AXS TV ANNOUNCES LONG-TERM AGREEMENT WITH LEGACY FIGHTING ALLIANCE AS PART OF EXPANDED MMA LINEUP

September 20, 2016

Los Angeles – Monday, Sept. 19, 2016 – AXS TV FIGHTS and the LEGACY FIGHTING ALLIANCE (LFA) today announced an exclusive, long-term broadcasting agreement. The multi-year pact will see AXS TV FIGHTS broadcast 30 live LFA events in 2017.

The newly formed LFA is the result of a merger between Legacy Fighting Championship and Resurrection Fighting Alliance, both of which rose to national prominence on AXS TV FIGHTS. The merger and new broadcast agreement now set the stage for the LFA and AXS TV FIGHTS to expand on their reputations as the proving ground for the next generation of MMA stars, as evidenced by their heralded pasts where the promotions have combined to place over 100 fighters in the UFC and Bellator.

Based on the strength of talent within the combined organization and LFA’s 30 fight schedule, AXS TV FIGHTS will expand its 2017 lineup to 45 live events—its largest ever, extend its live broadcast window to three hours, and kick off its Friday night broadcasts an hour earlier at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. “The Voice” Michael Schiavello and UFC Hall of Famer Pat Miletich will be joined by veteran reporter Ron Kruck to form combat sports’ best broadcast team.

“AXS TV is proud to broadcast the LFA to help create MMA’s premier developmental league,” said Mark Cuban, founder and CEO of AXS TV. “AXS TV FIGHTS’ expanded 2017 lineup builds on AXS TV’s 13-year, 336-fight legacy as ‘Your Home for MMA’ with more live mixed martial arts and kickboxing events than any other TV network.”

To accommodate its increased commitment to live MMA events, AXS TV concurrently announced that INSIDE MMA will conclude its historic run on Sept. 30, 2016 when it broadcasts its 433rd and final episode. On the finale, Mauro Ranallo, Bas Rutten and Ron Kruck will be joined by original host Kenny Rice to celebrate and take a look back at the show’s achievements and memorable moments as television’s longest running and only independent MMA news series.

The pioneering program, INSIDE MMA, debuted on Sept. 14, 2007 as the first and only television series devoted to the burgeoning sport of MMA. In the 10 seasons that followed, INSIDE MMA documented the meteoric rise of MMA from a fringe sport fighting for mainstream acceptance to becoming the fastest growing sport in the world.

“INSIDE MMA blazed the trail for mainstream media’s acceptance of MMA,” said Cuban. “Bas, Kenny and Ron were there from the start, introducing the sport and its stars to a national television audience when other networks and newspapers were too afraid and out of touch to recognize its appeal.”axs-tv

Mauro Ranallo joins “Inside MMA” on AXS TV

March 9, 2016

Long-time combat sports commentator Mauro Ranallo has joined AXS TV as the new host of “Inside MMA” starting later this month according to a company press release.

Ranallo, who is currently the voice of WWE’s Smackdown will join Bas Rutten for the weekly show on AXS TV.  He has also called play-by-play for Showtime Boxing and was the play-by-play voice for the international feed for the much-heralded Pacquiao-Mayweather fight.

Kenny Rice will remain with Inside MMA as a special correspondent according to the press release.

Ranallo via AXS TV press release:

 “In a year in which I landed a dream job with WWE, my dream to once again cover MMA and work with my broadcasting brother Bas Rutten has also come true. Filling the shoes of consummate pro Kenny Rice won’t be easy but I can’t wait to return to AXS TV for some strong style MMA coverage!”

Ranallo served as the voice for New Japan Wrestling on AXS TV.  Jim Ross recently took over the duties for Ranallo.

Ranallo begins with Inside MMA on Friday, March 25th.

Bellator 149 draw 1.9M, Kimbo-Dada draw 2.5M viewers

February 22, 2016

Bellator 149 delivered huge ratings on Friday night according to Sports TV Ratings.  The event was the highest-rated cable sports show on Friday drawing an average of 1.964,000 viewers on Spike TV.  In fact, the pre- and post-fight programming featuring Kimbo Slice and Benson Henderson respectively posted huge ratings as well.

Bellator 149 was headlined by Ken Shamrock versus Royce Gracie which drew 2.4 million viewers from 11:54pm ET-11:57pm).  But everyone was talking about the Kimbo-Dada5K fight which averaged 2.5 million viewers from 11:16pm-11:30pm.

In addition, the hour and a half show preceding Bellator 149 on Spike, “Kimbo Slice: The Truth,” drew 867,000 viewers.  “Unrivaled: Benson Henderson,” which aired immediately after Bellator drew 818,000 viewers.  Both Bellator programs are among the highest-rated for shoulder programming for the organization.

The 1.964M viewers is the highest-rated Bellator event on Spike TV.  It bests June 2015’s Bellator tentpole event by 20%.

In addition per Spike press release:

-The Kimbo-Dada fight drew a 2.3 rating with men 18-34.

-Bellator 149 was the number 1 ranked telecast of the day with men 18-34 in all of television.

-It was the most watched MMA telecast on Spike in nearly 5 years 3/26/11.

Payout Perspective:

Kimbo Slice is ratings.

We should have more of a breakdown on the event in the coming days.  Despite the “freakshow” quality of the event, Bellator got its ratings.  3 of the top 6 cable sports programs on Friday night were Bellator on Spike TV.  But, the ratings reflect the fact that promotion and known names are what drives the Bellator model.  Kimbo, Shamrock and Gracie were the top draws when in reality they should not be fighting.  But, the promotion for this fight (including the pieces involving Dada) made you excited to see these fights regardless of the reality of the outcome.  The ratings tell Spike execs that the formula works and we’ll see more of it.

UFC announces new CFO

January 11, 2016

The UFC announced the appointment of Nakisa Bidarian as Chief Financial Officer of the company per UFC press release.  Bidarian replaces John Mulkey as CFO of the company.

Mulkey’s LinkedIn Profile only identifies him as Former UFC Chief Financial Officer and not another position in place of his former title.  According to his profile on the site, he worked as CFO from March 2006 until December 2015.  The Official UFC press release announcing the new CFO of the company does not mention Mulkey at all.

Bidarian has been with the company for a while as he formerly served as UFC’s Executive Vice President of Strategy and Business Ventures.  According to the press release he will focus on “key financial initiatives, strategic goals and supporting the organization’s overall growth by guiding business decisions and analyzing their financial components.”  He was formerly responsible for Group Strategy for the UFC which included corporate development, strategic planning, research, analytics with respect to the UFC Gym.

Bidarian previously worked with Mubadala Devlopment Company, a multi-billion-dollar sovereign investment company based out of Abu Dhabi.  He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in financial economics from the University of Waterloo and an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

Bidarian took over the helm as CFO on January 4th.

Payout Perspective:

There is no word as to whether Mulkey was removed as the CFO or left on his own accord.  It does seem suspect that there was no announcement as to his whereabouts from any account.  Frankly, if you update your LinkedIn Profile to state you are no longer with a company it usually includes your new work location.  With the UFC doing well financially in 2015, it would be interesting to know the reason for the change.

Bellator announces famous PRIDE announcer for Bellator: Dynamite 1

September 11, 2015

Bellator MMA teased the addition of a legendary MMA figure to the Bellator: Dynamite 1 event a few weeks back. Yesterday, they announced the addition of former PRIDE announcer and MMA legend Lenne Hardt via the apropos usage of SoundCloud.

Bellator: Dynamite 1 is scheduled to take place on September 19th from SAP Center in San Jose, CA and will feature the LHW title bout between Tito Ortiz vs Liam McGeary as the main event.  Bellator: Dynamite 1 will also hold a one-night Four Man LHW Tournament in addition to Glory kickboxing bouts in a unique ring plus cage arena setup announced for the event.

 

Payout Perspective:

This is not the first time Scott Coker has paid homage to his Japanese roots.  Back in 2011-2012, just before Strikeforce was sold to Zuffa, Coker and match-maker Rich Chou were the composers of the now famed Strikeforce HW GP, which included HW fighters such as Fedor, Daniel Cormier, Josh Barnett, Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem, Sergei Kharitonov, Antonio Silva, Andrei Arlovski, and Brett Rogers.

Also planned for the event was the addition of Lenne Hardt, but scheduling conflicts prevented Scott Coker and Lenne Hardt to come to an agreement. Bellator: Dynamite 1 is the second chance Coker and Hardt had been looking for since their first failed attempt back in the Strikeforce era.

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.

Bell Media’s TSN and RDS officially become new Canadian home for UFC

December 23, 2014

TSN, RDS and Fight Network are the official new home for the UFC in Canada according to a joint press release on Tuesday.  The deal is multi-year agreement for Canadian media rights.

Prior to the deal, the UFC had called Rogers Sportsnet its home.  The recent release of January network scheduling on TSN revealed UFC programming which led many to believe a deal had been brokered for a new home for the UFC.

Via press release:

Bell Media’s TSN and RDS will deliver a slate of marquee UFC programming to fans across multiple platforms, including major live events, preliminary fights of UFC Pay-Per-View events, UFC Fight Night events, and The Ultimate Fighter® series.

Fight Network will broadcast all UFC Fight Night events from around the world as well as preliminary bouts for domestic non-Pay-Per-View cards.

TSN and RDS will partner with Fight Network to produce an original live pre-fight program before Pay-Per-View events that will air on Canada’s #1 sports networks. Additional shoulder programming will air across TSN’s suite of five national feeds, giving UFC fans more access to programming than ever before.

As part of the partnership, TSN, RDS and Fight Network will work together to provide effective sales and marketing of UFC broadcasts in Canada.

Payout Perspective:

As we previously pointed out, the Sportsnet deal with the NHL likely meant that the UFC would be looking for another home.  Financial terms of the multi-year, multi-network deal were not disclosed.

The Wrestling Post – 11.24.14

November 24, 2014

Welcome to another edition of The Wrestling Post.  In this post, TNA finds a new TV deal and New Japan comes to America.

TNA finds its Destination

Last week, TNA Wrestling announced a multi-year TV deal with Destination America. TNA ends it run with Spike TV at the end of the year.

Destination America, which launched in May 2012, is owned by Discovery Communications and is in almost 60 million households.  The question is will most people know they have the channel.  TNA Wrestling will move to Destination America in January 2015.

Via TNA press release:

“Our partnership in this uniquely entertaining franchise with TNA IMPACT WRESTLING provides a significant addition to Destination America’s programming strategy,” said Henry Schleiff, Group President of Destination America, Investigation Discovery, American Heroes Channel, Discovery Fit & Health and Discovery Family Channel. “The enduring, cross-generational enthusiasm of pro wrestling is felt by millions of fans around the country, from coast-to-coast and throughout the heartland.  We are delighted to bring this beloved American pastime to the one and only network dedicated to celebrating the unique spirit of the U.S., Destination America.”

Payout Take:   TNA goes from being in 98.7 million homes (Spike TV) to 60 million.  The good news is that it found a television home.  We shall see how it will do on its new home and how it will market itself so that viewers will want to find it.

New Japan to AXS TV

New for 2015.  New Japan Wrestling on American television.  AXS TV has acquired 13 episodes from New Japan Pro Wrestling and will air on Friday nights at 9pm ET/6pm PT according to a press release.

More from the press release:

“With this acquisition, AXS TV FIGHTS now offers one of the most diverse combat sports and sports entertainment programming line-ups on television,” said AXS TV FIGHTS CEO Andrew Simon. “There is a strong relationship and influence between professional wrestling and MMA, and with the addition of Josh Barnett and Mauro Ranallo as our commentators, we’re confident this new venture will be a crossover hit with wrestling and MMA fans alike.”AXS TV’s NJPW episodes were produced by and purchased from TV ASAHI CORPORATION.

NJPW will serve as the lead-in to the weekly Friday night live MMA, Muay Thai and/or kickboxing broadcasts.  Josh Barnett and Mauro Ranallo will provide commentary for the series.  It’s an interesting acquisition and will draw the eyes of many wrestling fans that have heard about NJPW but have never seen entire matches.

Royce Gracie signed by Bellator as Promotional Brand Ambassador

October 8, 2014

Bellator MMA announced on Wednesday that UFC Hall of Famer has become a Promotional Brand Ambassador for the company via press release.

Via Bellator Press Release:

Known simply as the pioneer of mixed martial arts, Royce Gracie is widely considered the most influential and important figure the sport has seen. Engaging in some of the most memorable fights in MMA history during his time with the UFC and PRIDE Fighting Championships, Gracie has now joined Bellator as an official brand ambassador for the Viacom-owned promotion.

“I have known Scott [Coker] for a long time and have always respected him as not only a promoter but as a martial artist who has always treated fighters with respect and truly understands their value,” Gracie said. “Bellator and Viacom want to give fans exciting fights and enable fighters to continue to grow and most importantly provide for their family, and it’s something I want to be a part of. UFC has done a great job over the past twenty years in building this sport and taking it globally and I’m glad to have been part of that, but Bellator is a growing organization I am honored to be a part of, and with the dedicated and talented people already associated with the company, we can further the growth of mixed marital arts as a sport worldwide.”

Gracie will immediately be involved with Bellator including promotion for Bellator 131, which is headlined by a light heavyweight showdown between Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonnar, along with a Lightweight Title fight between Michael Chandler and Will Brooks on November 15. Moving forward Gracie will host seminars, be involved in autograph and promotional appearances, as well as aiding in the International expansion of Bellator around the world. Bellator and Gracie will also be involved in a co-branded merchandise line that will debut in 2015.

Gracie named as brand ambassador

Payout Perspective:

It does not sound like there will be ill will between Gracie and the UFC as there was with Randy Couture’s departure.  Of course, we have not heard from Dana White.  Still, Gracie was not an active part of the UFC promotional machine.  The addition of Gracie means more for Bellator than it does for the UFC to lose him as a potential ambassador. The deal for Gracie sounds promising assuming his compensation is tied to his appearances as well as receiving a portion of the merchandise sales from co-branded merchandise.

Bellator appoints Chief Operating Officer

September 16, 2014

Bellator MMA has announced the appointment of Jason Jordan as Chief Operating Officer for the company.  Jordan will report to Scott Coker per a company press release.

According to the Bellator release, Jordan will oversee all financial and operational aspects of the business, manage corporate strategy and business development efforts, define and evaluate new growth opportunities,

Via Bellator press release:

“As Bellator continues to evolve into a premier mixed martial franchise, we are thrilled to join forces with such a dynamic and strategic leader with an incredibly comprehensive background in major entertainment brands such as Viacom and Disney,” said Coker.

Jordan’s role expands from Senior Vice President, Digital Operations, Strategy & Finance, Viacom Entertainment Group, where he is responsible for the fiscal management of the digital activities of the Viacom Entertainment Group’s portfolio of brands, including Comedy Central, Spike, TV Land and South Park.

Prior to joining Viacom, Jordan was the Chief Financial Officer of IFILM Corp, which was sold to MTVN in 2005.  Before that Jordan ran Business Development at an action sports production company and played an integral role in Corporate Strategic Planning Department of The Walt Disney Company, where he assessed business opportunities in the television, theatrical, music, and online spaces.

Jordan holds a Masters of Science degree in Operations Research and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics. Both degrees are from Stanford University. Jordan is an avid athlete and sports fan and competed on the crew team in college.

Payout Perspective:

From what we understand, it’s still too early to tell at this point whether there are new strategic initiatives on the horizon with Jordan’s appointment.  It does appear that Bellator is looking to broaden its base of viewers as Jordan has an extensive entertainment background and it is looking for new input in how to do this.

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