The International Fight League has reached an agreement to expand its relationship with cable channel Fox Sports Net, while also reaching a deal with network TV channel MyNetworkTV, which is also owned by Fox.
Under the terms of the agreement, FSN has multi-year rights to air 22 one-hour latenight programs starting in the second quarter of 2007 (April, May, or June). This will put the IFL into a more regular, weekly timeslot on FSN, as opposed to the more sporadic scheduling of IFL events in 2006.
The specific timeslot on FSN was not disclosed, but “latenight” from a TV scheduling standpoint generally refers to 11:00 PM or later. The UFC successfully launched on cable television in a latenight timeslot, although it did have something on its side that the IFL won’t have: A show with millions of viewers (WWE Raw) as a lead-in.
While a weekly slot in primetime would obviously be preferred over latenight, that is simply not possible due to FSN’s structure of local sports coverage on its affiliates. A consistent weekly timeslot is important for any show on TV to establish and build an audience over time.
In addition to the extension and expansion of the IFL’s relationship with FSN, the agreement also calls for the Fox-owned MyNetworkTV to air 22 two-hour IFL-produced programs starting in the summer of 2007. This marks the first broadcast TV deal for any MMA promotion.
In addition to fight footage, the programming on MyNetworkTV will also include more comprehensive coverage on the fighters and their lives, as well as news surrounding the IFL. A specific timeslot was not announced for the deal with MyNetworkTV.
If IFL programming catches on, it could be a tremendous boon for MyNetworkTV, which has struggled to gain any sort of a foothold in the television ratings since it began operations in September of 2006.
Despite its low ratings, the potential for growth in the viewership of MyNetworkTV is sigificant, given the fact that it’s a broadcast TV network that is available in over 95 percent of American households (including those that do not have any cable or satellite service).
According to Neilsen Media Research, there are 111,348,110 households in the United States with broadcast TV access, and the majority of those households contain more than one person.
MyNetworkTV was founded in part to help fill the void left on many television stations’ schedules when The WB merged with UPN to form The CW Network.
At the very least, the IFL’s agreement with MyNetworkTV gives the IFL a much greater audience and a more focused way to reach that audience than it has ever had before. At best, it could launch the IFL’s team strategy into the conscience of the mainstream collective.
In addition to the IFL’s presence on Fox Sports Net and MyNetworkTV, FSN will now have “the right to produce related ancillary programming, pay-per-view events, and video-on-demand product.”
The IFL and FSN also will form a joint venture to manage and distribute IFL-related content on the Internet, via broadband video, and mobile outlets. Under Fox’s umbrella are such popular assets as Myspace.com, IGN, and many other resources.
These resources open up many new avenues for the IFL to reach its audience. It is not unrealistic to deduce that the agreement could lead to such new ventures as an IFL-related video game, IFL mobile phone content, an online community tied to the IFL, and more. Not that these are all finite realities, but the resources affiliated with Fox do lend themselves to numerous possibilities.
“This is a historic day for the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, and we want to thank everyone at FOX for seeing this great opportunity and making it a reality,” said Gareb Shamus, IFL co-founder and CEO. “This partnership will give MMA in general and the IFL in particular a chance to showcase the personalities, training regimen and great skill and discipline that these athletes and their coaches have to a much wider audience both in the United States and eventually around the world.”