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NBC and Strikeforce to Announce Partnership
NBC and Strikeforce to Announce Partnership - MMAjunkie.com Exclusive - MMAjunkie.com
by Dann Stupp [mmajunkie] on Mar 13, 2008 at 12:49 pm in - News -
NBC and Strikeforce will soon announce a deal that will give the quickly growing mixed-martial-arts organization a weekly presence on major network television.
Sources close to the deal tell MMAjunkie.com (MMA blog for UFC news, UFC rumors, fighter interviews and event previews/recaps - MMAjunkie.com) that a formal announcement of the partnership is expected within the next week. However, Strikeforce executives didn't return phone calls from MMAjunkie.com requesting comment.
The NBC-Strikeforce deal comes just weeks after CBS and ProElite, Inc. announced a formal partnership that will put four annual EliteXC events on primetime television. The first EliteXC-CBS event is expected to air in May. And though it won't be a live event, Strikeforce could actually beat EliteXC to the airwaves.
As part of the NBC deal, fight footage from past Strikeforce events will likely be shown in "highlights" shows, not unlike the Pride Fighting Championships shows that currently air on Fox Sports Net. The first Strikeforce show is expected to air in mid-April.
The program will likely air on late Saturday nights (early Sunday mornings) either immediately after or soon after the hit NBC series, "Saturday Night Live."
Although unconfirmed, there's speculation that the deal could possibly lead to live or, at the very least, tape-delayed Strikeforce events airing on NBC. However, other than the weekly highlights show, few other details of the deal are known at the time.
The fact that NBC signed a deal to air MMA isn't surprising; however, the fact that it was Strikeforce -- not MMA's powerhouse, the UFC -- might raise some eyebrows. NBC's interest in MMA reportedly peaked during the recent writers strike, when networks were desperate for specialty programming. In fact, the Strikeforce deal may have first been reached back in January, when NBC was in talks with a host of organizations, including the IFL, M-1 Global and the UFC.
Sources close to the deal tell MMAjunkie.com that talks between the UFC and NBC never really got off the ground. According to those sources, the UFC wasn't interested in a late-night timeslot, and additionally, NBC executives "weren't too keen" on working with UFC president Dana White.
Strikeforce, though, apparently saw the value in getting its fledgling brand on network television in a weekly slot. However, the partnership may not be an exclusive deal, meaning other organizations could still negotiate with the network.
Prior to the EliteXC and Strikeforce deals, the UFC had been in talks with both HBO and CBS, but those deals fell apart when White reportedly wasn't willing to concede creative control. During a pre-UFC 82 press conference, White said he wasn't willing to make a "bad deal" when asked about the failed negotiations.
As for Strikeforce, the NBC deal could help the organization grow from a regional hit to a international powerhouse.
After more than a decade of success promoting kickboxing events, the San Jose-based organization launched its MMA division in 2006. Its debut show was the first-ever MMA event sanctioned by the state of California. More than 18,000 spectators packed the HP Pavilion to watch Frank Shamrock defeat Cesar Gracie in the night's main event. Since that debut show, the organization has hosted nine other events, including one in September at the legendary Playboy Mansion, which was streamed live by Yahoo! Sports.
Strikeforce has emerged as one of MMA's big players while focusing on the local market. California-based fighters such as Shamrock, Cung Le, Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thomson sell out local venues while drawing international interest. The organization only recently left the state of California when it hosted a Feb. 23 show in Tacoma, Wash.
Strikeforce's next show, co-promoted by EliteXC, takes place March 29 in San Jose and features a Strikeforce world middleweight title fight between champ Shamrock and challenger Le. Additionally, Drew Fickett takes on Jake Shields for the first-ever EliteXC welterweight title, and Strikeforce world lightweight title-holder Gilbert Melendez defends his belt against Gabe Lemley. The event airs on Showtime.
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