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SBD/Issue 174/Sports Media
MMA's Network TV Debut On CBS A Milestone Moment For Sport
Published May 30, 2008
|Slice Headlining Saturday's EliteXC Card On CBS|
LOW RISK FOR CBS: On Long Island, Neil Best writes the risk of broadcasting the event is "low for CBS, because in recent years broadcast networks have all but stopped trying to draw big audiences on Saturday nights" (NEWSDAY, 5/30). In Philadelphia, Bernard Fernandez wrote CBS "might have tried anything within reason to pull in ratings on a night that has become TV's skid row." Kahl: "We're putting it on Saturday nights, a night that has been underserved by all the networks for quite some time. So it's a low risk and potentially large reward" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 5/29). USA TODAY's Robert Bianco writes, "Hey, it's summer, and at least the network is trying something on a Saturday night, instead of using the evening as a dumping ground for faded hits and repeats" (USA TODAY, 5/30). Kahl: "It's a case where need met opportunity. The sport is so popular right now" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW JOURNAL, 5/27). In Chicago, Teddy Greenstein wrote the event for CBS is "not much of a gamble when you consider the ratings Spike TV has garnered for 'The Ultimate Fighter' or NBC for the non-prime time 'Strikeforce' series or Showtime for its foray into MMA" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/27).
MAKING A MISTAKE: In Miami, Greg Cote wrote under the header, "CBS Is Now Legitimizing Barbaric Sport." Cote: "Can the combination of network backing and the fleeting flare of Kimbomania legitimize MMA or make it mainstream? If the question is necessary, the answer begs a good laugh or at least an incredulous harrumph. Something does not achieve legitimacy simply because it is widely seen. ... Nor does something achieve legitimacy simply because it might entertain the more depraved among us" (MIAMI HERALD, 5/29). In Utah, Scott Pierce writes CBS "should be ashamed." MMA is "more like the Christians vs. the lions in the Roman Coliseum than a legitimate sporting event" (DESERET NEWS, 5/30).
BIG MOMENT FOR MMA: EliteXC President Gary Shaw said the event being broadcast on CBS in primetime is "probably the biggest thing ever to happen to MMA. These fighters will be like the people on 'Survivor' and 'American Idol.' They'll be recognized at airports and Burger Kings." FOXSPORTS.com's Mark Kriegel wrote Shaw with the primetime coverage envisions a "new kind of fame" for the company, as the biggest PPV audience "represents a tiny fraction by the standards of prime time" (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/29). In Baltimore, Mark Chalifoux wrote Saturday is EliteXC's "moment of truth." If viewers "don't tune it, it could pretty much mean the end of the company. The entire MMA-world has a lot riding on this event as it will be the first exposure to MMA for a lot of casual sports fans" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 5/28). CBS announcer Gus Johnson, who will call Saturday's event, said, "Once we can make terms like 'triangle choke' and 'rear-naked choke' and 'arm-bar' household words like a jab or a cross or an uppercut, that's when MMA will really, really hit a point that will allow it to become one of the big sports in the country" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 5/28).
UFC's White Calls
EliteXC Farm League
TAPPING OUT: The N.Y. POST reported several CBS affiliates will not carry Saturday's event. Ads for the show appearing last weekend in various newspapers read, "This program will not be seen in this area." Fans in Pennsylvania were "among the first to complain that the show was being blacked out there" (N.Y. POST, 5/27). Meanwhile, in San Jose, John Ryan noted one of EliteXC's main sponsors, Reality Kings, "will not have its logo in view Saturday night" because of a "rule against promoting porn sites on network television" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 5/29).
BE ALL THAT YOU CAN BE: In N.Y., Michael Brick writes the U.S. military, "acknowledging the phenomenon and the suitable demographics, are using the sport not only as a way to build morale and aid in recruiting, but also as a training aid to enhance the skills of soldiers." The Army has conducted MMA tournaments among soldiers, and the military has "produced fighters for the professional leagues." Modern Army Combatives Program Dir Matthew Larsen has been "trying to coordinate a tournament in Baghdad for broadcast on ESPN" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/30).