Top 10 of 2012: No. 9 TUF moves to Fridays on FX; poor ratings move it to Tuesdays for 2013

December 26, 2012

With the UFC-Fox relationship, much anticipation came with The Ultimate Fighter moving to the FX Network.  Despite a Friday night time slot, Dana White was bullish on the move.

Via MMA Fighting:

When signing the [FOX] deal more than a year ago, UFC President Dana White talked about drawing 3 million viewers weekly for TUF reality show with the combination of the new network and the fights going live for the first time in the history of the show.

However, TUF 15, which was aired live, did poorly as the ratings reflected viewers turning off the show before it ended. Two seasons on FX this 2012, and White’s prediction for 3 million viewers a week were inaccurate.  In fact, the porous ratings have the TUF franchise moving to Tuesdays in 2013.  Looking to revive the franchise, the UFC has enlisted Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen as coaches for its Tuesday debut this January.

TUF Live featuring Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber as coaches drew an average viewership of 1.01 million viewers.  It was the lowest season average of the TUF franchise (until TUF 16).  Also, Cruz knee injury kept the anticipated Cruz-Faber rematch from happening.

TUF went back to taped shows and fights for season 16 which featured Shane Carwin and Roy Nelson.  As was the case for TUF Live, an injury forced Shane Carwin out of the TUF Finale.  Ratings were poor once again as the season had the three lowest ratings in the 16 season history of TUF.  It drew an average of 829,250 and surpassed 1 million viewers for only two episodes.

The episodes and fighters were mediocre.   In fact, the most memorable moment of TUF 16 was White coming in to give the fighters a pep talk on fighting more exciting fights.  A bit of foreshadowing as most of the TUF 16 cast will not be signed to UFC contracts.

Top 10 for 2012: No. 10 – Injuries continue to plague fight cards

December 25, 2012

Welcome to the year end edition of MMA Payout where we’ll count down the top 10 business stories of 2012.  We start off with number 10 with injuries plaguing fight cards this year.

The biggest example of an injury affecting a card was UFC 151 (more on this later) when Dan Henderson went down with a knee injury causing a last minute shuffling of main event competitors that went awry.  GSP also went down with an injury which gave us Condit-Diaz Super Bowl Weekend instead of the anticipated GSP-Diaz tilt which would have received good PPV numbers based on GSP’s popularity and the general dislike (and contrasts) between the two.  UFC  143 drew 400K PPV buys which is respectable but that number would have doubled if GSP was not injured.

UFC 147 was to have Sonnen-Silva II and Vitor Belfort-Wanderlei Silva as headlining a card in Rio.  However, Sonnen-Silva II was pushed back to July and Vitor Belfort was injured allowing Rich Franklin to step in.

In October, UFC 153 was in jeopardy as Jose Aldo was injured in a motorcycle accident and had to pull out.  Before Aldo’s injury, his opponent was switched from Erik Koch to Frankie Edgar.  The Aldo-Edgar fight was tabled until a later date (which is now Super Bowl Weekend 2013).  At about the same time that Aldo was pulled from the card, Rampage Jackson had to pull from his co-main event fight with Glover Texeira.  This caused the UFC some tense moments as it appeared that another card was going to be cancelled.  Fortunately for Dana White, Anderson Silva and Big Nog agreed to fights in front of their home country to save the PPV.  A Silva-Bonnar main event actually did better than Condit-Diaz in terms of PPV buys as UFC 153 scored 410K buys.

In addition to these big injury issues, Strikeforce had to cancel a September card due to an injury to Gilbert Melendez and put off a November card (which is now its last this January) due to an injury to UFC fighter Frank Mir (who was an injury replacement).  This post does not even cover the spate of injuries by fighters not on the main card of UFC events.

Although not an injury, Alistair Overeem was to face Junior dos Santos May 26th but had to be replaced after a failed drug test.

The injury bug has been so common that Dana White half-jokingly told fighters on the UFC on Fox 5 to tone down their training leading up to the card in hopes of preserving the card for Fox.

Here’s hoping 2013 has less injury replacements.

The Wrestling Post – 12.24.12 edition

December 24, 2012

Welcome to another edition of The Wrestling Post.  This edition we’ll take a look at THQ’s bankruptcy, the Survivor Series buy rate and Daniel Bryan makes a young boy’s dream come true.

THQ goes bankrupt

The Wrestling Post takes a look at THQ’s Chapter 11 Bankruptcy filing and what that means for the WWE.  According to court filings, the WWE is an unsecured creditor that is owed $45 million.

The video game maker had been accumulating losses over the past couple years which caused the company to file a Chapter 11 reorganization plan.

The WWE sent out a statement this past Wednesday which likely was sent out to ease the minds of its investors.  It indicated in a short press release that it anticipated “actively participating” in the bankruptcy proceeding.

The WWE is listed as an “unsecured” creditor in THQ’s bankruptcy filing indicating that the company owes the WWE $45 million which reflects the entirety of its multi-year agreement with THQ.

The WWE indicated in another press release  on Thursday that the amount owed by THQ would not impact the financials of the company.  It went on to state that even if the $45 million debt would have an impact on the financials it would not affect its stock price.

THQ will not cease operations as it is in the process of being purchased which means that THQ may still have an existing contract to make the WWE video game franchise.  The bankruptcy court would have to allow the purchase to go through.

Payout Take:  Being an unsecured creditor in this type of bankruptcy proceeding means that its highly unlikely that the WWE would recoup any of its $45 million from THQ.  Although it indicated that it would actively participate in the bankruptcy proceedings it may be more saber rattling than having a good chance of collecting on the debt.  The press releases were investor relations PR to ease the minds of its stockholders.  Losing $45 million is not a good thing for the company and letting investors know it wouldn’t affect its financials seems more important than actually recouping the debt.  Although, both would be nice if you were Vince McMahon.

Survivor Series buy rate disappointing

The Wrestling Observer (subscription required) reports that the Survivor Series buy rate received only 212,000 buys.  In comparison, last year’s Survivor Series did 281,000 buys.  Of course, the main event featured The Rock and John Cena.  But, the year before, the 2010 Survivor Series received 244,000 buys for a Randy Ortron-Wade Barrett PPV.

(h/t Cageside Seats)

Payout Take:  Poor ratings for what used to be the biggest event of the fall for the WWE.  A CM Punk-John Cena-Ryback main event failed to draw enough interest from fans.  It will be interesting to see what the WWE will do to create more interest for its PPV buyers considering the vast amount of WWE content via many platforms.

Bryan taps for a good cause

On a recent stop in Pittsburgh by the WWE, wrestler Daniel Bryan made a pre-show visit with a young fan with cancer.  The highlight of the visit was the young boy putting Bryan in a submission hold and Bryan tapping. (via CBS Local Pittsburgh)

Payout Take:  Despite some of its questionable storylines, the WWE recognizes its obligation to charity including the Make A Wish Foundation.  John Cena has made many appearances with young children with terminal diseases.  While the appearance by Bryan is good publicity for the company, it also fulfilled the dream of a young boy.  A very good story for the holiday season.

Strikeforce officially announces last event

December 22, 2012

Strikeforce officially announced that its next event set for January 12th will be its last. The event will be held during Showtime’s “free preview” weekend.

Via Strikeforce Press Release:

STRIKEFORCE® welterweight champion and seasoned UFC® veteran Nate Marquardt will defend his title against current number one contender Tarec Saffiedine on Saturday, Jan. 12as STRIKEFORCE® visits Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla. In the night’s co-main event, Oklahoma State University All-American wrestler and STRIKEFORCE Grand Prix heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier takes on kickboxing veteran Dion Staring. The event will air live on SHOWTIME at 10 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast) as part of the premium network’s Free Preview Weekend whereby more than 80 million households nationwide will have access to SHOWTIME, SHOWTIME HD, SHOWTIME ON DEMAND and more.

 In addition to the main and co-main events, STRIKEFORCE® will also feature the following matchups that include several past champions and many of the sports top prospects:

·         Former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett meets Austrian powerhouse Nandor Guelmino

·         Former light heavyweight champ Gegard Mousasi takes on the heavy-handed Mike Kyle

·         Former middleweight champ “Jacare” Souza faces UFC star Ed Herman

·         Top lightweight contender Pat Healy will be in action against an opponent yet to be determined

·         Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Roger Gracie takes on talented striker Anthony Smith at middleweight

·         U.S. Army Ranger Tim Kennedy vs. Trevor Smith in a fight involving top middleweights

·         Elite kickboxer KJ Noons meets second-generation star Ryan Couture in a lightweight matchup

·         Cincinnati’s Jorge Gurgel is set to battle Brazilian prospect Adriano Martins at lightweight

·         At lightweight, winner of four straight Estevan Payan vs. Team Alpha Male’s Michael Bravo

Payout Perspective:

We’ve known about this for some time but the press release confirms the end of the organization.  The good news is the announcements that Strikeforce fighters filling up UFC cards.  While the demise of the organization was rumored once it was purchased by Zuffa, key injuries causing the cancellation of a couple events this past year and the UFC signing of Ronda Rousey made it known that Strikeforce would inevitably cease operations.  The free preview on Showtime the weekend of the event should help with ratings in its final show.

Gamma Labs posts 12 Days parody

December 22, 2012

Supplement company Gamma Labs produced a parody of the “12 Days of Christmas” featuring UFC ring attendant Britney Palmer and other notable UFC fighters. The video should help you get in the holiday spirit.

Payout Perspective:

It’s a great video and anytime you can get your product next to Brittney Palmer it will immediately attract every young male watching. Of course, the product will be the second thing your target audience will be watching. The one issue with the video is that I would have all the cameos appearing wear Gamma Labs gear just so folks would remember the company putting this together.  Overall, it was well done and shows a great sense of humor on the part of the fighters.

New York files Reply Brief in Support of its Motion to Dismiss

December 21, 2012

A Reply Brief was filed on behalf of the state of New York last week in the ongoing litigation involving Zuffa in its eternal quest to legalize MMA in the state.  The brief supports New York’s motion to dismiss Zuffa’s lawsuit in its entirety. It is not known at this point when a decision on the motion may be made.

As you recall, New York filed its Motion to Dismiss all of Zuffa’s claims in its Amended Complaint.  Zuffa submitted its opposition brief against dismissing the case.  Among the issues being argued in the briefing is the theory that MMA is protected under the First Amendment.  Zuffa contends that MMA is expressive conduct protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution as it is competed in front of an audience.

In its reply to Zuffa’s opposition brief, New York argues that MMA is “not expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment.”  New York argues that it is not the audience that is important, but “the particularity and comprehensibility of the intended message.”  Essentially does the audience observing the expressive conduct understand that what it is watching is expressive conduct?  its a slippery slope of an argument as Courts have warned against a “narrow, succinctly articulable message” for First Amendment protection that may exclude certain items.  But, New York cites case law which it argues requires examining the conduct to determine whether the message has a “great likelihood” that it will be understood by those viewing it.

New York also argues in its briefing that even if MMA fighters were found to be “communicating a particularized and comprehensible message worthy of protection,” New York maintains that the State continues to have an important interest in the ban or combat sports.  It argues that this interest allows it to regulate such speech despite the possibility of it having limitation on First Amendment freedoms.

New York's Reply Brief in Support of its Motion to Dismiss

Payout Perspective:

After reading the briefing in the Motion to Dismiss, each side makes compelling arguments for its position.  We have focused mainly on the First Amendment in these posts simply because it is a unique argument by Zuffa while most of the other claims are much more technical and dry to most people not interested in Constitutional law.

There is no timetable on a decision by the Court by MMA Payout will keep you posted.

UFC TV ratings from TUF 16 Finale and UFC on FX 6

December 20, 2012

MMA Junkie reports the ratings from this past weekends UFC events.  The Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale was a pleasant surprise earning a 1.3 million viewer average on FX Saturday night.

Friday’s UFC on FX 6 from Australia received an average of 972,000 viewers while the prelims on Fuel received only 96,000 viewers. (via MMA Junkie).  Its down from the 1.1 million average from UFC on FX 5.  But, the prelims doubled from UFC on FX 5 from a 44,000 viewer average.

The prelims for the TUF 16 Finale received 104,000 viewers on Fuel TV.

Payout Perspective:

The TUF Finale ratings are good considering it went up against two live boxing events on HBO and Showtime as well as the Pacquiao-Marquez IV rerun on HBO.  The Saturday night time slot appears to be better than Friday based on the ratings.  Of course, Friday night fights were the TUF Finale for the Australian version of the show and lesser known fighters (on the prelim cards) for those in the U.S.  This, and the fact that the prelims were on in the afternoon on the west coast likely contributed to the poor number.

Marines ends sponsorship with UFC

December 18, 2012

The U.S. Marines announced that it will not extend its sponsorship of the UFC via ESPN’s Josh Gross (and Stripes.com).  The sponsorship with the UFC ended November 30th and the budget for its sponsorship have been assigned elsewhere according to Major John Caldwell, a spokesman for Marine Corps Recruiting Command.

According to Maj. Caldwell via Stripes.com:

“Due to evolving mission requirements, budgetary constraints, marketing analysis and the recommendation of our contracted advertising agency, resources previously allocated to the endeavor have been applied to alternate priorities,” he said.

The decision to cease the business relationship has to do in part with a push by member of Congress to end all sports sponsorships.  Earlier this year, the U.S. Army pulled its NASCAR sponsorship.  Also, the article infers that the Culinary Union Local 206 may have influenced the decision to pull its support from the UFC.

Via Stripes.com:

“The Marine Corps continues to stress strong personal values in markets that are viewed by young men and women who are interested in military service,” Caldwell said.

The veterans committee of UNITE HERE, a union that represents 250,000 hotel, food service, restaurant, textile, industrial laundry and gaming industry workers, said values were the heart of their argument against the partnership between the Marine Corps and UFC.

Payout Perspective:

The termination of the U.S. Marines sponsorship is a blow to the UFC as its signage and brand was a mainstay during UFC events including the sponsored “Tale of the Tape” and “prep point,” the mat where fighters were greased, during PPVs.  It may be that the Marines were not receiving enough of a return on its investment in its sponsorship despite the fact that the UFC’s demo of young adult males is the audience the Marines would likely want.  The union influence, if true, is another thorn in the side for the UFC.  The UFC must now seek another prime sponsor to replace the hole that the Marines have left.

 

Pacquiao-Marquez IV: 1.15M PPV buys

December 18, 2012

Dan Rafael of ESPN reports that the fourth fight between Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez earned over 1.15 million PPV buys.  Top Rank Promoter Bob Arum confirmed the numbers to ESPN and HBO did not dispute Arum’s projection.

Despite “fan fatigue” for the fourth fight between the two and an admitted slow promotion, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum indicated a late surge in interest helped bring the buys above the 1 million PPV buy mark.  The numbers are better than the 900K buys the fighter did in his first loss of 2012 against Timothy Bradley.

A quick estimate based on the 1.15 million PPV buys has the fight earning $70 million in domestic TV revenue.

Pacquiao’s last three PPV fights:

November 2011 – Marquez III:  1.25M PPV buys

June 2012 – Bradley:  900K PPV buys

December 2012 – Marquez IV: 1.15M PPV buys

Payout Perspective:

It is odd to consider that the fourth fight’s success may mean a fifth fight between the two could (and should) draw bigger numbers.  I say odd because admittedly there was a lack of interest (which may have contributed to the sluggish promotion) in seeing these two fight a fourth time before December 8th.   But, the 1.15 million PPV buys is a success and also is a statement as to the drawing power of the “big fight” in boxing.

TUF 16 Finale payouts

December 17, 2012

MMA Fighting reports the salaries for the TUF 16 Finale.  Mike Pyle was the top earner of the night as he earned $78,000.

Via MMA Fighting:

Roy Nelson ($24,000 + $24,000 = $48,000) def. Matt Mitrione ($12,000)
Colton Smith ($8,000 + $8,000 = $16,000) def. Mike Ricci ($8,000)
Pat Barry ($22,000 + $22,000 =$44,000) def. Shane del Rosario ($20,000)
Dustin Poirier ($17,000 + $17,000 = $34,000) def. Jonathan Brookins ($20,000)

Mike Pyle ($39,000 + $39,000 = $78,000) def. James Head ($12,000)
Johnny Bedford ($8,000 + $8,000 = $16,000) def. Marcos Vinicius ($8,000)
Rustam Khabilov ($8,000 + $8,000 = $16,000) def. Vinc Pichel ($8,000)
Anthony Waldburger ($14,000 + $14,000 = $28,000) def. Nick Catone ($13,000)

Hugo Viana ($8,000 + $8,000 = $16,000) def. Reuben Duran ($8,000)
Mike Rio ($8,000 + $8,000 = $16,000) def. John Cofer ($8,000)
Tim Elliott ($6,000 + $6,000 = $12,000) def. Jared Papazian ($6,000)

 Payout Perspective:

Interesting that Pyle earned the highest base on Saturday night.  Of course, he has been a UFC veteran since 2009.  Mitrione and Nelson entered the UFC at the same time (December 2009) via TUF 10.  However, Nelson’s pay scale has accelerated faster.  Mitrione’s base has only improved by $2,000 since his UFC 137 loss in October 2011.  He has had bad luck as two of his scheduled fights were put off due to injury on the part of the other fighter.

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