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Reported deal between CBS and EliteXC could be landmark event for MMA

A quote from IFL President and CEO Jay Larkin during an interview I conducted with him earlier this month for CBSSports.com:

The sport needs to be on traditional broadcast television or widely-viewed free cable television. It’s going to happen. It’s inevitable. Now that the writer’s strike is settled, the fear of panic thing is over but there are still holes in programming that need to be filled and MMA is a good product to fill that hole with. One day soon we’re going to hear CBS, or NBC, or ESPN, or FOX is carrying live MMA. When that happens the dam will break and everyone will jump on it just like in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s (when) all three major networks carried boxing.

When Jay Larkin speaks, I listen. The sport is lucky to have someone like him affiliated with it. And if MMAjunkie.com’s report about EliteXC and CBS signing an agreement is indeed correct, then the dam may have in fact just been broken. The entertainment business is not a place where originality is encouraged.

If one company does something unique that happens to be successful, everyone else tries to copy it. Call it the Britney Spears or Boy Band effect — once Britney and the Backstreet Boys came onto the scene, how many copycats did we see? How many “Survivor” and “American Idol” ripoffs have come down the pike?

I’m not sure if it’s going to happen tomorrow or several months from now, but you better believe that another network will strike a deal to televise MMA. A potential deal between CBS and EliteXC could be a landmark development for the entire industry, for obvious reasons. You know that the UFC will be in the mix and this development could change the way they’ve negotiated with prospective television partners thus far. I’ve got to believe that Zuffa is somehow going to try and up the ante (which is what they should do).

Also, don’t rule out HBO. Whether you believe EliteXC is a big reason for SHOWTIME’s recent 11% subscriber increase or not, the fact remains that SHOWTIME is surging ahead while HBO is trending downward. HBO needs to develop new properties in order to retain current subscribers while also attracting new ones. MMA has to be one of the properties that will receive consideration and any bias that may exists towards the sport within the company will have to be challenged. Business is business. Attitudes towards MMA will change once key executives start feeling the pressure.

The big key though is for EliteXC and CBS to make sure the right producer is involved with the project. Getting on TV is not enough. It’s what you do with your allotted amount of time that counts. Unfortunately, the IFL learned that lesson the hard way. Landing a deal with MyNetworkTV was a huge coup for them. However, the vision set forth by the original production company did more harm than good for the IFL.

A producer who understands the needs of the hardcore MMA fan but also the casual fan is essential. If the sport is presented in an overly technical manner, hardcore fans will be pleased but the telecast will fail to resonate with casual fans. However, if an attempt is made to appeal only to casual fans and we end up with a product that is essentially “American Gladiators” but for MMA, it’s going to be a total bomb. Hopefully the corporate synergy that exists between CBS, SHOWTIME, and ProElite will be utilized. I’m biased, but I think SHOWTIME has done a strong job with how it has presented MMA. I hope the key principals involved with SHOWTIME’s production for MMA also become key principals of CBS’ production for MMA.

I had been quoted on the record in the past as saying that I believed the sport’s growth had plateaued, but it looks like I may have been incorrect. I’m starting to get the feeling that MMA is about to undergo another major growth spurt.

It should be fun.

10 COMMENTS
  • Evan says:

    They better have their finger on the mute button when Diaz throws a fit.

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  • cyphron says:

    MMA on network TV = the explosion of MMA and the slow death of boxing.

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  • jaydog says:

    I think we’ve seen a serious sign of EliteXC moving in a more professional direction. When they were testing out that blogger as play-by-play/color commentator during the last undercard…. We’ll, he’d be a perfect replacement for that big dude who doesn’t know anything.

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  • Jiu-Jitsu Guy says:

    I hope EliteXC and other organizations start to dig into the UFC and their profits. I hate Dana White at this point and want him to get his sh*t handed to him one day. This is a good start.

    White thinks UFC will reign forever. He is very stupid to assume that, as EliteXC and “something else” is on the way. Just wait till Gracie time comes again.

    F*ck Dana White. I only like UFC when it goes to the ground anyway. Some knockouts are good, but only stand up wars annoy me. That does not dictate the best fighter.

    HATER DISCLAIMER: F*ck you in advance to the JJG haters on this site. I am really sick of some of you wimps starting sh*t when I say nothing to you. STFU and comment on what I said, not me next time.

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  • slimm says:

    JJG, in your mind what does dictate the best fighter, and just a question, imo the gracies are phenominal but why do u keep saying, just wait and see their time is coming again? (im just paraphrasing), im not trying to upset u, but why cant you just enjoy the fights on their merit? not every fight is going to be a beautiful display of BJJ, but to know it when it happens is awesome, also to see a great stand~up war isnt half bad either, just asking not attacking. cheers…..

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  • ufcfan says:

    elite xc is a “fun” watch right now

    their getting some reasonable fighters in their stable.

    ya gotta remember the casual fan only watches MMA for knockouts anyway.
    these are the same fools which boo fights when they go to the ground in the UFC fights.

    ultimately, i’ll keep watching elite XC…muted because bill goldberg
    has to be the most irritating piece of trash on t.v.

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  • KB says:

    MMA hasn’t had a growth period, the UFC did. Maybe now this is when MMA starts to take off an……..

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  • Jiu-Jitsu Guy says:

    I agree slimm. I mean I do watch UFC so I can’t really complain. I just don’t think Liddell, and several other guys, are that great. Point noted.

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  • Rln says:

    Jiu-Jitsu Guy is as big a failure as the Gracie Fighting Challenge.

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  • Adam Morgan says:

    ^^^ Wow.

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