Can Rousey carry another UFC PPV?

July 31, 2015

How will UFC 190 fare Saturday?  It’s the second straight event where Ronda Rousey is the selling point for the PPV.

The last time out, Rousey and Cat Zingano drew approximately 590,000 PPV buys at UFC 184 in February.  It was a success considering the undercard was not very strong.  We predicted 184 to draw between 350,000-375,000 PPV buys.  However, with the event in Los Angeles, there was a good amount of media coverage which probably helped.  She drew 1 million google searches on fight night and another 200,000 on Friday.

Prior to UFC 184, she drew only 350,000 PPV buys for UFC 170 against Sara McMann.

This time around the UFC is garnering some google searches.  Perhaps a bit of those searches have to deal with the passing of Rowdy Roddy Piper and that Rousey has indicated that he is dedicating her fight to his memory.  Rousey, a pro wrestling fan, drew her nickname from Piper.

August PPVs are not usually strong so UFC 190 should be interesting.  Last year, the UFC cancelled August’s UFC 176.  In 2013, the UFC had two August PPVs UFC 163 (180,000 PPV buys) and UFC 164 (270,000 PPV buys) which drew a combined 450,000 PPV buys.  In 2012, a Benson Henderson-Frankie Edgar fight drew just 190,000 PPV buys. (All PPV buys via MMA Payout Blue Book)

Payout Perspective:

One might expect that UFC 190 will exceed the past 3 August PPVs.  However, there are several things going against the PPV.  First, the lack of media hits for Rousey this week.  Maybe it’s unfair to compare the exposure she received with a PPV in Los Angeles, but clearly being in Brazil did not help.  Even the Embedded episodes seem to come out a little slower this time around.  Second, Saturday night PBC will hold its first major event on ESPN with Danny Swift fighting Paulie Malignaggi.  It will be interesting to compare the UFC Prelims ratings on FS1 with the boxing ratings on ESPN as the two overlap.  Will combat sports fans defer to boxing instead of paying $60 to watch Rousey likely destroy her opponent?  We shall see.

Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza signs sponsor deal with Reebok

July 30, 2015

Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza has signed an individual sponsorship deal with Reebok. The announcement was sent out via Reebok’s twitter feed.

The middleweight contender’s last fight was in April when he easily submitted Chris Camozzi.  He could be in line for a shot at Chris Weidman’s title after Luke Rockhold.  He is currently ranked #2 in the UFC Middleweight rankings.

Payout Perspective:

Interesting signing at this time as Souza does not have an upcoming fight announced.  He is an under-the-radar fighter in the middleweight division and should be in line for a title shot soon.  The signing probably helps the international market as he becomes the first Brazilian to be a Reebok-sponsored athlete.

WWE reports 2nd quarter earnings

July 30, 2015

The WWE announced its second quarter earnings on Thursday and the numbers pleased many analysts.  The WWE reported net income of $5.1 million ($0.07 per share) compared to a net loss of $14.5 million ($0.19 loss per share) in the second quarter last year.

The WWE reported quarterly revenue of $150.2 million exceeding $1.5 million better than analysts expectations.

The total number of WWE Network subscribers increased 75% from the second quarter in 2014.  The WWE Network had 1,156,000 paid subscribers at 2015 2nd quarter end.  It is a 31% increase from the first quarter of 2015.  The network continues to think of its future plans which includes new content and adding approximately 180 hours of original content by year’s end.

WWE stock has increased 59% since the start of 2015.  It closed up $2.88, 17%, to $19.36 on Thursday.

Notable earnings highlights and announcements:

  • Live Event revenues decreased 34% to $26.4 million from $40.3 million in the prior year quarter primarily due to the timing of WrestleMania.
  • The WWE video game, WWE2K15, has done well. It has assisted in boosting the Consumer Products Division revenues up 36% from $16.0 million to $21.8 million this quarter.  Licensing revenues increased 105% from $5.5 million to $11.3 million on the strength of the game based on higher unit sales and effective royalty rates.
  • WWE Studios increased slightly from $1.7 million (Q2 in 2014) to $2.1 million this year.
  • In enticing fans to subscribe to the WWE, it plans to introduce a 3 month subscription card at retail which would give a “no credit card required” payment option.
  • Despite the Network, PPV buys are still solid with an average of approximately 56,000 for the 3 events of the second quarter. Although not considered a PPV, a July 4th live event from Japan, Beast in the East become the most watched program of all-time on the network excluding PPVs.
  • Television revenues increased 19% from $43.8 million (Q2 in 2014) to $52.1 million. The revenues do not include the timing of Total Divas which began airing in July.

Payout Perspective:

The one take in comparing the WWE Network from this quarter last year was that the network was only available in the U.S. in July 2014.  Now, the WWE has expanded internationally.  Still, a bulk of the over 1 million subscribers are in the U.S.  The earnings report is a win for the WWE as it appears that its most recent big gamble, the network, is doing well.  The big challenge is maintaining and retaining subscribers.  There is still a deficit in the amount of investment in the infrastructure of the network lost PPV revenue and TV licensing fees.  Yet, the network appears to have caught on.

Zuffa denied motion to stay discovery in antitrust lawsuit

July 30, 2015

A Nevada judge has denied Zuffa’s motion to stay discovery in the antitrust lawsuit filed by former fighters.  In addition, it appears that the court will want the parties to come up with a plan to allow the plaintiffs some of its discovery requests.

A Motion to Dismiss the lawsuit brought by Zuffa has yet to be heard by the court after the case was transferred from San Jose to Las Vegas but the court’s allowance of some of the discovery might infer that this case will not.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy A. Leen denied Zuffa’s Motion to Stay Discovery.  The order indicates that “[t]he parties are directed to meet and confer and submit a proposed form of Confidentiality and Protective Order, as well as ES1 Protocols, within 30 days from today’s date [July 28th].”

In addition, the order stated that the Court “is going to impose restrictions on discovery while the District Judge considers the pending Motion to Dismiss…” it goes on to state, “Plaintiffs’ Counsel are encourage to reconsider their broad discovery requests.”

In federal court, there is a discovery “master” or judge that determines discovery disputes as was done here.  Judge Richard Boulware will preside over the actual court case.  This differs from state court where the trial court judge typically decides discovery motions too.

H/t:  Bloody Elbow

Payout Perspective:

The ruling appears to be a “cookie-cutter” of sorts as you might infer that the encouragement by the Court for Plaintiffs to reconsider its “broad” requests suggests that the Court does not want to grant Zuffa’s motion to halt discovery.  But, it acknowledges that the requests for a broad swath of financial statements, balance sheets and other receipts going back years and years is too cumbersome and unwieldly.  Thus, Plaintiffs will get a chance to obtain some documents but perhaps not everything it is seeking.  Despite not getting everything it asks for, Plaintiffs might get enough information to amend its complaint and survive a motion to dismiss.  In the alternative, you might think of this as the Court allowing Plaintiffs the opportunity to obtain some documents prior to the Court dismissing its case.  Hence, it was given a chance to prove its case.

The parties are to “meet and confer” to come up with a plan for discovery.  This happens a lot in discovery disputes where the Court forces the sides to work together.  Even with the hope of compromise, we still may see issues sprout up and fights over certain requests/documents.  Clearly, Zuffa will want to protect certain information while Plaintiffs will deem it discoverable.  We shall see how expansive this discovery fight continues and whether it plays into the inevitable Motion to Dismiss.

W Silva sued by UFC for claiming it fixes fights

July 29, 2015

Zuffa has sued Wanderlei Silva in the District Court of Clark County Nevada.  The lawsuit alleges Silva wrote on his Facebook that the UFC fixes fights.

The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday by Campbell and Williams, the law firm representing Zuffa in this matter.

A section of the complaint describes Silva’s “Campaign of Harassment Against the UFC.”

The complaint identifies a September 2014 video where he criticizes the UFC “voicing a number of rambling and baseless complaints against the organization” per the complaint.  It goes on to state that it has monitored Silva’s remarks which it largely dismissed but believes he crossed the line when he proclaimed that the UFC fixes fights.  The latest statement from Silva came on July 23rd when he wrote about the UFC on Facebook.  He ended by stating, according to the complaint: “…fixed fights and I can prove this! I still haven’t dropped the bomb, I haven’t told everything I know!!! (emphasis added).

The UFC then cites a second post the same day: “[a]nd I’m going to fight until the end, to unmask those promoters, that are eluding people!! And cheating taking the dignity and the honor of our sport!  It’s turning into “wwe telecte!!!”…With fixed fights we have to stop Those guys since this is the end of the line for us!!!” (emphasis added).  Although both posts were in Portuguese they were easy to translate.

The causes of action include Defamation Per Se and Business Disparagement.  The complaint claims that Silva’s allegations of fight-fixing are “even more heinous” considering the Fertittas are linked to Nevada’s gaming industry.

Zuffa is looking for compensatory damages in excess of $10,000, punitive damages to be proven at trial as well as attorney fees and costs.

H/t: Robert Cardenas.

Payout Perspective:

To prove a claim for defamation, one has to prove a statement either spoken or written injures someone’s reputation.  Here, Silva posted his thoughts about the UFC on his Facebook page.  Clearly, stating that the UFC fixes fights damages the UFC’s reputation.  The relevant defenses to a defamation claim are the truth and/or privilege.  There are also other carveout defenses such as the alleged defamatory statement was one of opinion and there was consent to publicize the alleged defamatory statement.  In this case, there is no privilege, so Silva will need to rely on what he claims he has which is information that the UFC fixes fights.  The business disparagement claim is similar to prove.  Essentially, there must be an injurious statement that is publicized that would discourage people from dealing with the business.   Obviously, claiming the UFC fixes fights would make fans not want to buy its PPVs.  As for defenses, they are similar to defamation as the accused party can claim the statement was the truth.

The UFC decided to sue Silva as its reputation and integrity was called into question.  While Silva may be disgruntled about a lot of things, claiming the UFC fixes fights goes over the line.  He may argue that his statements were a matter of opinion but the posts clearly indicate that the UFC allegedly fixes fights.  Does Silva have proof?  We will see if this case moves to discovery.  At the outset, I believe Silva’s lawyers will attempt to dismiss this lawsuit prior to it getting any further.  We shall see.

Kovalev-Mohammedi draws 1.041 million viewers

July 29, 2015

ESPN’s Dan Rafael reports that HBO Boxing’s event featuring Sergey Kovalev against Nadjib Mohammedi drew an average subscriber viewership of 1.041 million viewers with a peak of 1.082 million.

In addition, the first fight on HBO on Saturday featuring Jean Pascal taking on Yunieski Gonzalez drew an average viewership of 883,000 viewers peaking at 1.082 million.  The Pascal-Gonzalez fight was an entertaining one that went to Pascal despite a great showing by Gonzalez.

The HBO event drew more viewers than NBCSN’s PBC event even though, as Rafael points out, HBO has about 36 million subscribers while NBC Sports Network is in more than double the homes (81.5 million).

Kovalev’s March fight against Jean Pascal drew an overall average audience of 956,000 viewers but his fight against Pascal drew an average audience of 1.152 million peaking at 1.2 million.  His fight last fall against Bernard Hopkins drew 1.328 million.

Payout Perspective:

Kovalev is showing that he is a draw and an asset to HBO’s stable of boxers.  This Saturday’s fight was lower than his past two but that may be due to the less-than-stellar opponent.  If Kovalev finds a fight with a bigger name, we can see viewership rise.  However, it appears that he’ll be fighting in Russia in November against another Russian opponent.

UFC on Fox 16 draws 2.8M viewers per Live+SD ratings

July 28, 2015

UFC on Fox 16 drew an official live + SD rating of 2.8 million viewers factoring in the complete event which aired from 8-10:30PM ET.  In addition, the prelims which preceded the main card on Fox drew 1.3M viewers.

The ratings were released via Fox Sports press release.  The numbers show a bump based on the fast overnights of 2.29M viewers which did not account for the last 30 minutes of the event.  The peak of the main card was 3.8 million viewers.

UFC on Fox 16 Ratings updated

In comparison to last July’s UFC on Fox event, this year’s card featuring T.J. Dillashaw defending his bantamweight title against Renan Barao did better than UFC on Fox 12 which drew 2.5 million viewers peaking at 3.4 million.  Last July featured Matt Brown taking on Robbie Lawler.

UFC on Fox Ratings
Overnights Live + SD
UFC on Fox 1 5,700,000
UFC on Fox 2 4,570,000
UFC on Fox 3 2,250,000 2,400,000
UFC on Fox 4 2,360,000 2,400,000
UFC on Fox 5 3,410,000 4,400,000
UFC on Fox 6 3,770,000 4,220,000
UFC on Fox 7 3,300,000 3,700,000
UFC on Fox 8 2,040,000 2,380,000
UFC on Fox 9 2,410,000 2,800,000
UFC on Fox 10 2,550,000 3,220,000
UFC on Fox 11 1,990,000 2,500,000
UFC on Fox 12 2,020,000 2,500,000
UFC on Fox 13 2,270,000 2,800,000
UFC on Fox 14 2,820,000 3,049,000
UFC on Fox 15 2,430,000 2,745,000
UFC on Fox 16 2,290,000 2,800,000

The chart and graph have been revamped to include the “fast overnights” versus the Live + same day (SD) rating.  The overnights do not account for any overruns.  The live plus same day rating includes any viewership that may have occurred that day and not just live viewing.

Note that UFC on Fox 1 and 2 we do not have the “fast overnights,” just the Live +SD rating.

Payout Perspective:

The bump in viewership is a nice increase from the original overnight viewership in comparison to the last couple network events.  Its peak viewership of 3.8M viewers is the best peak for a UFC on Fox event since UFC on Fox 13 drew 3.8M viewers.  The prelims matches the viewership number on Fox for UFC on Fox 12.  The only other time the prelims were also on Fox, UFC on Fox 15 drew 1.4 million viewers.

Eric Winter named UFC Fight Pass exec

July 28, 2015

The UFC announced that former Yahoo and Rivals.com executive Eric Winter has been named Senior Vice President and General Manager of UFC Fight Pass.  Winter will oversee and manage the global expansion of UFC Fight Pass according to a UFC press release.

In addition, Winter will oversee exclusive content for the over the top platform.  Winter will work with Executive Vice President and Chief Content Officer Marshall Zelaznik and Executive Vice President of Operations and Production Craig Bosari.

Winter via UFC press release:

“UFC is not only the leader in the sport of mixed martial arts, but it is a leader in the area of programming and content distribution. I am thrilled to join UFC and build key partnerships that will ensure UFC FIGHT PASS is the premier destination for fight fans around the world.”

More on Winter’s background:

Previously, Winter led the unprecedented development of the Yahoo-owned Rivals.com, revolutionizing college football and basketball recruiting and the coverage of elite student-athletes. Overseeing a staff of 360 writers, editors, videographers and technologists, Winter transformed Rivals.com into the premier digital community featuring the most sought-out prospects and created the nation’s premier football camp series, showcasing the best athletes from across the country.

Prior to Rivals.com, Winter worked for Yahoo! Sports where he was the co-head of the global partnership team.  He first established relationships with the UFC when he worked for DirecTV where he led the PPV events marketing team in promoting UFC and Pride PPVs.

Payout Perspective:

It appears that Winter may spearhead a growth period for UFC Fight Pass.  We shall see if that means expansion in new global territories, acquisition and/or development of new content for the platform or both.

PBC on NBC Sports Network Saturday draws 247K viewers

July 28, 2015

PBC on NBC Sports Network Saturday night drew an average of 247,000 viewers per Sports TV Ratings. The event featured a cruiserweight bout between B.J. Flores and Bebut Shumenov.

Notably, the event which aired from 9-12:18pm ET went up against HBO Boxing and a Sergey Kovalev title defense.  Although the complete ratings are not in, it appears that the Kovalev fight drew slightly over 1 million viewers per Sports TV Ratings.  The segment ratings for the HBO event looks to have done better than the 247K viewership rating as the lowest ratings for the 2 fight HBO event was 508K.

Payout Perspective:

Although we have to look back, this PBC event likely did the lowest TV ratings so far among all of the PBC events across all networks.  When PBC appears on Bounce TV this weekend, one might expect lower ratings since not many viewers have Bounce or actually know of its existence.  Flores and Shumenov are not known to many casual boxing fans which may have attributed to the low ratings.  It would be interesting to see if viewership went up after the HBO event was over as Kovalev won with a 3rd round TKO.

Haymon-Golden Boy file Arbitration Briefs which may decide lawsuit

July 27, 2015

Arbitration briefs have been filed in the Al Haymon-Golden Boy case in which Haymon’s attorneys are seeking to stay the court case claiming that an arbitrator should decide the promotion’s grievances against Haymon and his business entities.  Arbitrator Daniel Weinstein is set to hear the parties’ arguments on July 29th.

Golden Boy argues in its brief to the Arbitrator that it does not have jurisdiction over the federal claims it filed against Haymon and his business entities this past May.  It states that the parties’ agreement was not “clearly and unmistakably” granting authority to arbitrate its particular dispute outlined in the May 5 lawsuit.  In addition, it states that Bernard Hopkins, a party to the lawsuit, is not a party to the Settlement Agreement signed by Golden Boy last December which Haymon’s attorneys claim negate GB and Hopkins’ federal claims which include Antitrust and Ali Act violations.  Hopkins is a plaintiff in the Golden Boy lawsuit.  Even if the Arbtirator claims that he has jurisdiction over the parties, Golden Boy argues that the federal claims are not within the arbitration clause and that the arbitration provision does not cover the term’s end.

The overall suggestion here is that the federal claims cannot be decided by an Arbitrator because the claims were never waived in the Settlement Agreement and/or the release of claims were not arbitrable.

In its opening arbitration brief which includes several sections that are redacted, Haymon’s attorneys argue that the Arbitrator has the exclusive jurisdiction to determine whether the federal claims are subject to the December 2014 Settlement Agreement executed between Haymon and Golden Boy.  It argues that Golden Boy has come up with the date of January 1, 2015 to “plead around” the Settlement Agreement signed by the parties.  Essentially, Haymon argues that the alleged monopoly and claimed violations of the Muhammad Ali Act existed on December 19, 2014.  Thus, the Haymon camp claims that the claims relate to the Settlement Agreement entered into by Haymon and Golden Boy. As for Hopkins, it argues that he is a shareholder in GB and the argument that it was not a party to the Settlement Agreement falls flat.

Haymon’s attorneys stress that “there is no explanation for Golden Boy starting its federal claims on January 1, 2015.”  This contention is in response to Golden Boy’s lawsuit which claims injuries sustained beginning on January 1, 2015.  In its briefing, Haymon attorneys stress that it had signed a bulk of the 100 fighters prior to the December 19th Settlement Agreement.  Thus, any sort of claim violating Antitrust laws or the Ali Act would have occurred prior to the parties entering into the Settlement Agreement.

Haymon’s attorneys also point to the broad release language in the Settlement Agreement in arguing that the release covers the present claims in the Golden Boy lawsuit.  They argue that Golden Boy could have negotiated for terms within the Settlement Agreement that would have addressed the issues currently before them.

Golden Boy's Arb Brief Re Preliminary Issues

Haymons’ Arb Brief by JASONCRUZ206

Payout Perspective:

We could know this week whether one of the two Antitrust lawsuits filed against Al Haymon will be put on hold.  One would think even with an Arbitrator ruling on jurisdiction, we will see an appeal by one of the sides.  It’s clear that the ruling will hinge on the language within the Settlement Agreement regarding the arbitration of the agreement.  We will keep you updated.

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