March 31, 2012
Dave Metzler is reporting that Brock Lesnar has signed a one year deal with the WWE. The deal comes the night before Wrestlemania fueling speculation that the former UFC Heavyweight Champ may make an appearance in the WWE for Wrestlemania or the day after.
Previously, it was reported that since Lesnar announced his retirement with the UFC that he was free from any contractual obligation with the company. Lesnar’s return to the WWE can only help the company that’s looking to make a big splash with its biggest event of the year. Lesnar is in Miami, the site of Wrestlemania, and the rumors are flying about when/if Lesnar will make an appearance.
Lesnar’s return to pro wrestling has been rumored since his run in with the Undertaker after losing his title to Cain Velasquez at UFC 121. For the WWE, it’s a risk considering Lesnar’s health. Even though the WWE is scripted, Lesnar still has to physically perform in the ring. But, Lesnar can be a big draw considering name recognition and his history of being a PPV draw. This should appeal to the WWE as it can only help its PPV buys as well as provide some buzz for building its network.
March 31, 2012
Despite a delay in its plans to get a network off the ground, the WWE is still working on developing an over the air network. Originally, the WWE had planned the network to launch in conjunction with Wrestlemania this Sunday.
The WWE’s CMO, Michelle Wilson, indicated to the News Times (a local paper in Connecticut) that the WWE is in late stage negotiations with a distributor. Its goal is to reach 50 million viewers with its network. Wilson stated that the WWE would charge a subscription fee from each distributor. Wilson’s comments addressed concerns in a New York Post article which identified the delay for the network noting the difficulties faced by the WWE.
The WWE recently posted a disappointing 4th Quarter with substantial losses from its film division – another WWE venture which has been the brunt of the financial freefall by the company. It also spent $4 million on building the network in Q4.
But the fact remains that the network must turn a profit sooner than later. Analyst Michael Kupinski emphasized the need for this to the News Times:
“It appears that the company will bear much of the cost. They have soft fundamentals, and the cable channel could lose money for a period of years,” he said, adding that having a financial partner would help. Kupinski had previously said developing the new cable network could cost $10 million to $15 million.
The network would need to convince distributors that it would attract viewers and advertisers for it to catch on. It may be hard to attract a financial partner with the current economic climate and the fact that the WWE, like the UFC, enjoys control over its product.
Looking at the financial losses the WWE’s film division has had would give pause to distributors and investors about the potential success of the WWE network. It appears that the launching of the network at Wrestlemania was ambitious at best. Despite great ratings from its television shows, producing 24/7 content will need to attract more viewers than its core wrestling audience. While the WWE owns a vast library (which would be great for nostalgic wrestling fans), original content and WWE films might not get the job done. The WWE is cultivating its content on its YouTube channel but we will see if this translate to over the air success. Time (and its balance sheet) will tell whether the network will get off the ground and when.
March 31, 2012
UFC on Fox released a new commercial this week featuring Anderson SIlva. In the commercial, a dubbed Silva voice explains how he’s a regular guy despite doing superhuman things.
The commercial is part of the “ordinary guys” strategy that Fox is using to promote the UFC. The commercial is similar to the Frankie Edgar one where he tames a tiger at the zoo via rear naked choke and the Jon Jones commercial where he’s at the park with his kids. Its a sign of the Fox influence on the UFC product. Not only does it humanize these guys as normal people despite their extraordinary abilities in the octagon, it shows a humorous and approachable side of the fighters. The new strategy should help new viewers to MMA approach the sport and tune in.
March 30, 2012
The UFC opened offices in Asia in August 2010 and the UFC would like to make inroads into China. It had placed hopes with UFC fighter Zhang Tiequan in hoping that his success would equate to a following in China. Despite Zhang’s defeats in the Octagon he has picked up many fans of the sport. The support for Zhang can be exemplified by the fact that he picked up 100,000 followers to his Weibo (equivalent to Twitter) account after his UFC debut in Australia in 2011. The UFC hopes that there would be a sufficient level of MMA fighters from the country that it could feature on a card in China. The company sees that a market will develop faster if there is local talent to display. It used this strategy in 2002 with the UFC’s first trip to the United Kingdom.
The expansion of the product into Asia is a logical move despite hurdles it must overcome. Lorenzo Fertitta noted two reasons expansion makes sense.
Via Yahoo! Sports:
“We’ve talked a lot about our international expansion and China is one of the focal points for the company,” Fertitta said. “We know it’s going to be a long-term play there. It’s got a tremendous amount of potential, primarily for two reasons. One, obviously, is because of the size of the market. It’s a huge market. And two, there is a long-standing martial arts background that the country has from a cultural standpoint.
The Asian market especially China is fertile ground for the UFC due to the amount of people that are in the country. The NBA recognized this and capitalized on it with Yao Ming and is getting a second run at the market with Taiwanese American Jeremy Lin’s popularity. The UFC hired former NBA exec Marc Fischer to run its Asian operations.
MMA Payout has written about the challenges in China from both the short term and long term perspective. Although the articles are from late 2010, we can see that it has executed much of what we’ve written about. Its worth a reread.
March 29, 2012
MMA Weekly reports that Facebook streams of UFC fights have received as many as 140,000 viewers on its web page. This information comes from Dana White after the UFC 146 press conference this week.
In speaking with the press, White offered up a number of viewers to its Facebook streams which have aired prior to prelims on television. “I think the most we’ve ever had watching on Facebook was something like 140,000 people. That’s a good number,” White added, “If you look at some of the numbers that some of these other organizations have pulled whether it’s on HDNet, MTV2, or whatever it might be, to pull 140,000 is a good number.”
White indicated that the Facebook streaming comes at a cost to the company.
Via MMA Weekly:
It does come at a cost, however. White didn’t put any numbers to dollar signs, but he did say that cost was a factor when they recently opted not to stream just a single fight on Facebook when there wasn’t space for it on television.
White told reporters that he didn’t know how many people that watch on Facebook actually buy the PPVs stating that there’s no way to accurately track it.
The Facebook stream viewership has been one of the bigger secrets held by the UFC and its sponsors as no one has put a number to them. It appears that White is pleased with the use but also looks to the fact that the costs may override the marketing benefits. In the past, there have been sponsors for Facebook which may offset some of the UFC’s costs to stream. But, one must think of the content its placing on Facebook. Most of the fights are the opening bouts as the more interesting prelim fights are now televised. With the Fox deal and the availability of Fuel and FX, Facebook may become less of a need.
Obviously, taking live fights off of Facebook somewhat flies in the face of the UFC’s championing of social media. But, if the UFC steers away from live streaming of its fights on its Facebook page, I’m sure there’s other ways it can drive its fans to its Facebook page.
March 29, 2012
The Sports Business Journal reported that Timothy Bradley has signed a deal with Nike. The next challenger to Manny Pacquiao will ensure that Nike will own the ring on June 9th.
The one year shoe and apparel deal includes Bradley branded robe, trunks and cornermen apparel. Financials of the deal were not disclosed although there’s speculation that its just a “swap of gear for exposure.” Since Bradley is a lesser known fighter he would not get a monetary deal although if he does well there would be an opportunity for compensation. In addition to the clothing, Bradley will make an appearance at the Niketown at the Forum Shops in Caesar’s Palace to promote the fight.
The deal was brokered by the promoter of the fight, Top Rank.
The deal gives Nike more visibility for the June 9th Pacquiao-Bradley fight as both fighters will be sponsored by the swoosh. For Bradley, the Nike deal will help increase his brand as a boxer. The fact that its more than a one-off helps Bradley as well as it gets his foot in the door with the brand and hopefully he can remain with them for years to come. For Nike, it’s a cost-effective move to sign Bradley prior to HBO’s 24/7 as he should be adorned in Nike training gear for the show and the fight.
March 28, 2012
Tuesday was a bad day for “King” Mo Lawal as he was suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission 9 months and fined $39,000 for using Performance Enhancing Drugs. To compound the suspension, Lawal took to twitter to vent which lead to Zuffa cutting Lawal.
As you may recall, Lawal tested positive for PEDs after his last fight in Strikeforce in January. The hearing before the Nevada State Athletic took place on Tuesday and it didn’t go well. Lawal was fined a total of $39,000 and suspended 9 months by the NSAC. Also, his KO of Lorenz Larkin was ruled a No Contest.
MMA Fighting reports that Strikeforce’s Scott Coker stated that the release was based upon the “subsequent reaction” by Lawal. This is in reference to Lawal’s twitter rant after the hearing. The tweets railed against a female member of the NSAC questioning Lawal as she asked if he could read and if he spoke English. Lawal took offense and some of his tweets reflected his disdain. As a result, Zuffa notified Lawal’s management that the fighter had been let go.
With Lawal’s termination came the uproar as to the lack of symmetry in doling out punishments by Zuffa. But there is a code of conduct in fighters’ contracts.
MMA Junkie provides the section in a Zuffa fighter’s contract regarding code of conduct:
Section 9.1 of the Zuffa (or Forza, LLC for Strikeforce fighters) contract states:
“Fighter shall conduct himself in accordance with commonly accepted standards of decency, social conventions and morals, and Fighter will not commit any act or become involved in any situation or occurrence or make any statement which will reflect negatively upon or bring disrepute, contempt, scandal, ridicule, or disdain to Fighter, the Identity of Fighter or any of Fighter’s Affiliates, FORZA or any of its officers, managers, members, employees, or agents.
“Fighter’s conduct shall not be such as to shock, insult or offend the public or any organized group therein, or reflect unfavorably upon any current or proposed sponsor or such sponsor’s advertising agency, or any network or station over which a Bout is to be broadcast.”
The termination issue here is based on Lawal’s tweets, something that has gotten UFC fighters in trouble in the past. Recent memory will point us to Miguel Torres and his brief expulsion due to an off color tweet. Also, Torres was taken back into the good graces of Zuffa less than a month after he was terminated. But Forrest Griffin had a controversial tweet about rape and was not punished. Rashad Griffin made a topical, yet off-color remark about Phil Davis’ alma mater, Penn State in promoting their fight and was not punished either.
As for the reason for the tweets, it’s certainly understandable for Lawal to be upset for the line of questioning about whether he could read and/or speak English. As an attorney that’s actually been in situations like this, feelings are hurt and it’s unfortunate that this happens in the profession. After listening to the audio, it seems like Pat Lundvall was asking a line of questioning which would segue into further questioning. Definitely, she could have asked different questions to get to the same point. But, it appears that she may have been upset with the fact that Lawal did not actually fill out the questionnaire which she questioned Lawal about preceding the read and speak questions. Honestly, I’m not even sure if she realized that the questions were condescending. But that’s only speculation.
The termination gives cause to pause about whether there should be a need to inform Zuffa fighters about its twitter policy (maybe implement one if one does not exist). Zuffa could amend its code of conduct to specifically include social media use to spell it out to its fighters too. For a tool it wishes, and in fact awards, its fighters for using, there needs to be some ground rules. While it doesn’t want to restrict tweeting, fighters need to be smart about what they are tweeting. Lawal has been through a difficult time and the tweets reflect his frustration. But, he should have self-imposed a cooling period. Stay off of twitter for a day so your tweets don’t get you into trouble. It’s one of the reasons why the media is not let into locker rooms immediately after a football/basketball game. Players need to calm down lest they say something they regret.
In the end, Lawal may still have a chance to comeback to Zuffa. If he shows contrition for his tweets and accepts the suspension, Lawal still may land back in Strikeforce or even the UFC. One need only look to Miguel Torres. You could even point to Nate Marquardt as a fighter exiled by the company only to return.
March 27, 2012
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper presented his Japanese counterpart with a signed pair of UFC Georges St. Pierre gloves during his weekend visit to Japan to discuss trade.
Prime Minister Harper presented Prime Minister Minister Yoshihiko Noda with the gift as the two nations discussed trade and investment between the nations.
While it’s a tradition for diplomats to exchange gifts, this is the first time that UFC memorabilia has been given as a gift. Without looking too much into the gift, it is a sign that the UFC is gaining mainstream momentum – at least in Canada. Prime Minister Harper could have gifted a hockey stick or puck but decided with the signed GSP gloves. It also shows how much MMA is thought of in Canada and perhaps goes to the boasts by Dana White that GSP is bigger than Gretzky in Canada.
March 27, 2012
MMA Junkie reports that Bellator 62 ratings were up this past Friday and received an average of 175,000 viewers. The ratings are up 61 percent from last week’s dismal showing and the live streaming prelims increased in viewership as well.
Via MMA Junkie:
Bellator 62, which got the organization back in the normal range for ratings, took place at Laredo Energy Arena in Laredo, Texas. In addition to the MTV2-televised main card, prelims streamed live on Spike.com. Although officials don’t reveal the total number of viewers, Bellator 62′s streaming audience more than doubled (up 110 percent) compared to the previous week.
Bellator 60 – 169,000 viewers
Bellator 61 – 108,000
Bellator 62 – 175,000
The viewership came back to a normal range Friday night notwithstanding March Madness which is a good thing for Bellator. Also, 62 exceeded the debut of season 6 which is a good sign as well. The numbers are still down from the season 5 average but the bounce back in ratings is a positive. The live streaming on Spike.com also did well which reflects the fact that fans are getting used to turning to Spike.com to watch Bellator.
March 26, 2012
MMA Junkie reports that TUF Live’s third episode received an average of 1.2 million viewers. The ratings remain flat from last week’s 1.1 and the debut’s 1.3 million viewer average.
The ratings reflect an 8 percent increase from last week but the 1.2 million viewers is the new average for the series’ debut on FX.
White was quoted as stating he didn’t think that TUF Live would do “3.5 million out of the gate.” Well, its done 3.6 million…in the first three episodes. Probably not the performance he was hoping for although there is still time to do better.
We should probably temper the concern right now considering the last two weeks have been subject to competition from March Madness. As we wrote this morning, Dana White is optimistic that the ratings will come. It would be interesting to see what viewers think about TUF Live on FX. Have the changes helped? Or, is it too soon to determine. At this point, none of the competitors have distinguished themselves as someone you’d tune in to watch. In my opinion, it’s hard to get into the Faber-Cruz rivalry. I realize that every rivalry is not going to be Rashad-Rampage and I realize that there’s real disdain between Faber and Cruz. Yet, it feels like something is missing.