Good4U Managing Director talks sponsorship deal with MFC

January 26, 2011

Banned by the UFC, Good4U sport and wellness beverages have entered into a sponsorship deal with Maximum Fighting Championships (MFC). MMA Payout had the opportunity to contact Good4U Managing Director Richard DeBanks about the deal.

Via DeBanks:

“We have signed a 3 fight deal with the Maximum Fighting Championship (mid – high 5 figures). There are several reasons we signed a deal with MFC:

  • They have been probably the most consistent organization after the UFC in terms of putting together solid cards on schedule
  • They attract the highest levels of viewership on HD Net
  • They are running events in the markets that we have already established distribution

We are open to working with any organization that has its house in order, and will be looking for good partnerships in the US and Europe as well.”

DeBanks indicated that UFC star Shane Carwin will continue to endorse Good4U despite not being able to wear the Good4U logo in the Octagon.  DeBanks stated that, “it is business as usual with Shane including photo shoots, posters, point of sale, voice overs, personal appearances etc”

DeBanks added:

“This won’t affect our partnership with Shane Carwin.  Shane is and will be a major asset for us. The logo placement in the UFC is really only a small portion in the overall mix. Gatorade for example doesn’t even have their logo on George St Pierre. Logos on fighters are most important for clothing companies.”

Since the UFC ban, DeBanks is optimistic about the future of MMA sponsorships for Good4U:

“I also think that we are going to see greater interest in other organizations. It is a big world out there and anyone would be foolish to think that all of the best fighters and best fights are all within one company.”

Payout Perspective:

DeBanks had stated that the MFC was a possible target for sponsorship. This made sense since, as DeBanks pointed out in his third bullet point, the MFC is running events in areas where Good4U is established. Consumers will not have any problems identifying Good4U.

It will be interesting to see the outcome of the sponsorship deal after the three fight contract.

UFC announces mobile, internet tv deals in Japan

January 25, 2011

The UFC announced two Japanese media deals which will expand its reach to Japan. According to the UFC, the digital media distribution deals will enable significantly wider access to a range of UFC content to Japanese MMA fans.

Via UFC press release:

First, UFC® officials announced a deal with TV Bank Corp. which will provide an Official UFC Mobile site across all three major Japanese cellular networks – NTT Docomo, KDD AU and Softbank. The agreement with TV Bank Corp. will ensure that UFC® updates, ringtones, wallpapers, fights on demand and other exciting content are made available to UFC fans in Japan. Most news and features will be accessible for free, while premium content will be available on a pay basis.  The partnership establishes TV Bank, a subsidiary of major Japanese digital media company Softbank, as the UFC’s primary online content distributor in Japan. In a second announcement for Japanese UFC fans, UFC officials confirmed an agreement with the Hikari TV, the internet protocol television network (IPTV) operated by NTT Plala Corp.  The digital network will air delayed live and archived UFC bouts, as well as classic fights from the famed PRIDE® library. Hikari TV currently enjoys a rapidly growing subscriber base of more than 1.3 million subscribers in Japan.

The web sites will launch February 1st. The UFC indicated it plans on a show in Japan in late 2011 or 2012.

In conjunction with the announcement of the new partnerships, the UFC announced the recent signings of three Japanese MMA stars: Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto, Michihiro Omigawa and Riki Fukuda.

(Photo above courtesy of UFC, pictured from left: Riki Fukuda, Kid Yamamoto, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Michihiro Omigawa and Yushin Okami at Monday’s press conference in Japan).

Payout Perspective:

The move is a sign of the expanding strategic global growth the UFC is planning for 2011 and beyond. It makes sense given the turbulent state of Japanese MMA. There is an existing MMA fan base in Japan that could be enticed into becoming UFC fans.

The addition of the Japanese fighters should help bring in the Japanese MMA fan. Last spring, Japanese MMA manager Shu Hirata spoke to MMA Fighting as to how the UFC could garner more Japanese fans:

Look at MLB. its very popular in Japan now because there are Japanese stars that are doing well – like Ichiro and Matsui. But in the UFC or WEC, we still haven’t seen Ichiro or Matsui yet. Think of it this way: if GSP or Anderson Silva were Japanese, then they would be all over the Japanese TV by now and even an old lady in the deep woods of Yamagata prefecture would know what the UFC is. So fighters are the ones that can really change everything. Even only one Japanese champ might be able to change everything. We need Japanese Tiger Woods in the UFC then everything would fall into the places for the entire industry.

It will be interesting to see how the Japanese fighters will be featured. Yushin Okami is in a holding pattern for a shot at Anderson Silva. But, his wait may get longer if GSP-Silva happens and/or he gets leapfrogged by a returning Chael Sonnen. Another idea could be Silva-Okami if and when the UFC runs a show in Japan.

Another (much bigger) Victory For Zuffa

January 25, 2011

I have previously posted on Zuffa’s lawsuit against Bellator and Pavia — a post with earlier links is here, and, most recently posted on the Court’s denial of Bellator’s motion to stay discovery pending resolution of  Bellator’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.

As I noted in my most recent post:

I will keep monitoring to see how the Court resolves Bellator’s motion to dismiss, but my prediction based on this ruling (specifically, the “viable argument” language above) is that the Court is going to deny Bellator’s motion.

My prediction (unlike my Tapology predictions recently) was correct.  Specifically, on January 24, 2011 the Court entered an Order denying Bellator’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.

The Court first analyzed the general jurisdiction issue (my earlier post describing this argument can be found here) and found that “Zuffa has failed to meet its burden of showing that these [Bellator’s] contacts are sufficiently substantial or continuous and systematic that it would be reasonable for Bellator to anticipate being sued in Nevada.”

Specifically, the Court (1) found “that Bellator’s website alone is insufficient to establish general jurisdiction;” (2) was also “not persuaded that the exercise of jurisdiction was proper based on the fact that “Bellator has entered into contracts with fighters who reside in Nevada;” and (3) found that “the fact that Bjorn Rebney, Bellator’s founder and Chief Executive Officer, once attended an MMA awards show held in Las Vegas, Nevada . . . and that one of the recently-crowned “Bellator Girls,” winners of a contest put on by Bellator, is a resident of Nevada” were insufficient contacts to establish general jurisdiction.

Next, the Court turned to specific jurisdiction question and determined that Zuffa had carried its burden.

The Court found, inter alia, that:

Bellator committed an intentional act because Mr. Rebney, Bellator’s CEO, allegedly sent an e-mail to Ken Pavia, a sports agent that heads MMA Agents, wherein he requests Pavia to re-send all the ‘seminal’ documents from UFC so that Bellator could alter them enough to use them in its business. This alleged email is sufficient to establish an intentional act, and weighs toward purposeful direction under the Calder test.

 

In this case, Bellator knew that its conduct was targeting Zuffa because the e-mail giving rise to Zuffa’s alleged injuries shows that Bellator was trying to appropriate all of the seminal documents used by UFC in conducting its business in Nevada. Therefore, because Bellator knew that Zuffa is based in Nevada, the Court finds that Zuffa has met its burden in establishing the express aiming requirement.

 

Thus, the alleged misappropriation and use of Zuffa’s confidential documents would certainly cause Zuffa harm in Nevada. Whether or not Zuffa suffers more harm in other states is irrelevant. Therefore, the Court finds that Zuffa has suffered harm in Nevada.

 

In this case, Zuffa’s alleged injuries resulted from Bellator’s purported misappropriation of Zuffa’s confidential and proprietary information. Thus, the Court can easily conclude that but for Bellator’s conduct, Zuffa would not have suffered its alleged injuries. As such, the Court finds that Zuffa’s claims arise out of Bellator’s alleged forum-related activities.

The Court next analyzed the reasonableness prong, i.e. “the defendant must ‘[present a compelling case that the presence of some other considerations would render jurisdiction unreasonable]’ in order to defeat personal jurisdiction,” and determined that Bellator had not met its burden in proving unreasonableness.

Finally, the Court addressed “fairness” and found “that both the ‘minimum contacts’ and ‘fairness’requirements of International Shoe are satisfied, and denie[d] Bellator’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.

Justin Klein is an attorney at Satterlee Stephens Burke & Burke LLP in New York City where he concentrates his practice in commercial litigation and represents clients in the fight industry.  He regularly addresses current legal issues that pertain to combat sports, including efforts to legalize MMA in New York, at his Fight Lawyer website.  He is a licensed boxing manager with the New York State Athletic Commission as well as the founder and Chairman of the Board of the New York Mixed Martial Arts Initiative, a non-profit organization that gives inner city youth the opportunity to experience the emotional and physical benefits of martial arts training.  Justin lives in New York City where he trains in jiu jitsu and boxing.

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UFC Gains Over 60,000 “Likes” On Facebook Page Over Weekend Live Stream

January 24, 2011

Last week, the UFC announced that two fights (later changed to four) on the non-televised portion of Saturday night’s Fight for the Troops event would be streamed live on its Facebook page, but as a prerequisite to watch the fights, fans had to “like” the UFC page.

Since the announcement was made official by the UFC, MMAPayout has tracked the number of “Likes” on the UFC facebook page, and we can now report the results.

– On the night of the announcement, the UFC had 4,547,665 “likes” on its page.

– At the end of Saturday night, after the fights were streamed live on facebook, the number of “likes” had increased to 4,607,413 which is an increase of roughly 59,748 “likes”, a gain of 1.31%.

– At the end of the weekend, UFC had tallied 66,210 “likes”, which was an increase of 1.46%.

Payout Perspective:

As everyone else, I was curious to see how the UFC would further utilize their facebook page to grow their brand and attract more viewers, and showing free prelims was a great way to start doing that.  You can catch some more of the Fight for the Troops analysis in our Payout write-up, but I wanted to point out that streaming the prelims on facebook brought on some mixed feelings by the MMA fanbase.  Some fans touted the great stream quality they were getting, while others complained that the feed was cutting out and caused them to miss parts of the fights.  Fan satisfaction of a live streamed event on the internet will always be dependent on tons of factors such as ISP, hosting servers, PC specs, etc.  You also have a subset of fans who enjoy inviting their friends over and watching the fights on their big screen HD TV, others who avoid social networking and who had to create an account “just to watch the fights”.  Other fans have expressed their frustration in not having one home for UFC prelims, and constantly having to see where they will plan on hosting them next, which causes many of them to miss them altogether. The mixed reaction by the UFC fanbase was very intriguing, and its really an untapped and unexplored area by all notable sporting leagues.

As for the numbers, its tough to say what the 60k gained “likes” will do for the UFC.  We don’t have exact numbers on how many fans actually watched the live stream, but by using facebook, the UFC was able to gather some great viewership statistics, giving them yet a more detailed picture for their ever-growing fan-base.  These numbers will provide an interesting study for the UFC, by utilizing facebook and its 500+ million users, they have now used yet another form of social media to further push their brand and product worldwide.

Pacquiao-Mosley set for Showtime

January 24, 2011

Late last week Dan Rafael of ESPN reported that Bob Arum, the promoter of boxer Manny Pacquiao, has signed a deal with CBS-Showtime to air the May 7th Pacquiao-Shane Mosley fight. The news came as a monumental shift to the boxing world as HBO Boxing had been synonymous with big fights, Arum and the Pac Man in recent years.

Via ESPN:

According to sources, part of the deal will include CBS promoting the fight by running commercial spots advertising the pay-per-view during prime time programming. Also in the works is a series of preview shows that would run on CBS, or possibly Showtime, which would be similar to HBO’s hit reality series “24/7,” which it uses to stoke interest with weekly episodes during the month leading up to major pay-per-view fights.

Fanhouse spoke with Pacquiao adviser Michael Koncz:

“We’ve worked with HBO for many, many fights, and it’s always great working with them. But, you know, sometimes change is good for everybody involved. So we’re making that change and we’re going on Showtime this time,” said Koncz.  “It’s a big benefit for us, economically, and he’s going to be getting wider viewership,” said Koncz. “It’s a different platform for us, and I think that it’s important to have a different platform. It’s going to take it out of the regular pay-per-view audience because we have a lot of options with the network.”

Koncz indicated the opportunity for a 24/7-type documentary series leading up to the fight would be televised on CBS although the ESPN report indicated it could be on either CBS or ESPN.  He noted CBS’s ability to reach 115 million homes compared to HBO’s 28 million homes.

For fight fans, Showtime’s move on HBO means competition between the two companies:

Via Bad Left Hook:

Quotes from folks at HBO (regarding the Pacquiao deal to Showtime) may be stoic, but they have to be feeling the sting, and you’d almost expect a certain level of panic setting in. Without Pacquiao, who is the HBO flagship star? And with Top Rank taking its fighters (Pacquiao, Cotto, Lopez, Brandon Rios) over to Showtime, could HBO see themselves forced into another sweetheart deal with Golden Boy Promotions, a company that right now is badly lagging behind Top Rank in the development, cultivation, and securing of major names? The biggest fighter left on the Golden Boy roster is Juan Manuel Marquez, who is going to fight Erik Morales in a bout that has limited appeal beyond the Mexican audience and perhaps a portion of the diehard boxing audience. Last word was that that fight was being worked out as a Golden Boy PPV. That might change now.

When you get down to it, Manny Pacquiao, without even really knowing he’s doing it, may be causing an enormous shift in American boxing coverage. Nobody else in the sport could do that.CBS is clearly showing a serious interest in combat sports, MMA and now boxing, and it just feels like something very big might be happening here.

Payout Perspective:

For MMA fans, the CBS-Showtime move to acquire the Pacquiao fight could be a sign of a broader move to jump on the growing popularity of combat sports. Could this mean we see the UFC get into serious talks with networks (not just ION) about airing its content? 

If you are boxing fan, the shift from HBO to Showtime could mean something in terms of pay subscribers to HBO and Showtime. One of the main reasons I subscribe to HBO is because of HBO Boxing and the fact that HBO will show its PPVs a week after the fight (yes, if you are frugal and have patience, it pays to wait a week to watch a fight rather than pay $65 for the PPV to see the main event). Another repercussion of the shift means that the excellent broadcast team of Jim Lampley, Max Kellerman, Emmanuel Steward and Larry Merchant will lose the opportunity to call a Pacquiao fight.

It will be interesting to see the success of the CBS-Showtime-Arum relationship. With a mega-boxing star like Manny Pacquiao, you can expect huge numbers. But, I am more intrigued by what will be HBO’s next move.  This deal appears to be a one-time event but you can expect CBS-Showtime to sign on for more events…especially if it could mean Pacquiao-Mayweather in late 2011 or 2012.

Fighters Only launches digital division, Ipad version of magazine

January 24, 2011

MMA magazine Fighters Only announced the launching of an iPad version of its print edition making it the first MMA periodical to publish on the iPad.

“In excess of 7.4 million iPads have been sold in the last 6 months to date, and MMA’s fan demographic is a very close fit to that of iPad users,” stated Fighters Only’s CEO and President Robert Hewitt in a press release. “We truly believe that the iPad edition of Fighters Only will bring an even greater level of service to our readers and advertisers. It’ll help expand both the global reach and awareness of MMA as a sport and be a boon to the individuals that operate within it.”

More via Fighters Only’s press release:

Readers can expect a highly interactive experience via bespoke software that uses pictures, video and words to illustrate the same quality content found in the print version of Fighters Only. In addition, bonus material and an interactive punch bag game will make the iPad experience even more enjoyable. Regular purchasers of the Fighters Only iPad edition will also benefit from a personal library, stored remotely online and accessible anytime as a permanent archive that won’t take up any of the user’s own iPad memory space.

You can buy the app on iTunes. It lists for $4.99 USD.

Payout Perspective:

It is nice to see forward thinking from a company with a print publication taking advantage of emerging technology like the Ipad. It shows that it can adapt and remain relevant in a world where newspapers are becoming obsolete. In addition, the app creates another source of revenue from advertisers via the iPad version.

UFC Fight for the Troops Payout

January 23, 2011

Welcome to a special mini-edition of the Payout where we are looking at Saturday night’s UFC card billed, “Fight for the Troops” from Fort Hood near Killeen, Texas.

Fighting for a Cause

Saturday night’s Fight for the Troops UFC event was entertaining, but unlike every other one of its cards, the UFC focused its efforts on philanthropy as it helped raise money for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. The Spike TV broadcast raised an impressive $600K from phone donations alone. In the coming days, donations in the millions are expected through online giving as well as a UFC-related auction with proceeds going to the cause.

Via MMA Fighting:

While part of the purpose of putting on a show exclusively for enlisted military is to bring some entertainment to the men and women serving America, the UFC and Spike partnered once again with the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund to raise money for troops suffering from brain trauma, as well as their families.

The success of the show be measured by the amount of money raised by the UFC through this event. The fact that $600K was raised through phone donations during the 3 hours the card was on Spike TV is a testament to the cause and to the UFC for giving it the publicity it deserved. The UFC did a good job of raising awareness of the IFHF charity during the broadcast without making it seem like a telethon.

Facebook Experiment

The UFC used its Facebook page to show 4 prelim (originally advertised as 2) fights when Facebook users hit the “Like” button. The influx of new “adds” meant that the UFC had a wider base of followers in which it could later post further information on how to donate to IFHF. It also posted pictures of the UFC’s experience at Fort Hood so that people could see the involvement of the UFC fighters.  We do not have any numbers of new Facebook users that the UFC received on Saturday night, but it would be an interesting measurement to analyze.

Another side issue that arose when the UFC announced that it would be showing prelims on Facebook was the number of people that were anti-Facebook or did not have an account…or both. It’s a definite experiment to see whether the UFC will continue to post prelims on Facebook. Certainly, it could have streamed the fights on its own web site but the UFC experimented with its Facebook page. It is nice to see the UFC try something new within social media even if it could be met with opposition.

Bonuses

In addition to the worthy cause, UFC fighters received the usual rewards for outstanding fights.

Fight of the Night: Yves Edwards versus Cody McKenzie – $30K

Submission of the Night: Yves Edwards – $30K

Knockout of the Night: Melvin Guillard – $30K

A good night for “Thugjitsu” as Edwards earned $60K in bonuses as an undercard fighter.

GSP v. Silva superfight in 2011?

January 22, 2011

MMA Junkie reports that a potential superfight between Georges St. Pierre v. Anderson Silva could happen in 2011 if both win their next fights.

Via MMA Junkie:

UFC president Dana White said if the UFC’s current welterweight and middleweight championships prove successful in their next title defense, they could meet in a rare champion-vs.-champion fight later this year. “If they both win their fights, that fight makes all the sense in the world,” White said.

 Payout Perspective:

White’s comments occurred Friday during a Q&A session in support of the UFC’s Fight for the Troops event. Whether White’s comments were off the cuff or planned, this could be huge news. I wonder if this was even discussed with GSP or Silva. 

But upon further review, White stated that the fight “makes sense,” not that it would happen. This allows a little wiggle room if it were not to happen. Still, the rumors will have fans buzzing and anticipating the upcoming matchups.

A GSP-Silva fight could be what the UFC needs to bolster PPV buy rates. As mentioned previously, UFC PPV buys may be in a rebuilding year and one of the reasons why PPV buys were where they were in 2010 was because of Brock Lesnar. A superfight between the two champs in the UFC divisions could draw “Brock Lesnar” like PPV numbers. I would envision the UFC put this fight in Las Vegas (despite UFC 125’s weak draw) at the end of the year to show that Vegas is still the epicenter for all big fights.

One repercussion of such a fight would be the state of the welterweight and middleweight divisions. If GSP makes a permanent move to middleweight, the welterweight title would likely be vacated. What would the UFC do at that point? Could the UFC devise a “tournament” for the belt?

Of course, if Vito Belfort or Jake Shields pull off wins against the Spider or GSP, then all the discussion would be meaningless.

UFC sues Justin.tv for piracy

January 21, 2011

Zuffa, LLC, the parent company of the UFC has sued Justin.tv for repeated illegal uploading of UFC PPV events on its web site. The UFC sent out a press release Friday afternoon notifying all of its lawsuit filed in the United States District Court of Nevada.

From the UFC press release:

The Justin.tv website enables anyone with an internet connection to broadcast live streaming video to an unlimited audience.  Although purportedly developed to bring user-generated content to a large live audience, the Justin.tv website is routinely exploited by users to broadcast illegally uploaded content, including UFC® events. 

For example, on October 23, 2010, over 50,000 people watched live streaming feeds of the UFC 121 Pay-Per-View event.  Indeed, third-party contractors hired and paid for by Zuffa, removed more than 200 infringing live streams of UFC 121 from the Justin.tv website.  This piracy represents a significant loss of revenue to Zuffa and its mobile, online, cable and satellite distribution partners each year.

 “Zuffa has attempted to work on numerous occasions with Justin.tv over nearly a two-year period to encourage it to prevent or limit its infringing activities,” Zuffa’s Las Vegas attorney, Donald J. Campbell said. “Regrettably, Justin.tv has not only turned a blind eye to the massive online piracy occurring on its website, we believe it has actually induced its users to commit copyright infringement thus leaving Zuffa no alternative but to take this fight to the courts.”

Payout Perspective:

The lawsuit is another sign of the UFC’s aggressive approach to combat piracy. Obviously, if 50,000 people watch a $55 PPV without paying, the UFC is losing a lot of money. On the heels of the disappointing PPV buy rate for UFC 125, it is no surprise that the UFC would become more vigilant in its fight against illegal streaming.

For a background on Zuffa’s fight against piracy, I recommend Justin Klein’s November article here. He has further info on the UFC-Justin.tv matter on his blog.

GSP splits with agent Shari Spencer

January 20, 2011

Georges St. Pierre has split with his agent since 2007, Shari Spencer. A press release Thursday provided the news of the change in management and described the split as amicable.

According to the press release, “They (GSP-Spencer) felt they had a different vision for the future of Georges’ career and it was best to remain close personally but dissolve their business relationship.” (via MMA Fighting)

St. Pierre will remain at Hollywood talent agency, Creative Arts Agency. But, he will choose a new manager. It is rumored that he will hire a close friend to take over for Spencer.

Spencer, who runs her own company, continues to manage UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar.

Payout Perspective:

In September we commented on GSP’s feature in the NY Times’ Fashion and Style section (definitely the work of Spencer) and wondered if he would become the face for the UFC. The article chronicled GSP’s foray into NY fashion week. An underlying theme in the piece was that GSP seemed uncomfortable with the mainstream New York scene…and perhaps his role as the spokesperson for the UFC. Spencer’s work had helped GSP obtain mainstream sponsors (Gatorade and Under Armour) as well as appearances on ESPN and non-MMA magazines.

Despite the publicity, the speculation is that the mainstream glitz was not his scene. GSP did not like selling himself to Madison Avenue and did not like the time that went into dealing with sponsors. GSP would rather dedicate himself to time in the gym rather than build his brand or become the face for the UFC. Will GSP continue to be a mainstream pitchman? If he does not want to spend time in building his brand through sponsors, his opportunities may be limited and relegated to what CAA can bring him.  (h/t Robert Joyner via twitter)

GSP may be an introvert, or insecure about his place in celebrity, and retreating from being a pitchman may be his wish. Rereading the NY Times article and looking at some of the attempts at comedy GSP has done (see ESPN commercials), he tries, but seems grossly uncomfortable. From an athletic standpoint, concentrating on fighting is probably a good thing. But, from a business perspective, GSP is leaving a lot of opportunities on the table. This may be something that GSP may regret in 10 years.

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