March 7, 2014
MMA Fighting reports that Dana White has unsurprisingly shot back at ESPN for its “Outside the Lines” piece on TRT. White denied claims that he “flip-flopped” on the TRT issue.
White accused ESPN of embellishing the story by Mike Fish and Josh Gross which highlighted mainly UFC fighters applying for exemptions to use testosterone. The multiple story expose from ESPN painted the UFC in a bad light particularly an inference that UFC physicians would diagnose fighters with low testosterone in order for them to receive an exemption from the state athletic commission. Particularly damaging was the comparison of athletes that requested exemptions in other sports versus the number that have made requests in MMA. Additionally, “Outside the Lines” obtained a letter from 2010 which diagnosed 24-year-old Todd Duffee with “extreme fatigue” and prescribing Testosterone Cypionate.
Via MMA Fighting:
“The whole ESPN, that thing was such a sham,” White said. “That story was such a sham, and of course, they ran the s–t out of it because it’s negative, half of it wasn’t true or was just embellished. It’s rampant throughout MMA. 500 guys in MMA and five guys can’t have exemptions now.”
Maybe its just OTL pieces that White does not like at ESPN as he was not a fan of its report on fighter pay either. Remember when Dana White took over the Sportscenter Instagram account for ESPN in promoting UFC 168? Well, his comments about the ESPN piece is the “hate” part of his “love/hate” relationship with the network. It was obvious that White was not going to like the ESPN investigative story as it paints the UFC in a bad light. The UFC declined to be interviewed for the story. Likely, it did not want to put itself in a corner and/or have to answer the tough questions about Belfort (the report occurred prior to Belfort’s withdrawal). Of course, accusing the journalists that they were making things up can be an issue especially to a journalist’s reputation. As for the investigative piece, it’s worth another read to see if you side with White.
March 7, 2014
The UFC has brokered a sponsorship deal with Swedish online gaming company Unibet. The 2 year agreement will start tomorrow at UFC Fight Night London and will make it the official betting partner of the UFC.
The deal will cover events held in the UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Australia according to the Sports Business Daily (subscription required).
The UFC said that the quality of Unibet’s iGaming offering set it apart from other operators, and the strength of the desktop and mobile products provided an ideal synergy with the business.
“This is a great opportunity for our fans to step into the world of the UFC in a new and engaging way,” Garry Cook, executive vice president and managing director of UFC EMEA commented.
“We are delighted to partner with one if the world’s fastest growing online betting companies,” Cook continued. “The UFC is hosting more events than ever internationally in 2014 allowing us to reach more potential fans across the globe.
Unibet chief marketing officer Nils Anden indicated that Unibet was working on providing exclusive bet offers for UFC events.
Established in 1997, the company “provides a platform for sports betting, casino, games and online poker,” according to its web site. It touts that it has 8.6 million customers in over 100 countries and over 900 employees. It is a publicly listed company on the NASDAQ QMX Nordic Exchange in Stockholm.
Occurring on the eve of UFC Fight Night 37, this is good news for the UFC and Unibet. Certainly, the Fertittas and their UltimatePoker.com web site is heavily promoted on UFC shows in the U.S. and it made sense for the company to partner with a European online gaming site with its ongoing expansion into Europe. While I do not personally visit these sites, I understand that the opportunity for more oddsmakers and odds available is a good thing. It also caters to the UFC’s target demo. Look for the Unibet logo in the Octagon tomorrow.
March 6, 2014
MMA Junkie reports that the California State Athletic Commission has followed the Nevada State Athletic Commission in restricting the use of testosterone-replacement therapy (TRT). At this time, it has instituted a complete ban on TRT.
Andy Foster, the California State Athletic Commission Executive Officer issued the following statement on California’s banning TRT.
The California State Athletic Commission fully supports the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s decision to eliminate Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUE) for Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) in boxing and mixed martial arts. California is a strong supporter of anti-doping efforts. As part of California’s anti-doping efforts, the Commission recently began the rulemaking process to require meeting World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) standards as the only way to obtain a TUE for TRT. This standard is so high that it is an effective ban except under the most extreme circumstances. Until the rulemaking process is complete and the regulations are fully adopted, the Commission has a total ban on TRT. California remains committed to protecting the health and safety of athletes and having strict anti-doping standards is one of the ways this is accomplished.
The move by California to negate therapeutic-use exemptions (TUE) for TRT is a sign that the dominos may seemingly fall when it comes to the use of TRT. While TUEs for TRTs may still be obtained, the standards for receiving the exemption are so that most athletes currently using TRT would not meet WADA standards. Certainly, the ESPN “Outside the Lines” story on TRT helped sway public opinion of the use in MMA. We will see how many other commissions follow suit.
March 6, 2014
The UFC has announced that it will be promoting two fight cards on the same night on May 31st. Both cards will be overseas as one occurs in Brazil while the other will take place in Germany.
The card from Brazil will be the culmination of the third season of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil as Wanderlei Silva will take on Chael Sonnen. The second card will take place in Berlin, Germany. No fights have been announced for that event. MMA Junkie suspects that the German card will be UFC Fight Night 41.
It’s not clear whether both cards will take place live on the UFC Fight Pass or whether one will air on FS1 and the other on Fight Pass.
The announcement that the UFC will be doing double duty on May 31st falls in line with its busy international schedule which includes 6 European UFC events in 2014. The UFC’s focus with these events is to the local regions and not the North American audience. So, while it may not have made sense to conduct two events on the same day in the past, it makes sense now if you consider the localizing of the events.
March 5, 2014
The debut of Bellator MMA’s 10th season received an average of 1 million viewers after factoring in DVR numbers per Nielsen sources. The adjustment increases the overall viewership from the overnight rating of 880,000 viewers.
In addition, the numbers increased the peak of Friday night’s program which aired from 9:00pm to 11:14pm on Spike TV Friday night. The original peak of 1.3 million has increased to 1.5 million viewers during the Jackson-M’Pumbu fight. In addition the King Mo-Zayats fight increased to a peak of 1.1 million viewers from its original overnight rating of 1 million viewers. Additional adjustments from the DVR ratings include an increase in viewership of 0.7 in the much valued male 18-49 demographic.
Bellator 110 – 880K (overnight); 1.0 million (DVR +3)
The adjusted DVR ratings mean a new ratings benchmark for Bellator MMA programming on Spike TV. The ratings peak of 1.5 million eclipses the prior peak during Bellator 106 of 1.4 million. We will see if Bellator can continue this momentum this Friday.
March 4, 2014
The Sports Business Journal (subscription required) reports that executives for Fox Sports are pleased with the upswing of Fox Sports 1. Although its miles away from competing with ESPN, trends seen by execs point to a promising future.
The article is premised upon the comparison that FS1 has done much better than its predecessor, the Speed Channel. Also, Fox execs are excited about the added distribution (FS1 is now in 87 million homes doubling the amount that had the Speed Channel) and a younger, richer demo which should attract more advertisers.
While the UFC has been a mainstay for FS1 ratings early on, NASCAR has picked up some of the slack recently and the article cites the influx of NASCAR events to help FS1 ratings. The NASCAR ratings likely benefit from the old Speed tie-in.
FS1 is averaging 292,000 viewers in prime time since August 2013 which is up “70 percent versus Speed from a corresponding time period a year earlier.” It also has a better 18-49 prime time demo and a more affluent audience overall.
According to the article, the network is still relying on the strength of the live events it has coming up including MLB, USGA events as well as Sprint Cup and Nationwide races. Of course, its College Football and College Basketball programming has seemingly underperformed.
SBJ lists the 10 most viewed programs on FS1. Notably, the top 3 relate to NASCAR as the Feb. 15th NASCAR Sprint Cup (3.526 million viewers) is the most viewed program since the network’s launch. The Feb. 20th NASCAR Sprint Cup event was second (3.1 million) and was followed by the Fox Sports Live which followed the event (2.272 million). Rounding out the top 5 was the Civil War (Oregon-OSU) on November 29th and Oklahoma-Baylor on November 7th. The August 17th UFC Fight Night was the highest rated UFC event at number 6.
Two other UFC events made the top 10 with the UFC 168 Prelims (1.554 million) at number 8 and the February 15th Fight Night (1.4 million) landed at number 10.
So how does this SBJ article reconcile FS1 executives providing the new network advertisers “make goods” during the World Series? Obviously, NASCAR has helped the ratings with the top 3 highest rated events occurring just last month. College Football and College Basketball have not really done well for the network. The realigned Big East Conference has not attracted a big audience since the big draws (e.g., Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse) are now in the ACC. The Pac 12 Conference is limited in audience as those on the west coast are interested in those teams. We will see if March Madness heats up for college basketball ratings for FS1.
The UFC is still a contributor to the network’s ratings and an attractive property as the network’s viewership falls within the UFC demo. We still see some concern about some of the network’s live programming which may include The Ultimate Fighter series. Notably, Fox is looking at TUF ratings differently after the Rousey-Tate season as it has taken the view of evaluating the performance of the season overall (i.e., DVR ratings, overall viewership including replays) rather than focus on an overnight rating. Overall, the article paints a “glass half-full” perspective on FS1. Certainly, competing with ESPN is not an overnight endeavor as FS1 has found out. Even with the number of homes it is in, its discovered that people will not magically gravitate to the channel. With more new live events coming to the network in the future, it will have to be a wait and see proposition as to its success.
March 3, 2014
The World Series of Fighting on NBC Sports Network Friday scored just a 96,000 viewer average according to The MMA Report. The card from Canada was tape delayed from February 21st and featured Ryan Ford as he defeated Joel Power.
WSOF 1 – 198,000 viewers
WSOF 2 – 210,000 viewers
WSOF 3 – 201,000 viewers
WSOF 4 – 264,000 viewers
WSOF 5 – 227,000 viewers
WSOF 6 – 161,000 viewers
WSOF 7 – 94,000 viewers
WSOF 8 – 212,000 viewers
WSOF Canada: 96,000 viewers
The tape delay and the other two MMA events (Bellator on Spike TV and Titan FC on CBS Sports Network) on Friday night likely contributed to the second lowest number in the company’s existence. Unfortunately, the show was not seen a week earlier when the MMA landscape was much less crowded. WSOF 9 on March 29th should receive a much better rating considering there are no other major MMA shows on that date.
March 3, 2014
MMA Payout has learned from Nielsen sources that Bellator 110 on Spike TV received an average viewership of 880, 000 viewers. The show’s peak hit 1.1 million viewers between 11:00-11:14pm ET during the Jackson-M’Pumbu fight.
The debut of Season 10, Bellator 110 was up +99% in adults 18-49, +81% in Men 18-49, and +54% in Men 18-34 as compared to Season 9.
The show featured Rampage Jackson as he KO’s Christian M’Pumbu. It also included King Mo Lawal defeating Mikhail Zayats.
We should note that there were actually three televised MMA events on Friday night including Bellator 110. A tape-delayed WSOF from Canada on NBC Sports Network and Titan FC’s inaugural show on CBS Sports Network also aired Friday night. Bellator’s 110 ratings are a great start to the tenth season. This may due in part to Rampage Jackson. Notably, Jackson’s fourth installment of #Rampage4Real airing on SpikeTV the night before received an average of 413,000 viewers which was up over 30% from its previous episodes as noted by The MMA Report. So the question is whether the ratings will drop next week without Rampage. Bellator has some momentum and we will see how it can capitalize on it.
March 2, 2014
Bellator announced on Friday that Alvarez-Chandler III will be the main event of Bellator’s First PPV on Saturday, May 17th. Look for Rampage Jackson-King Mo Lawal to be the co-main event if we are to read between the lines.
Bellator press release:
MMA’s greatest trilogy will occur on Saturday, May 17th as Bellator Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez will defend his title against Michael Chandler in the most highly anticipated fight of 2014, live on Pay-Per-View. Location and ticket information will be made available shortly.
The main event is the third installment in this epic MMA trilogy that has featured a spectacular submission victory for Chandler at Bellator 58 and a dramatic 5-round split decision victory for Alvarez at Bellator 106 this past November. Both of their previous fights were considered for “Fight of The Year” by the MMA media and fans.
“These two warriors have produced the two best fights I have ever seen, and on May 17th, two of the greatest lightweights on the planet will close out the best trilogy in MMA,” Bellator Chairman & CEO Bjorn Rebney said.
“I’m excited to be headlining the first Bellator Pay-Per-View, and just excited to get back in there,” Chandler said. “I’m going to bring the fight like always, and I’m not going to leave any doubt that I’m one of the best lightweights in the world. Whenever you suffer your first loss, you want that chance to avenge that defeat, and I have that opportunity on May 17th.”
“Like every fight, you are only as good as your last performance,” Alvarez said. “I always go out and try to put out the best performance possible, and that’s what I’m going to do May 17th. Mike and I have a long history together, and everyone knows what type of battles we’ve had, but I’m training in a manner that should end the fight quickly. I want a fast, quick fight that is going to keep me as Bellator Champion.”
Alvarez had inferred that the third fight with Michael Chandler would be on PPV and here we are although no location was provided in the press release. It will be interesting to see how this PPV is marketed. Will it focus on the trilogy or will it focus on Rampage-King Mo? Although the Jackson-Lawal match has yet to be announced, the altercation on Friday let us know that this is going to happen. The success of Bellator’s PPV will depend on its price point and interest in the fights. The Bellator PPV weekend is sandwiched between two weekends with UFC events so this could be advantageous for the company in its first foray into PPV.
March 1, 2014
TUF Nations Episode 7 which aired on Fox Sports 2 on Wednesday received an average of 161,000 viewers per Nielsen sources.
TUF Nations: Australia vs. Canada
Episode 1: 371,000 viewers
Episode 2: 253,000 viewers
Episode 3: 107,000 viewers
Episode 4: 384,000 viewers
Episode 5: 187,000 viewers
Episode 6: 78,000 viewers
Episode 7: 161,000 viewers
The ratings are an improvement from last week’s meager overnight ratings. With Episode 7, the TUF Nations overall ratings average is 220,143. As college basketball’s March Madness begins on FS1, we may see the continued downturn of ratings for TUF Nations.