courtesy of MMAWeekly.

UFC 90 Thoughts

October 26, 2008

Watching the main event from UFC 90, we saw Anderson Silva face off against what may be his toughest opponent yet, the opponent that may be his ultimate undoing. No it wasn’t Cote, who generally looked to be incidental to the night’s festivities. Silva’s most daunting opponent on the night, and his biggest one going forward, were the twin devils of apathy and disinterest. Silva’s toughest task on the night seemed to be more about entertaining himself as opposed to fighting Cote.

The biggest portion of the action by Anderson in the first couple of rounds was based around integrating his Samba game with his fight game than trying to finish the tough French Canadian. Anderson’s game seemed very much slow to boil, never reach the critical mass, the swirling ballet of violence that he is so noted for. From my view, this sense of ennui was based in Anderson’s mindset for the fight rather than Cote doing anything of note.

If Anderson continues his reign at 185, he may face a future much like his boxing hero, Roy Jones Jr. RJJ spent a big portion of his career fighting in the netherworld between boxing’s middleweight and heavyweight divisions, outclassing his foes to a laughable degree and left to his own devices to entertain himself since his opponents presented little challenge. Age eventually caught up with RJJ, moreso than anyone else’s skill level. That may be the future that befalls Anderson, unless he takes a leap of faith into the 205 division, a division that would test his legend and could cement the UFC’s marketing campaign that have you think he is the best P4P fighter in the world. Such a claim is going to be hard to take serious if he stays at the 185 limit, and faces the likes of Okami, Bisping, or a re-match with Cote.

The UFC through its surrogates put forward the notion that a re-match might be in order, but nothing in the fight of note would warrant that idea. Cote playing the game existence til the end may be a personal victory but it won’t make for an interesting fight if they are to do this fight again.

Most impressive on the night was the performance of Thiago Alves. Alves’ dominating performance over Koscheck solidified in my mind his bona fides, making him a serious threat to the winner of the BJ Penn vs GSP fight. Thiago’s rise to prominence has eerily mirrored that of GSP. Alves is the handsome young foreign born fighter with the endearing ESL lilt who has went through a murderer’s row of Karo, Hughes, and Koscheck. We’ve seen this movie before, in an earlier time with a certain Canuck superstar. Alves dominating performance gives credence to his being a viable threat to GSP’s crown, to a degree unlike anyone he has faced recently.

Thiago’s striking may be the most dangerous in the 170 division, and I would be hard pressed to name anyone in the other divisions that has looked as crisp and dangerous in the stand-up. To go along with this, Alves’ ability to deny the takedown in his fights against Hughes and Kos should bode well for the dominant wrestler that GSP has involved into. Alves’ performance in his last three fights against name brand opponents have been a tranformational stretch, taking him from a mid-range player in the weight class that was vaguely interesting to a next level guy that could draw money in a match-up with GSP.

Fishman Adds Some Perspective on Station Casinos Trouble

October 25, 2008

There has been much talk recently on the troubles being encountered by the Fertitta family with their stake in Station Casinos. Many websites, ours amongst them, have detailed the troubles that have been brought on by the credit crunch and economic downturn: Fight Opinion, Bloody Elbow, FightLinker, MMAPayout 1, 2.

Bob Carson of Carson’s Corner spoke with with former casino executive and Pride associate Ed Fishman who gave perspective on the casino industry troubles and what they mean to Station Casinos in particular. Fishman is an oldhand in the casino business and does a good job of breaking down a lot of issues in layman’s terms.

Fishman doesn’t give much creedance to the idea that Lorenz may have been shown the door at Station. Colony Capital, which owns 75% of Station, doesn’t know the casino business and that gave them the impetus to keep them around once the company was taken private. Fishman characterized them as excellent operators and the performance of Station Casinos owes more to an industry wide downturn as opposed to any concrete mismanagement of the company.

I’m curious to if this downturn is hitting Station to a higher degree than others in Vegas. The rise of Station Casinos under Lorenzo and Frank III is usually tied to their performance in the locals market, but from all I’ve read on the brothers, an equal part of the success was a big play in scooping up real estate in the Vegas area, essentially being ahead of the game in land speculation. Speculation like that is usually dependent on high levels of financing that would be a significant albatross around their neck now. Some of that may have been lessened by taking the company private and having Colony Capital assume a large part of the equity in the company. Regardless, there is still in excess of $5 billion in debt that is pressuring operations, as they look to cut costs.

On a related note, there was also an article in the Las Vegas Review Journal that forecast a less than enthusiastic opening for the new property owned by the Fertittas, the Alliante, and also gave a look at the size of the downturn for the industry as a whole:

Station Casino executives told state gaming regulators Thursday they don’t know how well the $662 million Aliante Station will perform when it opens next month given current economic conditions.

“There’s not a lot of visibility in our business today,” said Thomas Friel, Station Casinos’ chief accounting officer. “It’s a bit of a crap shoot to figure out where things might be.”

The Nevada Gaming Commission unanimously approved licensing of the North Las Vegas property, which is scheduled to open Nov. 11, but asked the gaming company’s executives questions about how the company plans to operate the property in the current market.

Gaming revenue in North Las Vegas declined 17.81 percent in August to $18.1 million, and is down 6.3 percent to $284.7 million for the last 12 months ending Aug. 31

BSN Adds UFC Coverage to Website

October 25, 2008

Lifestyle marketing analyst Finn McKenty noted that nutrition and supplement company BSN has added to it’s sponsorship deal with the UFC by including coverage of the UFC 90 weigh-ins on their company website:

BSN is proud to announce for the first time ever, the weigh-in for this historic UFC® 90: SILVA VS. COTE will be broadcast live and free on www.bsnonline.net at 5:00 pm Eastern Standard Time on Friday, October 24, 2008. See the biggest names in the UFC® like Anderson Silva, Patrick Cote, Thiago Alves, Josh Koscheck, Sean Sherk and Tyson Griffin weigh in the day before their big fights … live and free!

McKenty had some great perspective on the weigh-in deal on his Lifestyle Marketing Blog:

It’s great to see BSN leveraging their UFC sponsorship in new ways and becoming more tightly integrated into the events like this. Normally I’d say that weigh-ins aren’t really a great showcase for a brand, but for a sports nutrition brand like BSN, it’s a great match! What more appropriate occasion to talk about supplements than weigh-ins?

UFC Standardizing Advertising Banners (Updated)

October 25, 2008

A recent edict by the UFC has sought to standardize the appearance of banners that fighters use as a backdrop during pre-fight introductions. The reasoning behind the shift, put forward in an e-mail that MMAPayout.com has obtained, is solid. To Wit:

By standardizing the format and size of the banners, our goal is to create a more professional appearance and improve their overall effectiveness on behalf of your sponsors. It will simply look better and that’s good for everyone involved in the event.

As has been the practice in the past, however, you may only display one (1) banner during the introductions only. After the introductions have concluded, the banner may not be displayed inside or outside of the Octagon® at any time.

Standardizing the these banners is a good idea. A uniform presentation will allow for a more professional and visually pleasing experience. Sloppy work in this area reflects poorly not only on the fighter and said companies, but the UFC as well. Some might see this as a bit authoritarian, but this would be a bit misguided, as the logic put forth in the edict is hard to argue with. A cleaner, crisper presentation benefits all brands involved.

Update: One thing of note is the mandatory inclusion of UFC and Venue logos on all banners. With the ubiquity of naming rights for venues, the UFC is able to offer this as a value added item when negotiating with venues. It does, however, come at the expense of the fighter. Article 22.2 of the Zuffa Standard contract allows the UFC to force inclusion of their logo or their sponsor’s logos on the fighter without his consent and without compensation.

For the record, some of the changes being instituted:

– Total size of banner is 6′ (6 feet) wide by 4′ (4 feet) tall.
– All artwork (including venue logos) must be placed 6″ below the top of the banner, center aligned.
– The venue logo shall be at least 44″ wide by 4.5″ tall. The font used is Arial Black. The background for the venue logo shall be black and the letters in white.
– UFC logos are to be placed 3″ from the left and right edges of the banner, aligned with the bottom of the venue logo. The UFC logos should be separated by 2″ gap on each side of the venue logo. The UFC logos shall be at least 5” by 1.5” and also be in white.
– Camps have a 66″x32″ workspace located 2.5″ below the venue and UFC logos, 3″ from the left and right sides, and 3″ from the bottom of the banner to display their approved sponsors in.

The Ultimate Fighter 8 Episode 6 Rating

October 25, 2008

TUF 8 Episode 6 did a 1.29 household rating, with 1.674 million viewers. The show did a 1.44 in men 18-49, 1.35 in men 18-34.

After some wild swings in the ratings, going from a .79 one week to a 1.42 the next, the numbers seem to have stabilized a bit with last week being a 1.1 and this week a 1.29. Spike executives should be happy if they can see a consistent number in that 1.2 range.

Online Company Looking to Purchase EliteXC Websites

October 24, 2008

5thRound.com is reporting that there has been some interest on the part of Online Broadcasting Systems, the parent company of RingSports, to purchase the online assets of EliteXC. Ringsports CEO commented:

RingSports CEO Manny Fernandez said in a statement, “I hope we can build on some of the great aspects of their internet foundation, especially the technology of their websites and their social networking aspects.”

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