Arrival of MMA shows change of strategy at NBC
NBC will air its first MMA bout in July as part of a multiyear deal with the World Series of Fighting that runs through 2017.
The move signifies a change in strategy for the Comcast-owned company. When NBC Sports Group passed on a UFC deal in 2011, its executives said MMA was off-brand and difficult to get advertisers to support. Soon after, the World Series of Fighting bought time on NBC Sports Network, which ran two cards in 2012 and six in 2013.
“We dipped our toe in the water back in 2012,” said Gary Quinn, NBC and NBCSN vice president of programming. “[NBC and NBCSN President of Programming Jon Miller] needed proof that it would deliver.”
NBC executives decided the series’ performance was good enough ratings-wise for an extension. In 2013, the six World Series of Fighting telecasts averaged 198,000 viewers. For 2014 to date, two telecasts have
averaged 228,000 viewers.
The new, four-year extension is not a time-buy, but it does not involve a rights fee, either. Rather, NBC has committed to cover some of the production costs.
The deal calls for NBC to carry live 14 World Series of Fighting events this year: 12 on NBCSN and two on NBC. More events will be added in the next few years. The events will be held Friday and Saturday nights in the 9 p.m. ET slot. NBC’s two live cards this year will air on July 5 and Dec. 27.
The deal also includes a big digital component. NBC will stream the undercard on its website, making it available to anyone with a broadband connection. It will stream the bigger matches on an authenticated TV Everywhere basis.
Quinn said NBC also has committed to have its regional sports networks re-air some of the cards and it plans to hold bouts in markets where it operates RSNs.
“Partnering up with our RSNs makes sense from a programming perspective,” Quinn said.
NBC will use Todd Harris on the telecasts and Bas Rutten as an analyst.