TUF 20 Episode 6: 500,000

October 31, 2014

The 6th episode of TUF 20 on FS1 which aired this past Wednesday received an average viewership of 500,000 viewers.  The episode went up against Game 7 of the World Series on Fox.

In the fight of the show, Aisling Daly submitted Angela Magana.  Arguably, there was a questionable standup by the ref which negated a potential submission attempted by Magana.

TUF 20 Ep 6 Live

Payout Perspective:

Magana had one of the sadder backstory’s on the show and it was a disappointing loss.

As for the ratings, going up against Game 7 in any sport would draw most sports fans away from anything else.  Still, the A18-49 demo remained relatively flat (345,000) in comparison to the average over the season (346,000).  The World Series on Fox scored 23.5 million viewers which was the highest rating for the 7 games.  Of course, going into Game 7, it was on pace to be the lowest rated series and least-viewed ever.

UFC supports expansion of legalized sports betting

October 31, 2014

ESPN reports that the UFC, to no surprise, supports the expansion of legalized sports betting in the United States.  UFC exec Lawrence Epstein was quoted as saying that legalized sports betting “will enhance the game as opposed to doing anything to hurt it.”

Epstein also stated to ESPN about the proposed new law allowing sports betting in New Jersey, “[t]o the extent that there’s nothing illegal about taking bets on the UFC in the state of New Jersey, we’d be absolutely fine with it.”  The comments come on the heels of similar support from first year NBA commissioner Adam Silver who believes that sports betting legalization in the U.S. is “inevitable.”

Major sports leagues including the NBA have sued the state of New Jersey and have obtained a temporary restraining order preventing the state’s racetrack, Monmouth Park, from accepting bets on its games.  Of note, U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp wrote in his ruling that the restraining order was not limited to the sport leagues involved in the suit.  Thus, it could prevent taking bets on MMA even though no promotion is currently involved in the litigation.

The lawsuit by the leagues argues that the law passed by Governor Christie, the 2014 Sports Wagering Act, violates the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PAPSA).  PAPSA bans state-sponsored sports betting on all sports except jai alai, pari-mutuel horse and dog racing except in four states:  Oregon, Nevada, Montana and Delaware.  These four states have pre-existing gaming laws.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed legislation that partially repealed the state’s sports betting ban.  Based on this, the state would allow sports betting at casinos and racetracks, which are licensed by the state.  Monmouth Park would have taken bets this Sunday if not for the temporary injunction filed by the sports leagues.

At this point, the sports leagues (NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL) have filed their reply briefs in New Jersey on the matter and now Judge Shipp will decide on whether oral argument is necessary. The TRO ends November 21st.

For those wondering, this issue is just the latest episode of a long fight for legalized sports betting in New Jersey.  A similar case was denied a U.S. Supreme Court hearing last term.  In arguing that  PAPSA violated states’ rights, New Jersey stated that the law was unconstitutional because it fully exempts Nevada and partially exempts Oregon, Montana and Delaware from the ban.  New Jersey had lost an appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to a rehearing on the case and attempted to take its case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

As a result of the denial, in August 2014, New Jersey passed the aforementioned partial repeal on the prohibition against sports wagering as a “work around.”  But, this is where we get the lawsuit from the sports leagues.

While the NBA may one day support legalized gambling, the issue here is the state law in New Jersey.  One would think that if a federal law is passed, the sports leagues would comply.

Payout Perspective:

It’s clear that the UFC, with its heritage (and some sponsors) based in the gambling industry, would support legalized sports betting in the U.S.  Certainly, the UFC might have concerns with regulation but overall it would seem like broader availability to gamble on the UFC would garner more interest in its product.  Obviously, the UFC is willing considering it seamlessly offers betting lines during its events and programming.  The new litigation in New Jersey will be interesting to follow as the  underlying issue here is that the law seems to be a way to boost revenue for the state.  Its not clear if the UFC will get involved at this point, but it will certainly be following it closely.

Rousey signs deal with Buffalo David Bitton

October 30, 2014

Ronda Rousey has signed an endorsement deal with jeans brand Buffalo David Bitton.  Rousey was interviewed about her Manhattan photo shoot for the brand.

The photo shoot features some provocative shots with Rousey and a male model.

Rousey’s next fight against Cat Zingano has been moved from December in Vegas to February in Los Angeles.

The video of her photo shoot is here.

Payout Perspective:

The photo shoot is an extension of Rousey’s brand outside of the Octagon and reflects her mainstream popularity.  This photo shoot is a far cry from her Insureon commercials or even when she did the ESPN Body Issue.  It shows another side of Rousey as she seems to be embracing the entertainment side of her fame.

WWE announces 731K total WWEN subs for 3rd Quarter

October 30, 2014

The WWE announced its 3rd Quarter ratings on Thursday as it reported a net loss of $5.9 million ($0.08 a share) compared to net income of $2.4 million ($0.03 a share) from the third quarter in 2013.  The big news is that the WWE Network has not picked up subscribers as projected and now a new strategy has been implemented.

First, the WWE Network subscription number which one may conclude has been disappointing so far.  This past quarter, it had just picked up a total of 31,000 subscribers total (including international subscribers). Eric Fisher of the Sports Business Journal (via twitter) indicated that it had a gross subscriber add of 286,000 to end up with the 31,000 number. As Fisher points out, lots of “churn” from people subscribing then dropping the network.  In its first quarter of offering the Network in Canada, it added just 28,000 subscribers.

Average Paid Subscribers (numbers from WWE Investor Relations)

2014

Q1 – N/A

Q2 – 665,000

Q3 – 723,000

YTD

Q1 – N/A

Q2 – 406,000

Q3 – 515,000

Perhaps as a direct result of this poor number, the WWE announced in an email to its subscribers that it will no longer require a 6 month commitment for those paying $9.99 per month as of the December billing period.

In addition, it now will be offering the Network for free to new subscribers for the entire month of November. You will see the new catchphrase/hashtag #FreeFreeFree everywhere.

In other segments of the business, from data from the WWE, the WWE is off of its 2013 earnings in domestic attendance, home entertainment ($718,000 vs. $429,000) and of course, PPV buys ($761,000 vs. $285,000 – which is due to Network).  Online merchandise was up and the International attendance average for this quarter has gone up in comparison to last year.

On the brighter side, the WWE stated in a press release that revenue from its “seven new key television agreements is expected to increase from approximately $130 million in 2014 to approximately $235 million in 2018, providing over $100 million of revenue growth subject to counterparty risks.”

Overall, the WWEN is up 68% from the prior year but the financial investment of $5.1 million due to lost PPV revenue and additional costs have impacted the initial gain.  The WWE hopes that availability in the UK will continue to grow the network but so far it does not seem to show growth with it overseas.

Payout Perspective:

At the time of this writing, WWE stock is down 6% to $12.48 in early morning trading.   This is before its earnings call scheduled for 8amPT/11amET.

The new strategies offered by WWE with its Network (no commitment/free to new subs in November) infer strong concern as it is way off its projections at this point.  Earlier this month, it announced that it would be adding “limited advertising” to the network which may reflect a pressing need to find some financial gains in lieu of subscribers.

It’s interesting to see the divergent paths UFC Fight Pass and the WWE Network have taken since both started.  While many thought that the WWE had the better platform at the beginning, it appears (from all reports) that the UFC Fight Pass is flourishing while the WWE news is discouraging.  Obviously, WWE is the only one that has to publicly report its numbers so we really don’t know the whole story for the UFC.  Still, this has been a rough year for the WWE.

Bellator 130 Live +3 up to 755,000

October 29, 2014

The Live + 3 viewership for Friday’s Bellator 130 drew the event up to 755,000 viewers with a peak viewership of 1,140,000 viewers according to a Nielsen source.

The peak occurred at 10:15pm of the event.

Bellator 123   Live 667,000, Peak 979,000; Live +3  777,000, +3 Peak 1,193,000
Bellator 124   Live 771,000, Peak 1,200,000; Live +3  836,000, +3 Peak  1,429,000
Bellator 125   Live 742,000 , Peak 947,000; Live + 3  796,000, +3 Peak 1,120,000
Bellator 126   Live 656,000, Peak  946,000; Live + 3  687,000, +3 Peak  1,011,000
Bellator 127   Live 609,000, Peak  780,000; Live +3  670,000, +3 Peak 886,000
Bellator 128  Live 668,000, Peak 946,000; Live + 3  731,000, +3 Peak 990,000
Bellator 129  Live 564,000, Peak 780,000; Live +3  683,000, +3 Peak  948,000
Bellator 130  Live 640,000, Peak  952,000; Live +3  755,000, +3 Peak  1,140,000

Bellator 130 DVR

Payout Perspective:

This is the fifth event this season with a peak that has surpassed 1 million after factoring in DVR viewership. The adjusted viewership average is up to 742,000 while the peak is up to slightly over 1 million viewers.

Bellator 130: 640,000 viewers

October 29, 2014

Last Friday’s Bellator 130 which featured Emmanuel Newton defeating Linton Vassell drew 640,000 viewers according to Nielsen sources.  The peak viewership for the show was 930,000 viewers.

Bellator Season 11 overnight ratings

Bellator 123:  667,000

Bellator 124:  771,000

Bellator 125:  742,000

Bellator 126:  656,000

Bellator 127:  609,000

Bellator 128:  668,000

Bellator 129:  564,000

Bellator 130:  640,000

Notably, Bellator 130 went up against Pac 12 Football (Oregon-Cal) on FS1 which drew 1.2 million viewers and was the highest rated show on the network last week.

Bellator 130 overnight

Payout Perspective:

The ratings bring the season 11 average to approximately 665,000.  The overnight peak average is at 941,000 viewers.  The show featured some notable names including Bobby Lashley, Marloes Coenen, David Rickels and of course Newton.

Rousey-Zingano moves to LA on February 28th

October 29, 2014

Dana White announced via Instagram on Wednesday that the Ronda Rousey-Cat Zingano fight originally announced for UFC 182 will now be the co-main event for UFC 184 set for Los Angeles on February 28, 2015.

Originally set for January 3rd and to be the co-main event for Jon Jones-Daniel Cormier, Rousey gets to fight closer to home against Zingano.

One might expect Universal Studios to do some promotion within the UFC (perhaps Octagon signage) as Rousey will be in Fast and Furious 7.  Furious 7 opens April 3, 2014.

Payout Perspective:

The Weidman-Rousey team continues as Log Angeles gets a very good top of the card for its “make good” from this past summer’s cancelled event.  Obviously, many are speculating that if Belfort, who is coming off of TRT, gets injured or tests positive for something that Rousey can slide in as the main event.  Certainly, Rousey is very popular and with a fight at Staples, she should be a hometown favorite that could draw.  From a PPV perspective, putting Rousey on this card should help with the buy rate as we assume that the UFC is comfortable with Jones-Cormier as a marketable fight for UFC 182.  Jones, as a headliner averages approximately 479,000 PPV buys.  Rousey averages 395,000 PPV buys although the team of Weidman and Rousey average 785,000 PPV buys in the two events they have headlined.

TUF 20 Episode 5: up 280,000 viewers

October 29, 2014

The adjusted ratings for last week’s TUF 20 episode 5 drew it up another 280,000 viewers for a total of 789,000.  The Live +3 numbers are an addition of 55% from the overnight rating.

The episode, which featured Felice Herrig defeating Heather Jo Clark only drew 509,000 viewers in its initial running which may be due to going opposite the World Series.  However, it was the highest output for the A18-34 demo (367,000 viewers) for the season, yet was the lowest Live +3 output.  Episode 3 edge last week’s episode at it drew 791,000 viewers in Live +3.

TUF 20 Ep 5 Live +3

Payout Perspective:

As we indicated last week, the 5th episode likely suffered in overall viewership due to going up against the World Series and coming off a two week hiatus.  It did do well with the A18-34 demo which may be likely due to the Felice Herrig fight. The Live + 3 average is at 834,000 viewers.  The overnight average through 5 episodes is at 525,800.  In comparison TUF 19’s (Edgar-Penn) average through 5 episodes was at only 438,000 and Live + 3 at 746,000.

UFC 179 Prelims: 536,000 viewers

October 28, 2014

MMA Payout has learned from a Nielsen source that the UFC 179 Prelims this past Saturday on FS1 drew an average of 536,000 viewers.  The event which led up to the UFC 179 PPV had stiff competition as it went up against the World Series on Fox.

UFC PPV Prelims since August 2013 (FS1 unless specified)

UFC 164                             809,000

UFC 165                             722,000

UFC 166                             628,000

UFC 167                             998,000

UFC 168                          1,554,000

UFC 169                             933,000

UFC 170                             936,000

UFC 171                             305,000 (FS2)

UFC 172                             750,000

UFC 173                             697,000

UFC 174                             784,000 (FX)

UFC 175                             1,000,000

UFC 177                             436,000

UFC 178                             698,000

UFC 179                               536,000

UFC Prelims through 179

According to the Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand, the prelims were the 4th biggest audience for the week on FS1.  Friday night’s college football game between the Oregon Ducks and the California Bears drew the highest average of the week for the network with 1.2 million viewers.

Payout Perspective:

The “main event” of the Prelims was Neil Magny, in his 5th fight this year, defeating William Macario via TKO in the 3rd round.  The prelim card did not feature any real names of notice except Scott Jorgenson and perhaps we are getting to know Magny.  Going against the World Series was a tough assignment for the Prelims but I’m sure most of us knew that.  Of notice is that the highest rated event this week on FS1 was Friday night college football with only 1.2 million viewers.

Former wrestler files lawsuit against WWE regarding head injuries

October 27, 2014

A lawsuit filed last week in the U.S. District Court of Oregon by former professional wrestler William Albert Haynes III (aka “Billy Jack” Haynes) citing class action status related to “head injuries occurring in former and current WWE wrestlers” per the lawsuit.

Haynes wrestled in the WWE for only two years from 1986-1988.  Perhaps his most notable match was at Wrestlemania III.  Most of Haynes’ career was spent in the Pacific Northwest.

The lawsuit spells out the dangers of the professional wrestling business amplified by embedded photos in its lawsuit as well as YouTube links.  Essentially, WWE allowed its wrestlers to perform dangerous stunts, some of which include taking shots to the head causing head injuries.  The claim made by Haynes’ lawyers is that these head injuries cause traumatic brain injuries (i.e., concussions) and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (“CTE”).

photos of WWE wrestlers CM Punk and Rob Van Dam getting stitches after a match

photos of WWE wrestlers CM Punk and Rob Van Dam getting stitches after a match

Vince McMahon swinging a chair makes the case for Haynes that WWE allowed head shots.

Vince McMahon swinging a chair makes the case for Haynes that WWE allowed head shots.

A section of the lawsuit includes: “WWE is a Fake Sport with Real Consequences to Its Wrestlers.”  It also cites the numerous matches which include the use of chairs, chains, ladders and tables.  It also details different wrestling moves which involve potential trauma to the head including the “Brain Buster,” “Bulldog,” and “Facebreaker.”  They also bring up the case of a 13 year old that killed his 5 year old sister while performing a move he saw from the WWE.

Haynes vs. WWE

The lawsuit accuses the WWE of not protecting its wrestlers from brain damage.  Essentially, Haynes and his attorneys accuse the WWE of doing little, if anything, to protect its wrestlers.  It also claims to denying or concealing injuries of its wrestlers.

The claims in the lawsuit include:

-Fraudulent Concealment and Failure to Disclose or Warn

-Negligent Misrepresentation

-Declaratory and Injunctive Relief

-Negligence

-Medical Monitoring –this claim requests that the WWE establish a trust to pay for medical monitoring of all wrestlers as frequent as medically necessary and would pay to develop and research other methods to reduce risks

-Strict Liability for Abnormally Dangerous Activities

In addition to the requests under “Medical Monitoring,” it is requesting that the court grant it class action status and designating the attorneys as Class counsel.  It also is seeking actual, compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorney fees.

In response to the lawsuit, the WWE’s Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications provided a brief statement: “Billy Jack Haynes performed for WWE from 1986-1988.  His filed lawsuit alleges that WWE concealed medical information and evidence on concussions during that time, which is impossible since the condition now called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) had not been discovered.  WWE was well ahead of sports organizations in implementing concussion management procedures and policies as a precautionary measure as the science and research on this issue immerged.  Current WWE procedures include ImPACT testing for brain function, annual educational seminars and the strict prohibition of deliberate and direct shots to the head.” (H/t :  wrestling-online.com)

Payout Perspective:

I grew up watching Haynes wrestle in the Pacific Northwest mainly in a Portland, Oregon based promotion.  He had a very brief stint with the WWE.  This is a lawsuit that shall be interesting to follow and see whether or not the court grants Haynes class action status.  For those wondering, the essential elements a court determines when deciding whether or not a lawsuit may receive class action certification are:

-Commonality:  One or more legal or factual claims common to the entire class.

-Adequacy:  The parties in the class must adequately protect the interests of the class.

-Numerosity:  The class must be large enough that individual lawsuits would be impractical.

-Typicality:  The claims or defenses must be typical of the plaintiffs.

The four elements commonly are remembered (mainly by bar exam takers) as CANT.  It will be interesting to see whether or not the law firm can attain enough members willing to be a part of this lawsuit.  Certainly there are enough wrestlers out there that could establish a sufficient amount of plaintiffs.  However, how many are willing to come forward?  On his own, Haynes may not have a strong case considering he only spent two years with the company and much of his time wrestling was on the regional circuit where he could have been subjected to similar risks and injuries.  Thus, his case may not be as strong as someone who may have spent 20 years with the company.

This will be an interesting case that the UFC should take note of for future consideration.  While the ways that the participants attainhead trauma are different, there are still issues related to MMA fighter safety and blows to the head that might be a part of future legal claims.

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