Thursday’s announcement by ProElite that it had reached an agreement with CBS to televise four EliteXC events garnered a great deal of coverage in the mainstream press. And while we know a little more than we did when the initial report of the deal surfaced Wednesday, there still has not been a lot reported in regard to details pertaining to the deal.
On that note, I was able to speak with ProElite CEO Doug DeLuca, one of the main architects behind the deal, in an exclusive interview for ProElite.com (SamCaplan.ProElite.com).
Sam Caplan: How long has this deal been in the works?
Doug DeLuca: I would say it was in the works for a couple of months, somewhere in that neighborhood. We’ve been talking on and off for awhile. You have to remember that CBS was the second group to invest in ProElite, almost a year and a half ago. They believed in us as they believed in MMA all the way back then. They made the investment in us and they decided to put us on their SHOWTIME networks. I think they were very smart and I think that both SHOWTIME and CBS were both very visionary in the sense they were interested in the sport, they were bullish on the sport, and they wanted to see how it would go. They liked what we had to say but we were unproven at the time but they believed enough to stick their toe in the water and invest in the company and puts us on SHOWTIME. We all know that has been a big success, and now this. I think they were very smart and calculated in their approach to it and it has worked out well.
Sam Caplan: You mentioned that these negotiations had gone on for several months. Was there a specific turning point in the negotiations that possibly made CBS even more interested in doing a deal?
Doug DeLuca: There’s all kind of speculation. I would say the writers strike had a good hand in accelerating their idea to put it on the air. I think they see mixed martial arts and they get mixed martial arts. They’re bullish on it. I think the opportunity arose to do the deal with us. They were talking to other people and were looking around and from what I understand were in talks with our competitor and that obviously didn’t work out.
Sam Caplan: I know you can’t divulge too many details because ProElite is a publicly traded company, but there are some conflicting reports I wanted to ask you about. MMAPayout.com reported that it is rumored the deal with CBS will be a time buy while Dave Meltzer reported on Yahoo! that there will be a rights fee involved. Is EliteXC getting a rights fee for the CBS telecasts?
Doug DeLuca: The latter was incorrect. This is a license-fee deal. We’re getting a license-fee in order to put the show on the air. It’s a typical TV license-fee deal.
Sam Caplan: Who controls the selling of the advertising and sponsorships?
Doug DeLuca: CBS ad sales will be controlling that for the most part. There is some carve out in there where we will control some of the sponsorships, but for the most part, CBS ad sales.
Sam Caplan: In December, MediaPost reported that CBS and the UFC were close to a deal. You’ve had an insider’s perspective on these negotiations, do you feel those reports were accurate?
Doug DeLuca: Close is relative and I wasn’t involved in the discussions so it’s hard for me to say, but I believe they could be accurate, yes.
Sam Caplan: Some critics — and I’ve been one of them — have raised issues with EliteXC’s use of a DJ, dancers, and some other aspects if the shows. Has CBS asked EliteXC to make any modifications to the product they will be presenting on network TV?