SBD/Issue 169/Leagues & Governing Bodies

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  • UFC Breaking Through To Mainstream Audiences

    UFC Gaining More Ground On TV
    In Coveted Males 18-34 Demo
    Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has “penetrated the defense of the mainstream and applied a choke hold to that golden 18-to-34 male demographic,” according to L. Jon Wertheim in a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED cover story. “The Ultimate Fighter” on Spike TV, which matches aspiring UFC combatants, “often eclipses the television ratings of the NBA and [MLB] playoffs in that target audience.” The show has “demystified the sport of MMA,” while serving as “a sort of UFC farm system.” The show also “doubles as a de facto infomercial for the [PPV] cards.” UFC events “do bigger [PPV] numbers than any pro wrestling event or boxing card this side of Mayweather-De La Hoya.” UFC’s ’06 PPV revenues were almost $223M, compared with $177M for boxing on HBO and $200M for WWE. UFC 69, on April 7, was the “highest grossing event in the history of the Toyota Center” (SI, 5/28 issue). L.A. Times columnist J.A. Adande said UFC’s popularity is “not just about the numbers, it’s about the demographics. Young males are watching this. That’s the Holy Grail in TV advertising” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 5/23).

    UFC 71: A capacity crowd of 13,318 has been announced for Saturday night’s UFC 71 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, with anticipated gate receipts of $4.4M. The event features the Chuck Liddell-Quinton Jackson light heavyweight championship bout (N.Y. TIMES, 5/25). Liddell this week appeared on ESPN’s “Jim Rome Is Burning” and FSN’s “BDSSP,” and he was featured recently on the cover of ESPN The Magazine. In addition, today’s Liddell-Jackson weigh-in will be televised on ESPNews (THE DAILY). White said, “This is the last nail in the coffin for the media that haven’t given the sport credibility. All the talk of not being a sport is over now. We’ve finally arrived” (BOSTON HERALD, 5/25). He added being on the cover of Sports Illustrated “was a dream for us. We used to talk about getting a story in [SI] some day, but we never even thought about getting the cover” (NBCSPORTS.com, 5/24). FSN Exec VP/Programming & Production George Greenberg said, “The sport has become far more watchable, more dramatic and more socially acceptable. Boxing organizations should no longer be looking in a rearview mirror but, in my opinion, should be looking at the car in front of them” (USA TODAY, 5/25).

    FIGHTERS: SI’s Wertheim notes UFC’s “top fighters” have contracts that pay them six figures per fight and “can earn seven figures when bonuses and a percentage of the [PPV] haul are factored in.” But “lower-profile fighters” on the same card may earn $2,000-3,000 for a bout (SI, 5/28 issue).

    Print | Tags: ESPN, HBO, Leagues and Governing Bodies, MLB, NBA, News Corp./Fox, Sports Illustrated, Time Warner, Toyota, Walt Disney
  • Indy 500 Puts IRL Teams’ Financial Disparity On Display

    Top-Funded IRL Teams Leave Little
    Chance For Other Indy 500 Entries
    The “back of the pack” at Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 “will be loaded with solo entries of teams that scrimp, save and hope just to participate, with little chance of winning,” according to Steve Ballard of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. Ballard: “Even if the sagging popularity of open-wheel racing has caused the Indy 500 to lose some of its luster, it remains the event that teams put the most into and get the most out of. The sponsors’ exposure and a total purse of more than $10[M] far exceed any other race.” The three teams with the “biggest annual budgets” — Andretti Green Racing, Penske Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing — land multimillion-dollar sponsorships that pay for “the best drivers, the best engineers, the best of everything — which translates into the best results.” Those three “top-tier programs” spend about $6M to run a car for the full IRL season. Profitability also is “tied to the driver’s ability to avoid crashes. With no insurance available, repairs are paid for out of the team’s coffers.” Ballard notes costs for smaller teams can reach $500,000 or more “for even the low-budget, month-of-May-only operations,” but the last-place finisher Sunday is “assured of collecting at least $200,000” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/25).

    MONEY TALKS: The AP’s Michael Marot noted nine of the ten drivers under Penske, Green and Andretti qualified in the first three rows of the race. IRL President & COO Brian Barnhart said, “There is no replacement for being well-funded. That’s the case in every form of motorsports. That’s why you have to do everything you can to reduce the amount it takes to compete.” Marot noted the IRL “has tried to level the playing field,” as each team now uses a spec Honda engine, and testing has been reduced (AP, 5/23).

    Print | Tags: Honda, IndyCar, Leagues and Governing Bodies
  • League Notes

    SI.com’s Jonah Freedman cited a source as saying that MLS is “negotiating a deal to allow” A’s Owner Lew Wolff to operate a team in the Bay Area for the ’08 season, “even without a new stadium deal in place.” Wolff’s previous agreement “stipulated that he complete a deal for a soccer-specific stadium before MLS would allow him to exercise his option” for a team. The source indicated that the league “is eager for a 14th team to begin playing as soon as possible to balance the uneven schedule, ... and Wolff’s team is the furthest along of the handful of possible expansion projects nationwide” (SI.com, 5/24).

    MIKE CHECK: In Atlanta, Steve Wyche cites a source as saying that NFL security has contacted investigators in Surry County, Virginia, to “offer its services in the investigation of illegal dogfighting” at a property owned by Falcons QB Michael Vick. The source said that NFL security personnel visited Surry County offices Thursday “unannounced [and] also had made calls to local officials.” NFL VP/PR Greg Aiello said that it is “routine for NFL security to get involved in legal matters with players and other league personnel” (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 5/25).

    GREEN FLAG: In Charlotte, David Poole reports U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Evan Bayh (D-IN) sent a letter to NASCAR Chair & CEO Brian France on Thursday “asking for NASCAR to consider converting to ethanol fuel.” The IRL began using 100% ethanol this year. Thune wrote, “Just as NASCAR represents American ingenuity and freedom, we are asking them to embrace and promote the freedom of consuming American made renewable fuels like ethanol” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/25).

    NOTES: In N.Y., T.J. Quinn cites MLB sources as saying that “hawks” in Commissioner Bud Selig’s office are “pushing for Selig to punish [Yankees DH Jason] Giambi for essentially admitting ... he had used steroids in the past.” Several league officials “concede that they would probably lose an arbitration battle with the [MLBPA], but want Selig to force the union to defend a player outed as a longtime steroid user” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/25)....Total attendance for the AFL’s Week 12 was 125,803, the second-highest total for a single weekend in league history (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/24).

    Print | Tags: AFL, Atlanta Falcons, IndyCar, Leagues and Governing Bodies, MLB, NASCAR, New York Yankees, NFL, YankeeNets
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