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Volume 20 No. 42
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Glory kickboxing PPV making UFC.tv debut

It is a pay-per-view that bears watching in the combat sports world, less for the U.S. audience it’s expected to draw than for the way in which it will reach that audience.

When the Glory kickboxing promotion rolls out its first pay-per-view in more than two years on Dec. 10, it will do so through the usual network of cable and satellite distributors in North America, but also via an over-the-top play with the UFC, which will offer the telecast as it does its own pay-per-views on UFC.tv.

Badr Hari (right), who set records in Japan’s K-1, will fight Glory champ Rico Verhoeven.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
Priced at $29.95, the show features two heavyweights who have spent their careers in competing organizations, Glory circuit champ Rico Verhoeven against Badr Hari, who made his name fighting in the once-dominant K-1 promotion in Japan, where he won more fights and knocked out more fighters than any kickboxer in history.

It is the biggest kickboxing event that could be made and has been described by many as the most anticipated kickboxing match of recent memory. But how that will translate in sales, particularly in the U.S., where Glory’s only previous pay-per-view did about 6,000 buys, remains to be seen.

The good news for Glory is that the show is on pace to make budget based on ticket sales at 12,650-seat König Pilsener Arena in Oberhausen, Germany, and a patchwork of international TV deals, leaving the pay-per-view as pure upside, said Glory CEO Jon Franklin, a former IMG Media executive who also worked in boxing.

“This is a new model,” said Franklin, pointing to the mix of the UFC’s established promotional reach and an amalgam of pay and free TV rights deals. “We’re pretty excited to test the waters with it. Our goal is to build this fight and the Glory brand, by being able to create a plethora of different arrangements around the world. We think we’ve got the globe covered, one way or the other.”

Franklin would not discuss specifics of Glory’s deal with the UFC, other than to describe it as a “partnership” in which Glory produces the event and the two share revenue from the pay-per-view. He would not say whether that partnership extends to buys from outside the UFC’s stream.

The pay-per-view is in addition to an earlier deal that brought live Glory telecasts to the UFC’s Fight Pass streaming service. Some Glory fights also air on ESPN — typically going live on ESPN3 with rebroadcasts on ESPN2.

The stream progression of the Dec. 10 Glory 36 card from Germany will test all facets of the company’s TV footprint. The show starts with five fights billed as “Glory 36: Germany” scheduled to stream live on ESPN3 at 11 a.m. ET, followed by five “Glory 36 SuperFight Series” bouts on UFC Fight Pass at 1:30 p.m., leading into the four-fight “Glory: Collision” pay-per-view card at 4 p.m.

When Verhoeven’s previous title defense made its way to a live airing on ESPN2 in September, it drew an audience of 517,000, a respectable number for a relatively new combat property, especially considering the broadcast began at midnight ET. It was the third-largest audience ever for the property, which previously aired on Spike. A few days later, Glory announced an investment from Yao Capital, the private equity group formed by NBA hall of famer Yao Ming.

“Obviously we want this to be a success on pay-per-view, but it’s already a success as a promotion no matter what we do there,” Franklin said. “We sold out on tickets. Then, you hedge your bets with a balanced [TV] distribution. We’ve got a whole bunch of five- and six-figure deals all over the world to help us cover our nut.”