Will PBC turn strategy into media rights deal?

April 24, 2017

Sports Business Journal (subscription recommended) reports on the current status of Premier Boxing Champions and its strategy of time buys across a broad landscape of networks.  The article looks at the ratings over the court of the innovative and risky experiment.

The hope was to turn the time buys into a lucrative “rights fees” deal.  This has not happened thus far.  Instead, the strategy has seemed to spread the brand thin and ratings have been sporadic.  Recently, Spike TV decided not to pick up its option for PBC stating that it would focus more on Bellator.

Per the article, there is still an opportunity for a rights fees deal but with the UFC shopping its rights package, there is some competition.  CBS might be a potential landing spot for PBC since it already has a tie-in with Showtime and has a $40 million budget for 2017.  In addition, there is the underutilized CBS Sports Network which could use additional live content.  In leadup to the last couple of PBC fights on CBS or Showtime, CBS Sports Network has shown previous fights of boxers that have upcoming fights on the networks which has served as good shoulder programming marketing the fighters.

One of the concerns for PBC is the lack of sponsors to spend consistently in the sport.  Showtime executive vice president and general manager of sports Stephen Espinoza notes that sponsors is where boxing is “living or dying.”  He believes there needs to be more education of sponsors to show that it has a valuable demo to deliver.

PBC has produced 54 cards in the last 12 months that aired across nine channels.  The highest average it has produced was 2.75 million viewers on CBS for two shows.  Its most-viewed show was a Sunday afternoon fight on NBC in August between Errol Spence-Leonard Bundu which aired immediately after the men’s basketball gold medal game.  The fight drew over 4.8 million viewers with a peak of 6.34 million.  More recently, last month’s Keith Thurman-Danny Garcia fight drew an average of 3.1 million viewers with the fight drawing 3.74 million and peaking at 5.1 million.  In February, the return of Adrien Broner on Showtime drew 779,000 of its network subscribers.

Payout Perspective:

The article notes that PBC is at a crossroads in its business model.  Based on the TV ratings, the time buy strategy has not been effective.  Despite the fact, the strategy has not produced desired results the article notes the last couple of events for PBC have produced good ratings highlighted by Keith Thurman-Danny Garcia on CBS.  We should see some decent ratings for Thurman-Andre Berto on Showtime this past Saturday.  Will PBC survive past 2017?  Better events, promoting its top fighters and maintaining a focused network strategy should help a turn around.  Of course, the networks and sponsors which would infuse PBC with an injection of money would help a business that has seeped money since the beginning.

Formerly WSOF, Professional Fighters League announces new structure for fighters

April 19, 2017

The World Series of Fighting is being repackaged as the Professional Fighters League.  The league will begin in January 2018 according to a press release sent out on Wednesday.

The inaugural season will run for 10 months and will feature seven different weight classes.  Similar to league play, fighters will compete in three regular season fights with the best records moving to a playoff and then a championship round.  There will be $10 million in prize money with $1 million going to each winner of the 7 divisions.  The remaining 3 divisions will go to regular season and playoff competitors.

The Washington Post have announced that a group led by several D.C.-area businessman are spearheading the re-launch effort.  Russ Ramsey, an investment banker and hedge fund manager along with venture capitalists Donn Davis and Mark Leschly are the co-founders of the Professional Fighters League.  Sports franchise owner Ted Leonsis is also an investor.  Leonsis owns the Washington Capitals, Mystics and Wizards.  Also, members of the Lerner family who own the Washington Nationals are investors.

There is no current television deal as the NBCSN TV deal expires at the end of 2017 although according to MMA Fighting, talks are underway with several media outlets.  MMA Fighting obtained an email to fighters from Ray Sefo stating the change.  It also noted that every fighter will have regular fights (no less than 3 per year), they will receive a monthly paycheck and have the opportunity to be champion.

Payout Perspective:

The announcement was a surprise for fighters as none knew of the details of the new venture.  Of course, there are still more questions to ask.  First, are the fighters now employers?  Second, with the mandate that every fighter have at least three fights, how many former WSOF fighters be included on its roster.  Third, will fighters receive insurance.  Of course, what happens if a fighter is injured and cannot fight the rest of the year.  Will they continue to receive a monthly paycheck.

Obviously, the infusion of cash from the investors seems to be the reason for the newfound promises.  Of course, the big need is for a media rights distributor that will pay for the content with the hope that it can find key sponsorships to carry it through the inaugural season.  We shall see what happens.

WSOF draws 146,000 viewers

March 21, 2017

World Series of Fighting 35 drew 146,000 viewers on Saturday night on NBC Sports Network per Sports TV Ratings.

The event also drew 45,000 viewers in the A18-49 demo.

The main event featured Blagoy Ivanov defeating Shawn Jordan in a heavyweight matchup.

World Series of Fighting – 2017

WSOF 34 951,000 NBC
WSOF 35 146,000 NBC Sports

Payout Perspective:

The event was on the same night as the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament and the GGG- Danny Jacobs PPV.  The event is on par with most of the events in 2016 and considering that there was not much buzz for this event the ratings are decent.

UPDATED: WSOF 34 draws 951,000 viewers, prelims draw 71,000 on NBCSN

January 4, 2017

World Series of Fighting drew 941,000 951,000 on NBC Saturday afternoon according to Nielsen.  The rating makes it the highest-rated televised WSOF event ever.

The preliminaries on NBC Sports Network drew 71,000 viewers per Sports TV Ratings.  The prelims aired from 11:30-1pm PT.  The main card aired on NBC from 1-3pm PT.

Notably, the WSOF event took place during the first NCAA College Football semifinal at the Peach Bowl between Washington and Alabama.  The game drew 18,397 million viewers on ESPN per Sports TV Ratings.

Also of note, the UFC 207 PPV post-fight replay on FS1 drew 76,000 viewers at 3-4am PT.

Payout Perspective:

The Saturday event bests the WSOF’s last time on NBC when it drew 741,000 for WSOF 11 on July 5, 2014.  This past Saturday’s event, which took place in New York, featured Jake Shields-Jon Fitch and Justin Gaethje-Luiz Firmino.  Considering WSOF was up against one of the national semifinals for college football, reaching close to 1 million viewers is a success.  Of course, the question of whether the WSOF can remain afloat in 2017 is another question.

16 for 16: No. 10 WSOF legal woes continues

December 23, 2016

The World Series of Fighting will cap off its year with a show on New Year’s Eve in New York.  However, there might be cause for concern for the organization as legal problems persist.

3 new lawsuits were filed in Nevada this year which call into question the financial stability of the company.  The lawsuits reveal the fact that the company has internal issues with the people that run it and the people that fund it.  Based on the information gathered from the lawsuits, the people investing and claiming ownership (even a small %) are not the most professional people you may know.  You may recall a lawsuit in 2015 saw issues with loans and an assignment of rights for use internationally.  The new lawsuits see similar problems with loans to keep the organization afloat.

In addition to the legal troubles, WSOF cancelled two events in order to bolster its New Year’s Eve show in New York.  WSOF opened an office in New York last year and supported the push to legalize professional MMA in the state so it makes sense that they want a show in the state by year’s end.  But a New Year’s Eve show conflicts with the College Bowl Playoffs on television.

Notwithstanding what may happen on its New Year’s show, the ratings for WSOF on NBC Sports Network are slightly behind 2015’s average of 189,000 viewers.

Will WSOF survive its legal and financial woes in 2017 and continue through the year into 2018?

WSOF announces New Year’s Eve Show in New York

October 18, 2016

The World Series of Fighting announced a New Year’s Eve show in New York which will feature a trio of main events that will be broadcast on NBC Sports and on NBC the afternoon of December 31st.

Justin Gaethje will defend his lightweight title against Joao Zeferino.  Jon Fitch will face Jake Shields and Marlon Moraes will defend his bantamweight title against an opponent yet to be named.

The event will be live on NBCSN from 3pm-4pm ET and the rest of the show will be on NBC from 4pm-6pm ET.  It will be the second time that the WSOF will be on NBC Sports Network.  The event will take place at The Theater at Madison Square Garden.

In order to have this event, the WSOF cancelled two preceding events.

Payout Perspective:

The event will be great, but there is a glaring typo on the WSOF web site.

jake-fields

The show is a big one for the organization and the NBC exposure should help it.  Then again, a New Year’s Eve show might not garner as many fans as you might think with people preparing for festivities later that night.  Last year, SpikeTV featured “Breakfast with Fedor” with tape delayed fights from the Rizin show in Japan.  It drew only 141,000 viewers and peaked at 271,000.  One would think that being on NBC should grab more viewers despite competing with college football bowls.

WSOF 33 draws 146,000 viewers on NBCSN

October 10, 2016

World Series of Fighting 33 drew 146,000 viewers on Friday night on NBC Sports Network according to Sports TV Ratings.

In addition, it drew 51,000 viewers in the Adult 18-49 demo.  The event featured David Branch and Vinny Magalhaes with Branch earning the win.  The event aired from 11:00pm-2:00am ET.

wsof-33

Payout Perspective:

The late night event for east coast viewers probably led to the decline in ratings.  Aside from WSOF 31, this past Friday’s event was the lowest of the year.

WSOF 32: 250,000 viewers

August 2, 2016

World Series of Fighting 32 drew an average of 250,000 viewers on NBC Sports Network per Sports TV Ratings.  The event reflects a 50% increase in viewership from WSOF 31.

The event featured the Fodor brothers in a main event that had to be uncomfortable for some.  Regardless, it was the best rating in a year.  WSOF 22 last August drew 254,000 viewers.

WSOF 32

Payout Perspetive:

To put the numbers in perspective in comparison to WSOF 31 in June.  That event was a Friday night card opposite Bellator on Spike TV.  Per Sport TV Ratings, the event drew 103,000 viewers in the adult 18-49 demo.

WSOF 31: 126,000 viewers

June 20, 2016

World Series of Fighting 31 drew just 126,000 viewers on NBC Sports Network Friday night per Sports TV Ratings.  It was the second-lowest viewership ever for the organization.

The televised event went up against Bellator 156 on Spike TV Friday night.  Bellator did not fare well in ratings either as it drew 482,000 viewers which was a decline since last month.

In the main event, Blagoy Ivanov defeated Josh Copeland in a battle of heavyweights.

Per Sports TV Ratings, the event (9-11:39pm ET) drew 48,000 viewers in the adult 18-49 demo.  An immediate replay of the event (11:39pm-2:17am ET) drew another 88,00 total and 33,000 in the adult 18-49 demo.

WSOF 31

Payout Perspective:

Not since WSOF 7 has the company drew less in terms of viewership.  Up against Bellator, it was a bad night for a live event.

WSOF 30 draws 158,000 viewers

April 5, 2016

World Series of Fighting 30 drew an average viewership of 158,000 on NBC Sports Network on Saturday night according to Sports TV Ratings.

The ratings reflect a drop from the March show.  However, this event aired later at night for the east coast as it had an 8:30PT start time on NBC Sports Network and did not end until past 10:30PT (1:30amET).  The event featured David Branch defending his middleweight title against Clifford Starks.  It also saw Jon Fitch win the vacant WSOF welterweight championship.

2016 WSOF Ratings
WSOF 27 211,000
WSOF 28 161,000
WSOF 29 208,000
WSOF 30 158,000

Payout Perspective:

The late start was the likely reason for the decrease in ratings.  While the NCAA had its two national semifinal games on television, it did not come into opposition with the WSOF event.

Next Page »