The Ratings Buffet for the week ending June 23rd

June 23, 2017

Welcome to another week of The Ratings Buffet.

Saturday

Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN2 11:00pm-1:00am ET: 232,000 viewers

Monday

Raw on USA

WWE Raw 9:00pm ET: 3.201 million viewers; 1.09 rating A18-49

WWE Raw 10:00pm ET: 3.029 million viewers; 1.07 rating A18-49

WWE Raw 8:00pm ET: 3.075 million viewers; 1.05 rating A18-49

Bellator: Fedor Returns on Spike TV 11:00pm 11:30pm ET: 226,000 viewers; 0.07 rating A18-49

Tuesday

USA: WWE Smackdown 8:00pm-10pm ET: 2.597 million viewers; 0.85 rating A18-49

Wednesday

FS1:  TUF 25 10:00pm-11:00pm ET: 456,000 viewers; 0.20 rating A18-49

FS1:  TUF Talk 11:00pm-11:30pm ET: 134,000 viewers; 0.06 rating A18-49

El Rey: Lucha Underground:  111,000 viewers; 0.02 rating A18-49/52,000; 0.02 rating

Thursday

Impact Wresting on Pop TV: 8:00pm-10:pm ET: 342,000 viewers; 0.10 rating A18-49

Bleacher Report’s CEO opines UFC has tapped out from audience standpoint

June 23, 2017

Believe it or not, eSports and MMA are similar. They both are emerging sports compared to traditional sports, they have niche audiences, cater to younger male audiences and have issues with the burgeoning infrastructure.  At a sports tech conference held in Seattle on Thursday, Bleacher Report’s CEO Dave Finocchio saw parallels with the growth of eSports and MMA.  The comparison was not positive.

When posed with the question of the future of eSports, Finocchio stated that he had concerns with the mainstream breakthrough of eSports because of the lack of a star that is known to the mainstream.  “The shelf life of an average player is short and players burnout,” he noted.  He stated that a big part of the model for sports leagues is building the brand of the players and leveraging their celebrity.

He looked to the UFC in comparison citing the absence of Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey leaving the company without any other known starts to build around. “[i]f you look at the UFC…it did kind of ‘tap out’ from an audience standpoint…they really built their brand on the backs of a few fighters.”  Although he recognized that the UFC is a successful business and one of the reasons it sold for so much is due to the celebrity of a few fighters.  His concern was that while the business can be monetized, it will be segmented to a small audience.

(You can see the comments around the 24:00 minute mark in the embedded video story on Geekwire)

Right now, eSports reporting on BR is limited to aggregation rather than original reporting.  Finocchio did indicate that BR is looking into doing more in that space.

The lack of mainstream stars is a concern since without these highlighted people, the casual fan does not have someone to look to in the sport.

Notably, Finocchio also stated that Fantasy Football peaked and is now out of date.  He noted that Fantasy is not catching on with the BR audience.  Daily Fantasy Sports is now the future.  He did note that “[i]deally, betting becomes legal.”

Payout Perspective:

There are many parallels between the sport of MMA and eSports that will look at in the future.  But, the statement from Finocchio is true.  This has happened in other sports.  The NBA had a problem with the lack of marketing of stars in the 1980s and the early 2000s pre-LeBron and Kevin Durant.  But, eSports and MMA are niche sports.  One might argue that it might take more of an effort to market and feature its players/fighters.  Demetrious Johnson complained of his lack of marketing to feature him and realistically only eSports followers know the names of the sport’s most popular gamers.  It will be interesting to see what/how each sport handles this issue and which sport will break through quicker.

TUF 25 Episode 10 draws 456,000 viewers

June 22, 2017

The 10th episode of the TUF 25 drew the best ratings this season with 456,000 viewers on FS1 Wednesday night.

There were two fights on the show as Jesse Taylor submitted Hayder Hasaan in the first round and James Krause edged out Ramsey Nijem in three rounds.

The ratings are the best for the season and the best since Episode 1 of TUF 23 (note the headline for that linked post).

Payout Perspective: 

The good news is that ratings are trending up as the show nears its end.  That’s a good sign.  We’ll see if those ratings transfer over to the TUF Finale.  Certainly, the lack of NBA or NHL is helping the bump in the ratings.

Parties request further clarification over discovery in UFC Antitrust case

June 21, 2017

After a June 1, 2017 conference with the Judge Peggy Leen to discuss outstanding discovery issues, the attorneys for the fighters and the UFC are at it again over what was said at the hearing.

On June 20th, Plaintiffs’ attorneys sent a letter to the Court requesting clarification on “a number of issues arising out of the Court’s order.”  The Plaintiffs sought clarification from the following:

  1. “Do Third Parties that produced documents before or just after the hearing count against the 5 document subpoenas allowed to Plaintiffs?” Plaintiffs have informed the UFC that they were intending to pursue documents from Golden Boy Promotions, Haymon, DiBella Entertainment, Inc., Top Rank, Inc. and Gary Shaw.  Plaintiffs had served documents subpoenas on 17  third parties.  The reason for the clarification is because they were to receive documents from Leon Margueles and Jakks Pacific prior to the hearing.The UFC claims that the two count as part of the maximum 5 issued by the Court.  Obviously, the Plaintiffs contend that they do not.  The UFC notes in its memo to the Court that Plaintiffs did not bring up this production to the Court.
  1. “Has the Court Authorized Plaintiffs to Depose Matt Hume?” Hume is a part of OneFC as Vice President of Operations and Competiton for the company.  According to Plaintiffs, counsel for OneFC will not accept a subpoena and since the company is headquartered in Singapore, lack jurisdiction.  The UFC did not oppose this request and takes no position.  It should be noted that both Plaintiffs and the UFC have agreed to document production from OneFC which was not counted against the 5 allowed by the Court.
  2. “Can Plaintiffs Pursue Discovery from Mercer?” The fighter pay study commissioned by the UFC’s attorneys to be done by Mercer is at issue here. Plaintiffs would like to “resume the discovery initiated in mid-2016.”  The UFC wants this counted as a third-party request.  It notes that some of the documents requested by Plaintiffs were designated as work product by the UFC in spite of the previous court ruling requiring certain documents produced by Mercer to be produced.  In addition, it is requesting clarification regarding a deposition of Mercer.  The UFC had offered to stipulate to the authenticity of documents produced by Mercer in lieu of a CR 30(b)(6) deposition.  But, according to the UFC, Plaintiffs never responded.

Payout Perspective:

The parties were ordered to meet and confer over outstanding discovery issues after the court conference but there is still conflict between the parties.  Laid out by the parties, it’s clear there might be a legitimate gripe.  It usually not a good look to be seeking clarification just after a hearing to go over discovery issues again especially when the overarching theme of the process is for the parties to cooperate.  These types of outstanding issues (i.e., what counts as 5 third-parties, etc.) must be discussed by the parties in Court in front of the judge.  There are some issues that you might not be able to think of while standing in court, but that’s why there are usually more than one (likely three or four) attorneys at the hearing so they can pass along notes to lead counsel to come up with questions to clarify.  Likely, Judge Leen will hold a teleconference but will none too pleased that the parties are coming back.

Plaintiffs Memo Re Discovery by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Defendants Memo Re Discovery by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Nate Diaz, Leslie Smith sued by former agency

June 21, 2017

TMZ Sports first reported that Nate Diaz and Leslie Smith are being sued by their former management group for nonpayment of commissions and conspiring with an attorney to break management agreements.

The lawsuit claims that the defendants owe them more than $1 million in damages and that they were never paid for their work on the UFC 202 fight with Conor McGregor.

Sam Awad is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.  Awad represented Diaz this past April at a NSAC Commission hearing which reduced his fine and suspension from his UFC 202 press conference.

The lawsuit, obtained by TMZ and MMA Junkie note that Ballengee signed Diaz as a client in the summer of 2014 on recommendation from his brother Nick who was an existing client.  The lawsuit alleges that Diaz would pay based upon the same terms as Nick’s contract with the company.

If the Ballengee Group name sounds familiar, Jeff Borris is a member, he is the individual heading up the Professional Fighters Association.  Smith had a falling out with Borris after initial support for the organization.

The Ballengee Group was launched in 2014 by oil company entrepreneur James Ballangee.  He hired baseball agents and attorneys away from CSE, Perennial Sports & Entertainment and MVP Sports Group.

Payout Perspective:

This will be an interesting lawsuit to follow as we may see the inner-workings of the commission structure for Diaz and maybe Smith.  It always amazes me that a lot of the fighter-agent relationships are dependent on the fighter paying the agent after-the-fact instead of the payment going into some sort of trust account from which the agent can take its payment and leave the rest to the fighter.  The inclusion of Awad likely means that the fighters will defer to him as the reasons for nonpayment.

George Sullivan issued 1 year suspension by USADA

June 20, 2017

USADA announced that George Sullivan tested positive for a prohibited substance and has accepted a one-year sanction for his second violation of the UFC anti-doping policy.

The 36 year old tested positive for clomiphene and its metabolite 4-hydroxyclomiphene.  Sullivan was pulled from his fight at UFC 208 this past February after he was informed of a potential violation from an out-of-competition test from January 14, 2017.  He cited a prescription medication as the cause for the flagged test.  Upon a review of Sullivan’s medical records by USADA, it was determined that he was using Clomiphene Citrate under the care of a physician to treat a medical condition.  The problem was that the use was an “off-label” treatment of the drug (it was a prescription fertility medication) and not approved by the USFDA for use by males.

Since Sullivan was under the care of medical physician, his period of ineligibility was reduced by 1 year.

You might recall that he was pulled from his fight at UFC on Fox 20 in July for disclosing information to USADA and was issued a provisional suspension.

Sullivan is 3-2 in the UFC.  Sullivan’s period of ineligibility is retroactive to his out of competition test on January 14, 2017.

Payout Perspective:

This is an interesting case since Sullivan previous provisional suspension occurred when he declared a prohibited substance last July.  He was just days away from serving that suspension when he is issued another year’s suspension.  Obviously, the “off-label” use of a drug carries different connotations but is not out of the ordinary with physicians.  Unfortunately, USADA will not yield on these types of matters..

Fight Pass introduces 24/7 live stream

June 20, 2017

The UFC announced a new addition to its UFC Fight Pass over the top platform in a press release sent out on Tuesday.  It is adding a linear streaming channel to complement the Fight Pass’s video-on-deman function.

The move will feature more than 100 hours of live programming.  As evidenced by the promotional push for the show, the weekly Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series will be one of the focuses of the new live programming component.  In addition, the release indicates that the UFC’s annual Hall of Fame event, UFC Fight Night Rotterdam, two GLORY Kickboxing events, two Invicta FC events, an Eddie Bravo tournament featuring female Flyweights and the debut of Polaris will be featured live events this summer.

Payout Perspective:

 The move to include a live stream sounds similar to the WWE Network.  It will be interesting to see the value of this change and whether it means an evolution of the platform or a strategy to seek more advertising revenue through the live stream.

McGregor negotiating with apparel sponsors for Mayweather boxing match

June 19, 2017

MMA Fighting reports that Conor McGregor will not be tied to Reebok for his August 26th boxing match with Floyd Mayweather.  McGregor’s manager, Audie Attar told Ariel Helwan on The MMA Hour.

According to Attar, he is a free agent with respect to athletic apparel.  McGregor was one of a handful of UFC athletes to have personal Reebok sponsorship deals.  However, Attar stated that they have been negotiating with brands, including Reebok.

A recent Forbes survey indicated McGregor made $7 million in sponsorships for 2016.  One would expect that to increase due to this superfight with Floyd Mayweather.

Payout Perspective:

Even if McGregor had a deal with Reebok, I would argue that this would be limited to mixed martial arts fights and not boxing.  But, letting the deal lapse shows that McGregor had a broader plan and didn’t want to be tied to a Reebok payout.  With the boxing match, he can truly seek higher bidders for this one of a kind “one off” fight.

The Ratings Buffet for the week ending June 16th

June 16, 2017

Welcome to the second edition of The Ratings Buffet.  This week there was a UFC Fight Night on Spike TV Saturday and a PFC on FS1 event on Sunday night in addition to TUF and various wrestling programs.

Saturday

UFC Fight Night 110 on FS1:  923,000 viewers

UFC Fight Night 110 Prelims on FS1:  696,000 viewers

UFC Fight Night 110 Post Fight show on FS1: 351,000 viewers

Sunday

PBC on FS1 Sunday: 374,000 viewers for Brandon Rios-Aaron Herrera

Monday

Monday Night Raw

Hour 1: 2.769 million viewers

Hour 2: 2.522 million viewers

Hour 3: 2.335 million viewers

Countdown to Bellator NYC on Spike TV:  200,000 viewers

24/7 Ward/Kovalev 2 on HBO: 153,000 viewers

Tuesday

SmackDown: 2.072 million viewers on USA

Wednesday

TUF 25 Episode 9: 422,000 viewers

Lucha Underground: 123,000 viewers for the first showing at 8pm and 51,000 for the immediate replay at 9pm

Thursday

Impact Wresting on PopTV 327,000 viewers

TUF 25 Episode 9 draws 422,000 viewers on FS1 Wednesday night

June 16, 2017

TUF 25 Episode 9 drew 422,000 viewers on FS1 Wednesday night per Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.  It’s the biggest ratings of the season.

The fight of the night featured Dhiego Lima and Gilbert Smith with Lima earning the victory and moving on.

The event drew 0.16 in the A18-49 demo per Nielsen.  Per ShowBuzz Daily, an episode of House Hunters on HGTV drew 1.78 million viewers during the same time slot.

The episode was the highest rated episode for TUF since episode 7 for TUF 24 last season.

Payout Perspective:

No rhyme or reason why Wednesday’s episode drew so well.  Perhaps a lull in the schedule as The Finals and Stanley Cup ended.  Good news for TUF as they try to manage some buzz before the TUF Finale.

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