If Affliction Entertainment has a future as a successful promotion in the world of mixed martial arts, then they best get out their tool kits and fix a major problem: the production of their pay-per-view telecasts.
Putting on quality fights – at least through their first two pay-per-view events (“Affliction: Banned” and “Affliction: Day of Reckoning“) – hasn’t been an issue.
However, their fighter payroll, which is reported to be over $6,000,000 combined for those events, is an issue. And, if the company has any chance at financial success, especially with their astronomical payrolls, then they must succeed in two areas: live gate and pay-per-view revenues.
Affliction can keep their pay-per-view numbers on the down low if they choose. Various sources have reported that their latest show, “Day of Reckoning,” sold anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 buys (FiveOuncesOfPain.com has been told the number right now is 120,000 but that it could increase when late buys are collected by the cable and satellite companies).
But there’s one thing they can’t hide: the production of Affliction’s pay-per-view telecasts is not good. In order for their pay-per-view numbers to increase – and the promotion to continue – changes must be made.
PRODUCTION AND PACING:
Golden Boy Promotions took over the production reigns for “Day of Reckoning.” “Day of Reckoning” was nowhere near the train wreck “Banned” was, but the improvement was more like an F to a C-minus as opposed to an average to good improvement.
In short, Affliction pay-per-view shows are still poorly produced.
When viewers, especially in this economy, are forking over their hard-earned money for a pay-per-view, they expect a quality show. In the world of mixed martial arts and television, that translates to a show that focuses primarily on the fights, without having to sit through dead air and useless segments. It’s about producing and pacing.
Affliction needs major work in those departments.
To appreciate what Affliction’s television team is up against, let’s make a comparison to the UFC and Zuffa’s pay-per-view telecasts.
During a UFC pay-per-view event, the fights are certainly the cornerstone of their telecasts, but there’s also more “business” to conduct. Their production team needs to hit promo spots for things such as future pay-per-views and television shows, as well as sponsor segments (a movie, a poker company, a motorcycle company, etc.).
With Affliction Entertainment, at least for the time being, there are no future events to promote during their pay-per-views. There are no reality shows. And there are far less sponsor spots to hit, especially when your company is a spinoff of a t-shirt company.
In other words, the “rundown” of the show focuses primarily on the fights. Therefore, making seamless transitions from one fight to the next can be challenging at times.
With “Day of Reckoning,” viewers could have watched The Godfather trilogy during the time it took to get from the show’s woeful open to the first fight of the night. For nearly $50, you were treated to that woeful open, the announcer previews of the card, Scott Ferrall and Chuck Zito interviewing Freddie Roach and then the PRIDE-like introductions of all of the show’s fighters, all before seeing anything resembling a fight.
Question: Do you go out to a $50 dinner and expect to get just a glass of warm water 20 minutes after ordering your meal?
Personally, I would have canned all of the above; especially the fighter introductions. I believe that the lineup of the fighters is geared more towards the live audience than those sitting at home waiting for fights to start. It’s overkill, especially if you consider the fact that we’re also going to see pre-fight packages on these same fighters.
The solution is simple and different, especially for a promotion with almost no existing fight history of its own to fall back on: start the broadcast with what I call a “Cold Open Fight.”
That’s right…the broadcast begins, blow-by-blow announcer Sean Wheelock quickly introduces himself on camera along with his partners, Jimmy Smith and Tito Ortiz… Smith quickly introduces the first fight of the night and then tosses it to the referee asking the if the fighters are ready…the bell sounds… and within 30 seconds of the pay-per-view telecast that you are shelling out almost $50 for, you have a fight.
What if this idea had been executed for “Day of Reckoning’”s controversial opening fight, Dan Lauzon versus Bobby Green? Even with Green landing three supposed low blows on Lauzon and the delays that followed, it still would have been a high-energy way to start the night, especially with Lauzon reaping revenge on Green by making him tap out.
Speaking of producing and pacing, how does one make the call to NOT send Ortiz into the ring to interview Lauzon, especially after stating during the fight that Lauzon was “putting on an acting job?” Isn’t this the reason why you’d want to take the time to cut to a post-fight interview? Someone made that call in the truck – and someone failed at capitalizing on what could have been an interesting post-fight segment between the always opinionated Ortiz and Lauzon. Again, with just one card under their belt before “Day of Reckoning,” Affliction producers weren’t dealing with a lot of dramatic storylines coming into this telecast, so not recognizing the opportunity to let one play out was a poor judgment call that can’t happen again.
Another poor judgment call that cannot happen again is staying on shots of a fighter who may be seriously injured. This was the case with the Vitor Belfort - Matt Lindland fight. Lindland, who was knocked out in devastating fashion by Belfort, was shown unconscious on the ground with his legs twitching. Of course, you cannot predict how a human being’s body will react to such a violent act, but making the decision to stay on Lindland for so long, when it was clear that he was very, very hurt, was a terrible decision. Good, experienced crews who’ve done MMA telecasts before know this. If Affliction’s television crew was experienced, then someone simply made a horrible judgment call.
There were other options available, such as cutting back to the announcers while doctors tended to Lindland. It’s the equivalent of an NFL game cutting to a commercial after a serious injury; except this was a commercial-free broadcast. The decision to stay on Lindland could have been devastating – to Affliction, to the sport of mixed martial arts, and most of all, to Lindland, had he been seriously injured. Thankfully, he recovered – and hopefully, such bush league decisions will not be made in Affliction’s next show.
Affliction and its television producers also need to re-think how they present their fighters before their respective fights.
With “Day of Reckoning,” it seemed as if Affliction’s production team was trying to fill as much time as possible with fighter packages and introductions. The decision to go from a fighter package into that fighter’s ring walk (and vice versa, at times) into the ring announcement of that fighter completely brought the broadcast to a halt; especially considering that this was done for each fighter. If the producers were trying to do something different, it was a bad choice. Something different would have been producing fighter packages that resembled anything but a poor man’s rip-off of what the UFC does.
The solution? Keep it simple and get to the fight as soon as possible. Produce fighter packages that include both fighters, followed by each guy making his ring entrance, just like the UFC does. Oddly enough, the producers chose to actually do this with just two fights: Josh Barnett – Gilbert Yvel and Fedor Emelianenko – Andrei Arlovski. If they felt that this gave the two featured fights a “different” look, they were wrong. This is simply a case of Affliction and its producers trying too hard.
Another problem that was obvious on “Day of Reckoning,” which also supports the “fill as much time as possible” theory, was the reluctance of the show’s producers to end the telecast properly.
Fedor provided his knockout of the ages, and of course you have to interview him. And of course the viewer expects the announcing team to quickly wrap up the fight and the night in general. But to go to Zito and Ferrall for their analysis of the fight? Really? And then provide the viewers with a useless, long recap of all of the fights that we all just paid up to $50 for and watched with our very own eyes? Really?
The question Affliction’s producers need to ask themselves is, “What reasons are we giving the viewer to keep watching beyond the last fight?”
The answer: “There were none.”
Note to Affliction Entertainment: You’re not fooling the viewers. They know when a show begins and a show ends. Focus more on what comes inbetween that, and you’ll most likely have well-paced shows with good fights that are actually worth paying about $50 for.
THE ANNOUNCE TEAM:
A very positive decision by Affliction Entertainment was to bring in M-1’s announce team of Wheelock (blow-by-blow) and Smith (analyst) for “Day of Reckoning. Wheelock and Smith called the card exactly as they should have, which is professionally and as” a team who has worked together many, many times.
Even more impressive was how they incorporated Ortiz into the equation as the third member of their team. Both Wheelock and Smith allowed Ortiz enough time to show the viewer that, while very, very raw, he certainly has the opinions and knowledge to become a good MMA analyst.
Ortiz was hardly smooth in the analyst role, and he often stumbled upon his own words. But if you throw aside your personal opinions for Tito Ortiz the fighter, whatever they may be, you have to be fair and acknowledge that if he works on his delivery, he’d be a pretty darn good analyst. Also consider the fact that he was joining two guys who’d worked together on numerous occasions, so fitting in was a challenge. Assuming he’s available for their next pay-per-view, Affliction should not only use Ortiz again, but groom him even more as an analyst.
Then comes Tito Ortiz, the post-fight interviewer.
Let’s put it this way…you’re never going to see “The Tito Ortiz Talk Show” following Oprah. Matter of fact, Affliction should never, ever put Ortiz in the position of conducting a ring interview – whether he’s getting booed by the crowd or not – ever again.
From a production perspective, you don’t want the post-fight interviewer to take away from the fighters or interview itself. And almost every time Ortiz entered the ring, he was booed. Whether the booing got to him or not, Ortiz did not deliver. Fighting while being booed is a whole different story than trying to conduct an interview while being booed. When you’re fighting, I imagine you can block it out more. When you’re in the center of the ring and all eyes and ears are focused on everything you say, and not how you fight, I imagine it’s harder.
Also, eliminating Tito Ortiz as a post-fight interviewer will eliminate the possibility that viewers will ever have to listen to these types of lines ever again:
To Renato “Babalu” Sobral after beating Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: “I wanna tell me what you see. Let’s go ahead and see by the fight, what you saw, in the ring.”
Also to Sobral: “Everybody let’s give a hand to Renato Babalu,’ one of the greatest light heavyweights…of the night.”
Ortiz also didn’t appear to be too comfortable interviewing “Fee-dor” Emelianenko after his fight. Note to Tito: it’s “Fay-dor.”
The solution is to keep Ortiz in the “booth” and bring in somebody else to conduct post-fight interviews. Who that person should be is not my call, but I remember when I first saw Jim Gray on boxing telecasts and how odd it seemed. Now, he’s one of my personal favorites when it comes to conducting post-anything interviews. Gray gets my vote here.
Which brings us back to Ferrall and Zito. Personally, this writer is a fan of both of these men, but not in the roles they served for “Day of Reckoning.” Matter of fact, I believe that both men should be eliminated from future Affliction telecasts, only because the producers didn’t have the slightest clue on how they should use them.
As a sports talk show host, I’m a huge fan of Ferrall. But let’s face it; he’s an acquired taste. The same is true with Zito, who, if sitting in as a guest on a show, is a fantastic interview due to his amazing stories.
The problem with using Ferrall and Zito is that they use none of their above skills for these pay-per-views. Having Ferrall, on “Day of Reckoning,” give the viewer an over-hyped play by play of Babalu getting ready for his fight was completely forced. And having them analyze any fight, especially when you already have Smith and Ortiz doing the same thing, is absurd and unnecessary. It’s almost as if the producers weren’t quite sure what to do with Ferrall and Zito. The solution, to no fault of the twosome: lose them.
Many viewers of Affliction: Banned may recall how awful the audio was for that show. The audio quality improved for Day of Reckoning, but the richness of the packed crowd still doesn’t compare to the UFC’s stellar audio production. On “Day of Reckoning,” one of the first things Wheelock did was describe the crowd as “a frenzied crowd.” The problem was, the audio quality hardly sounded as such; not to mention the fact that the director didn’t even cut to the crowd to compliment Wheelock from a visual perspective. Maybe they weren’t lit properly? Maybe the lack of micrphone placement prevented this from being executed? I’m not sure, but crowd cutaways and top-notch audio are very rare in Affliction Entertainment shows; yet both are crucial elements needed to energize television productions such as MMA shows.
There is absolutely no doubt that those who run Affliction Entertainment understand the importance of producing top-notch, pay-per-view events. But the bottom line is, there’s a big difference between understanding that and then executing it.
Hardcore fight fans may not care how it’s produced, because there’s only one thing they tune in to see: the fights.
Well, without significant improvement in the production of their pay-per-view events, there won’t be any fights left for Affliction to broadcast. Because some of those fans who do care about quality shows won’t continue to spend their hard-earned money anymore. And without that pay-per-view revenue, money will be lost.
Right now, the numbers speak for themselves.
And for a fledgling company like Affliction Entertainment, that could be devastating. The clock is ticking.