Viacom-TWC Dispute: More Smoke Than Fire?

December 31, 2008

You can follow the full he said, she said here of the brickmanship that could result in Spike/UFC losing several million households as a result of the current fee dispute between Viacom and Time Warner Cable. The dispute has received a good amount of coverage in the MMA world, with the tone suggesting that it is a real possibility that Viacom will go dark on Time Warner shortly, leaving Spike and the UFC out in the cold.

TVByTheNumbers.com, one of the leading TV blogs, has a more sober analysis of the situation, suming up the odds of Viacom actually disappearing from Time Warner in one word: “doubtful:”

Viacom is hurting in general, and this isn’t a deal where it’s looking to get paid, it’s looking to get paid $.25/mo./subscriber more than it’s already receiving from TWC. I do not in any way immediately jump to the conclusion that Viacom deserves a $.25/month increase across all subscribers, and Time Warner is armed with data about how much time its customers spend watching Viacom channels.

I seriously doubt Viacom will give up all the revenues it receives from TWC in the name of earning an additional few million or so a month, but I also seriously doubt that TWC can handle the customer service hit. You can’t go dark on Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and MTV, etc. without running into a customer service nightmare.

Right now it seems like just an interesting game of chicken heading into the New Year, and the stuff Nikki Finke posted is pure Viacom propoganda in hopes of gaining some negotiating leverage. My bet is one of them, probably Viacom, blinks before the networks go dark on TWC. Can Viacom afford to lose the TWC subscriber base? Hell no. It would be looking at all kinds of make goods if that happened.

Can TWC really take on the customer service nightmare and lost local ad revenues for those channels? Not paying any fees at all would more than make up for the local ad revenue, but at the expense of screaming customers, and increased defection to satellite, and where available, FiOS. Though TWC seems in a better position than Viacom, TWC is clearly not going to be able to reprise Michael Corleone in The Godfather, part II and take a position like:

Viacom, you can have our answer now if you like. Our final offer is this: nothing. Not even the monthly fees we we’re already paying you…

…but it’s fun to think about.

UFC 92 News, Notes, And Thoughts

December 29, 2008

Thoughts

The Brand is the Key in 2009 - With the outcomes of Saturday Night’s fights, it seems more than ever that the strength of the UFC brand will be more important than ever in 2009. With Wins by Rashad Evans and Frank Mir, two of the high profile slots in the company will be occupied by two fighters that have no track record of being a draw for the company. Both fighters are faced with a situation where their ability to draw on PPV will be heavily defendant on their opponents drawing power. Rashad could do strong numbers if paired up with Rampage Jackson, but might do Anderson Silva type numbers if paired with someone like Lyoto Machida. The possibility of a Machida vs Evans main event would be a quite the test for the UFC hype machine. I’ve queried in the past why a Machida vs Evans hasn’t taken place already, well before any titles or main event slots would have been involved in order to take one or the other out of the top of the card. Mir is faced with a similar problem. A showdown with Lesnar will do huge numbers again, with Brock bringing all of the box office to the table. If Mir takes that fight, you are faced with Mir as a champ with little PPV appeal of his own and slim pickings amongst those in line for a title shot, necessitating a possibly recycling of Randy Couture back into the title picture. Again, the ability of the UFC have it’s fans show high brand loyalty will be key in 2009, something that may be assisted with a prevalence of cards similar to UFC 84 and UFC 92, with multiple “bigger” fights being stockpiled onto the same card.

Rashad the Neo-Couture?
- The rise of Rashad Evans is oddly reminiscent of Randy Couture’s road to glory in the UFC. Much has been made of Couture constantly being put in a situation to fail only to lay waste to the best of well laid plans. From his derailing of the Phenom Vitor Belfort, to his defeat of Heavyweight of the future at the time Pedro Rizzo, to his win over Chuck Liddell for the interim title in their first match-up to his five round domination of Tito Ortiz, Randy was put in multiple situations where the company would have been better off if he lost but he kept on upsetting the apple cart. Much was the case for Evans. From written off early on during TUF to playing second billing to someone named The Hillbilly Hearthrob at the TUF Finale, through to his improbable KO of Octagon legend Chuck Liddell to his capturing the the Light Heavyweight title from TUF prodigal son Forrest Griffin, Evans has been “swimming against the stream” the whole way, but has performed with aplomb. One may not be a fan of Rashad’s fighting style but you have to admire his ability to keep his eyes on the prize.

Sponsor Notes – As MMAPayout.com indicated earlier, MMA Authentics/Cage Fighter made their return to the Octagon at UFC 92.  Former Light Heavyweight Champion Quinton Rampage Jackson  was sporting a signature MMA Elite shirt, with special wolf design for the brawler known to let out a howl after victory.  Cornerman for Rampage Tiki Ghosen as well the entire Rampage crew were decked out in the shirts.  Any past tensions between the apparel brand and the UFC look to be in the rear view mirror.  Expect an announcement shorlty about a possible deal/further elaboration on the lifting of the ban.

The most ubiquitous sponsor of the night was Full Tilt Poker, a sponsor that MMAPayout has spoken on in the past. With gambling sites generally being on the no-go list for sponsors, it was a surprise to see the poker site as a primary sponsor for Randy Couture during his unsuccessful title defense against Brock Lesnar. Full Tilt also sponsored several AKA fighters, including Mike Swick and Josh Koscheck, on the Fight For the Troops card from Fayetteville, NC. The special dispensation given to those two particular camps would seem to raise an eyebrow, as neither are known for cozy relations with UFC brass. Allowing those two particular camps the sponsorship opportunity may be a case of the UFC using this as a carrot in a carrot and stick situation. It should also be noted that those two camps were the only ones allowed such deals with these poker/quasi gambling sites, with others precluded from doing similar deals. After appearances that all fighters weren’t being treated equitably, UFC Head Dana White opened up the sponsorship deal so that all fighters on the UFC 92 card were able to cut deals with poker sites, with Full Tilt being the biggest beneficiary. The end result being…… it was hard to throw a push kick on Saturday night without hitting someone that was wearing Full Tilt signage. However, these allowances pertained to UFC 92 only and policy for future cards is uncertain at this time.

Gameness Makes Leap From Apparel to Fight Promotion

December 26, 2008

Gameness, the largest distributor of Jiu Jitsu Gi’s in North America took the next step in establishing itself as a company willing to take bold strides to cement its locale as a player in the business of Mixed Martial Art’s when it successfully promoted the inaugural Gameness Fighting Championships fight card December 11th at the Tennessee State Fair Grounds in Nashville.

In an attempt to extend its already firm hold on the sports local scene, the fight gear producer began the long and tenuous journey from gear manufacturer to fight promoter in an attempt to provide the growing amount of competitors in and around Nashville a platform from which to showcase their talents inside the cage in the hopes of transcendence to the next level.

After a hard fought process rife with obstacles July 1st marked the day Tennessee became another in the growing number of additions to the list of states who’ve recognized the universal rules of mixed martial arts when a bill known simply as 91-4 passed unanimously with the states legislature. The passage of the bill validated the sport in the eyes of the state thus clearing the way for legally sanctioned bouts to begin.

While the legalization has only come of late, the battle to acquire the sport the legal approval began several years ago, that according to Shane Messer, owner of Gameness.

“We employed a lobbyist about 2 years ago to begin the process of trying to persuade the state to adopt the universal rules of MMA. It wasn’t until this past summer that large steps were made when we were joined in our efforts by the Memphis Grizzly’s who also operate the FedEx Forum venue and are responsible for booking shows and events there”

With the exponential growth enjoyed by MMA fight promotions like the UFC, the Grizzly’s organization was whole-heartedly in agreement with efforts begun by Gameness to garner the sport the legal sanctioning required to promote events in the state, specifically with an eye on enticing Zuffa to hold a live event at there venue.

The idea was successful and according to public statements made by UFC management, the state which is the birthplace of one of the promotions biggest stars in Quinton “Rampage” Jackson could see its first live event as soon as this coming year, possibly featuring the Tennessee native.

The revenue’s a live event can create as well as the potential tax dollars generated for the state were more than enough to convince the legislature that legal MMA was the wave of the ever changing future and they displayed their approval when they agreed unanimously by a count of 30 to 0 to ratify the bill.

While the legalization was a great victory for the sport in Tennessee, the passing of the bill presented several new logistical challenges for companies willing to brave the uncharted territory of promoting professional and amateur MMA events in the state.

Since there were no major MMA events held prior to the passage of the bill, all of the processes required to stage a successful event were being done for the first time ever. There was no handbook on how to promote and stage a live event in Tennessee, Messer and his team were creating the formula as they went along.

And the issues they faced were not minor or even ones with steps in place in order to rectify. For one, the state had no appointed athletic commission from which to ensure regulations were enforced. Not having a commission also meant no approved officials, referees, or judges. There were also issues regarding amateur bouts as opposed to professional. The strikes that make a mixed martial arts bout were now legal, so amateur bouts could now be held with no problem since the results wouldn’t count as professional, but with the lack of a governing body to sanction the professional bouts, combatants who had already gone pro would not be allowed to count the results towards their professional records.

In spite of all these potentially crippling time bomb’s presented by the lack of a governing body, Gameness pressed on and successfully promoted the first of several events it has planned for 2009 “Gameness Fighting Championship” the first and only legally sanctioned mixed martial arts event in the state’s history.

“It went extremely well, we had a paid attendance of 1500 people for our first event, and that was in the middle of a snow storm”

The inclement weather was not enough to detour these die hard fans who had been starved for high level mixed martial arts entertainment, so much so, 300 of the tickets sold for the event were walk up sales during some of the worst weather in the states history. Dedication of this magnitude would make a postal carrier proud, fans willing to brave rain, sleet or snow in support of the sport they love.

Little did those fans know the event, which seemingly went off without a hitch was a hair’s breath away from being canceled just 6 hours before it was slated to begin.

In an emergency meeting of the states governing body which had been previously charged with the responsibility of regulating only professional boxing, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance requested the presence of Messer and others involved to get an explanation as to what the evening’s event would entail. After the session with the board, the event was subsequently approved for amateur bouts only. Since there was no approval for the professional bouts, they would now be forced to become exhibitions.

Upon hearing the commissions decision Messer reluctantly accepted the boards decision but not before he informed the panel he would be back with a request for a 30 day temporary license similar to the one the state granted HBO for its recent televised boxing match between former undisputed middleweight champion Jermain Taylor and former fellow Olympian Jeff Lacy. The cable giant was granted a temporary license for its event held in Nashville and since mixed martial arts was now legal in Tennessee, common sense would lead one to believe that a if a license for boxing was acceptable, legal mixed martial arts should be as well…Right?

Well unfortunately only time will tell. Messer told us that he only hopes his next “appointment” with the board will bring him a step closer to bringing the local fans what they want and the local fighters the vehicle they need to make the jump to the larger promotions by granting his request for the 30 day temporary license. This will allow the professional bouts to count towards the fighter’s records and provide more opportunities for the fighter’s advancement as well as solidify the promotion as a viable organization.

The rousing success of their first event did more than its share to clear the way for the second set to take place February 14th once again at the Tennessee State’s Fair Grounds.

With efforts continuing to ensure the professional bouts slated for the card will count towards the fighter’s records, Gameness is undoubtedly doing its share to ensure the sport of mixed martial arts continues its proliferation throughout the great state of Tennessee and further establish its position as the fastest growing sport in history.

A Little Holiday Reading

December 25, 2008

TUF 205 lb Champion Ryan Bader is taking advantage of the break after his Finale win and not needing to cut weight anymore to enjoy a little holiday food, including some cookies and fudge. He is waiting to hear from the UFC for his next match.

Jay over at GymTops.com has a good piece detailing the MMA gifts you wish you had gotten today instead of the socks, sweater, or tin of popcorn that you got instead. Those cutouts are sweet, but I’m not so sure about the Octa-bed.

The Las Vegas Review Journal details holidays past and present with UFC 92 participants Forrest Griffin and Wanderlei Silva.

Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2008

Calvin Coolidge once observed, “Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”

For Christians, this spirit is epitomized by our Savior, Jesus Christ. Christ came to earth as God’s only son and gave His life that we might live. On Christmas we celebrate the birth not only of our Savior, but the redeeming love that his birth brought into the world.

Christian and non-Christian alike can come together to embrace the spirit of the season, the peace, love, and mercy that Christ represents. In the words of Charles Dickens, let us honor Christmas in our hearts and try to keep it all the year.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours,

God Bless,

Adam Swift

Countdown to UFC 92 Rating

December 23, 2008

MMAPayout.com has learned that the premiere of Countdown to UFC 92 on Spike drew 733,000 viewers. That is a strong number, especially in comparison to Countdown to UFC 91 on Spike drew only 537,000 viewers, also on a Monday night airing. The number is also significantly higher than the average Countdown viewer total for the year of around 600,000 viewers, mainly in a slot later in the week. Using the rating as a general gauge of mainstream interest in the show, the number should portend a higher than expected number for the PPV buys.

Cage Fighter Nearing Re-Entry Into Octagon

December 23, 2008

Conspicuous in their display during last night’s Countdown to UFC 92 was the Cage Fighter clothing brand. Cage Fighter is the best known of the brands from MMA clothier MMA Authentics. In a well publicized falling out with MMA Authentics, Cage Fighter and its’ sister brands were banned from the Octagon and any UFC related events. The dispute centered on MMA Authentics MMA Elite brand beating out the UFC for shelf space at Wal Mart. The prominent display of the brand during Countdown is the latest sign of a lessening in tensions between the UFC and the clothing brand.

Despite being banned from the Octagon, the lines of communication between the fight promotion and the clothing company have remained open. MMAPayot.com has learned negotiations heated up between the two in consultations in and around the TUF 8 Finale card and have been heavy since. A deal between the two seems imminent, with negotiations already being in place for several athletes to possibly wear Cage Fighter into the Ring for UFC 92, including Rampage Jackson.

MMAPayout.com has also learned Cage Fighter/ MMA Authentics is trying to lock up exclusive lifestyle apparel rights for UFC. The TapouT brand would still be a cornerstone of the UFC’s apparel strategy, with the co-existence of TapouT and Cage Fighter merely being a case of semantics. The terms of the possible deal are unknown, but a similar deal between the UFC and TapouT for exclusive promotional rights is rumored to involve the UFC taking profit participation points from TapouT.

Station Casinos Draws $239M of Revolving Credit

December 23, 2008

Yesterday Station Casinos announced that it was drawing down $239 million of its revolving credit line. According to a filing with the SEC,  the casino asked for the remaining $257 million available under its revolving credit facility and as of last Friday $239 million of that had been funded. The money will be used for general corporate purposes.

Standard and Poor’s reported that Station’s bonds were “fairly active” relative to the rest of the high-yield market following the announcement. The company’s 7.75% notes due in 2016 were trading as low as 19.25 yesterday morning, down over three points from last week. The casino’s 6% notes due in 2012 were also down over three points from Friday at 20 according to the report.

The news come on the heels of the failure of the company’s proposed distressed-debt exchange last week. The deal failed to garner the necessary support of 60% of bondholders despite two extensions prior to cancellation. The deal offered bondholders the opportunity to exchange their bonds for new 10% secured term loans due in 2016 in order to reduce overall debt.

XFC Announces Deal with ValCom

December 23, 2008

ValCom went public with the announcement yesterday: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28350930/

From their press release:

“MMA programming that’s currently on cable television and has out-performed more established sports like MLB, NBA, NHL, NASCAR, boxing and even the NFL amongst 18- to 34-year-old men on their respective cable homes,” said Vince Vellardita, president & CEO of ValCom, Inc. “XFC’s unique brand positioning as the ultimate proving grounds for the champions of tomorrow is a perfect fit for this worldwide sports phenomenon, and we expect this partnership to be lucrative and successful for all parties.”

“With heart-thumping action and adrenaline-charged cage fighting between the dedicated warriors of XFC, we provide a platform for the champions of tomorrow to showcase their talents and develop into legends,” said XFC president John Prisco. “We’re delighted to be affiliated with ValCom and look forward to growing MMA to even greater heights because this sport is just 15-years-old and hasn’t even come close yet to reaching its full potential.”

ValCom’s distribution arm, Valencia Entertainment, will produce 13 XFC hour-long TV episodes from preexisting content, and will develop high-end future programming from upcoming XFC events. These episodes will be disbursed worldwide to broadcast, cable, all sources of media, and home entertainment. In addition to viewer distribution, Valencia Entertainment also plans to market XFC packages and programming worldwide.  ValCom, Inc. is a diversified, fully integrated, independent entertainment company that has been in operation since 1983. ValCom, Inc., through its operating divisions and subsidiaries, creates and operates full service facilities that accommodate film, television and commercial productions with its four divisions comprised of studio and rental, television and film, broadcasting, and live theater. ValCom, Inc. has participated in over 100 films, Broadway shows and thousands of episodes of television. ValCom’s client list consists of all of the majors such as MGM, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros, Disney, CBS, Sony, NBC, Phantom of the Opera, HSN, and more.

K-1 Dynamite Available as Online PPV

December 22, 2008

(PRESS RELEASE) — The world’s biggest combat sports event, DYNAMITE!!, is tipped to become a live online global phenomenon.

Talks are underway for an historic online pay-per-view to over 100 countries, including the United States of America, United Kingdom, entire European Union, China, South East Asia, Russia, India, Australasia, and South America.

Held December 31st (New Years Eve) at the Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo, Japan, the Dynamite!! event is described as the Superbowl of Mixed Martial Arts.

The internet deal is expected to be made official in the next few weeks.

The www.eventmagic.tv broadcast would be an unprecedented and uncut PPV transmission allowing fans to enjoy the entire scope of fighting and entertainment that is Dynamite!! including the superstar staging, incredible sound, and the awesome pyrotechnics of every ring entrance as well as multi camera perspectives of every round of every fight. With more than 15 fights on the night, Dynamite!! is building into a brutal end of year finale.

Dynamite!! 2008 will take place at the Saitama Super Arena in Japan. The magnificent venue, which is home to DREAM MMA events and was the former home of PRIDE Fighting Championships, has also played host to the FIBA Basketball World Championships, NHL Hockey, NBA Basketball, WWE professional wrestling and concerts by Mariah Carey and Queen.

For the first time ever Dynamite!! will pool together the greatest fighters from various arms of FEG’s promotional juggernaut including DREAM, K-1 GP, K-1 MAX and K-1 Koshien (under 18’s).

Former PRIDE darling “The Gracie Hunter” Kazushi Sakuraba will finally take on his arch-nemesis Kyoshi Tamura in a battle many years in the making. PRIDE and K-1 star, Mirko “Cro Cop” is said to be making a highly anticipated return to the ring, while awesome Brazilian lightweight JZ Calvan takes on DREAM Light Weight Grand Prix Champion Joachim Hansen, who has big wins over the likes of Takanori Gomi, Caol Uno, Masakazu Imanari, Yves Edwards, and Shinya Aoki to name a few.

More superbouts of epic proportions will be announced in the lead-up to the event.

Mr Jeremy Ta’kody, Managing Director of Event Magic TV, believes an online pay-per-view broadcast of this years Dynamite!! will reach many fight fans who otherwise would be unable to see the fights live.

“Using new video streaming technology we are able to deliver a high resolution, full-screen, live event experience over the internet to millions of viewers, even over very low bandwidths,” says Mr Ta’kody. “Dynamite!! is an event like no other and we would be thrilled to deliver this supershow to every single person on the planet.”

Those unable to watch Dynamite!! due to time zones or other New Years Eve commitments will still be able to watch the event in all its glory via pre paid video-on-demand at a time that is convenient to you.

“We would be thrilled to host the biggest fight spectacular on the planet and give fans a real treat on New Year’s Eve,” says Mr Ta’kody. “Dynamite!! is an event like no other. It has the biggest crowds, many of the best fighters, and the highest production values in lighting, staging, sound and pyrotechnics that are out of this world. In short, it’s amazing.”

With over 15 bouts on the card there will be plenty of opportunity for spectacular knockouts and mixed martial arts styled submissions from some of the worlds best fighters.

Dynamite!! is renowned for producing match-ups fans have only dreamed of, with past offerings of Dynamite!! NYE and Dynamite!! USA featuring: Brock Lesnar’s MMA debut; Sakuraba vs Funaki; Sakuraba vs Royce Gracie; Akebono vs Royce Gracie; Genki Sudo vs Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto; Jerome LeBanner vs Bob Sapp; Yoshihiro Akiyama vs Francois Botha; Genki Sudo vs Butterbean; and Melvin Maenhoff vs Dong Sik Yoon.

“Should the deal go ahead we are working on a surprise for everyone,” says Mr Ta’kody. “An end of year gift. You will have to wait and see what it is.”

For further information and event bookings register your interest at: www.eventmagic.tv Sponsors can contact Event Magic TV via email info@eventmagic.tv.

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