SkyPerfecTV has decided to continue airing Dream Stage Entertainment’s Pride events on Japanese pay-per-view, but there is much more to this story, according to MMAWeekly’s sources in Japan.
SkyPerfecTV will continue to air Pride-branded MMA events and Hustle-branded pro wrestling events, but SkyPerfecTV appears to be doing so in a stealthy way. For example, the network just aired a Hustle event last week without any PR or advertisements, whereas it had previously put a lot of money and effort into advertising Hustle’s shows. If SkyPerfecTV does the same thing with Pride events, it could have a negative impact on Pride.
After Fuji TV terminated its relationship with Pride, Fuji put pressure on other companies to do the same, and SkyPerfecTV had to decide whether they would air Pride events in the future.
An example of the pressure coming out of Fuji TV is that all programs on Fuji TV were ordered not to use any Pride or Hustle talent in any way, which includes news programs, variety shows, commercials, and even Hidehiko Yoshida’s job as a color commentator for Fuji TV’s Judo coverage.
For all intents and purposes, it appeared that once Fuji TV decided that it couldn’t broadcast DSE’s events anymore, Fuji wanted to destroy DSE. Fuji TV certainly does not want to simply pass the high ratings of Pride on to one of its competitors on a silver platter.
It will be very difficult for Pride to find another TV station that is willing to pick up its programming. There are a few rumors here and there about TV stations picking up Pride, but it still has to be considered unlikely due to the fact that the Pride brand has been wounded so badly.
An example of what is happening with Pride can be seen in what has already happened to DSE’s pro wrestling company, Hustle. The recent Hustle event had been scheduled to air on Fuji TV, which offers free broadcast television throughout Japan in much the same way as CBS or ABC in the United States. The Hustle event had been scheduled to receive prominent coverage in major Japanese newspapers, including many that do not usually cover pro wrestling or sports in general. The production of the show was scheduled to be handled by Tokai TV.
When Fuji dropped the hammer on DSE, all of this disappeared. No more Fuji TV coverage, no more newspaper coverage (or very little), and no more Tokai TV production. The event was left to air only on SkyPerfecTV, which is comparatively a desolate wasteland in terms of viewership since it is a satellite-based pay-per-view channel.
As for SkyPerfecTV, Fuji TV is one of the largest stock-holders of SkyPerfecTV, with 12.47 percent of its stock. Sony and Itochu, which are two of the biggest companies in Japan, also own 12.47 percent of SkyPerfecTV’s stock. Two of Fuji TV’s competitors in the field of free broadcast television, Tokyo Broadcasting System and Nippon TV, each own five percent of SkyPerfecTV’s stock.
In making its decision about DSE’s events in the future, SkyPerfecTV is in a difficult position. SkyPerfecTV has to consider what its number one shareholder does, which may be why the company initially deleted all references to Pride and Hustle from its web site.
At the same time, Fuji TV only owns 12.47 percent of SkyPerfecTV, and Pride is one of the biggest programs on SkyPerfecTV. If SkyPerfecTV were to stop airing Pride’s events, SkyPerfecTV would lose a large chunk of its business.
As a result of the need to balance these factors, SkyPerfecTV appears to be hedging its bets with a “watch and wait” approach. SkyPerfecTV has said that it is not removing DSE programming from its line-up, but has added that it could still decide to remove Pride from its line-up at any time in the future. SkyPerfecTV is staying in a gray area between a pro-DSE position and an anti-DSE position, which could mean that the company is just waiting and hoping that the storm from the Yakuza scandal will go away.
What this means for now is that DSE is keeping its life-line for the time being. However, even with continued coverage on SkyPerfecTV, DSE has lost the production services and filmmaking talents of Fuji TV, not to mention the amount of money (believed to be over $4 million) that Fuji TV was paying DSE as a programming rights fee for each major Pride event.
Fuji TV was not just Pride’s television outlet in the way that one might think when it comes to American TV networks. Fuji TV was crucial to the promotion and production of Pride’s events. If you were to look backstage at any given Pride event that aired on Fuji TV, you would have seen that there were more Fuji TV employees working on behalf of DSE than there were actual DSE employees.
Pride will be able to go on as long as the company is able to make money from live attendance, but without the huge support of Fuji TV, the Pride product of tomorrow could be very different from the Pride product that we’ve come to know in recent years.