World Extreme Cagefighting is one of the big winners in mixed martial arts today, as the promotion's television home, Versus, is back on DirecTV after a six-month standoff between DirecTV and the parent company of Versus, Comcast.
In an interview with MMAFighting.com, WEC Vice President Peter Dropick discussed the importance of being back in DirecTV homes, and the long-term television plans of the promotion. The full interview is below.
Michael David Smith: What does the news that Versus is back on DirecTV mean to the WEC?
Peter Dropick: It's great news. There was a significant amount of homes, 14 million homes, that didn't have access to our programming and our live fights, and we're excited that the issues have been resolved, they flipped the switch and Versus is back on DirecTV.
You've done five shows since Versus was taken off DirecTV. Have you been disappointed with the ratings of those shows?
We haven't been disappointed in the ratings. WEC on Versus is still one of their highest-rated programs. But there was a noticeable downtick, which could have been attributed to a variety of reasons, from day of the week to competition, but after a few shows there was a pattern. So we're pleased we're back on DirecTV.
How significant do you think it is that Versus is going back on DirecTV right before the first UFC show on Versus?
I believe that it played a part. The UFC does very, very strong ratings. You also have the NHL playoffs around the corner, but my guess -- and I wasn't at the table negotiating -- but my guess is that put some pressure on the situation to get it resolved.
Does this change anything about the WEC's pay-per-view plans?
No. Not at all. The one area this certainly helps is that we're in production on a Countdown show to preview the pay-per-view on April 24, which will feature Urijah Faber, Jose Aldo, Donald Cerrone and Ben Henderson, and that Countdown show will premier on Versus. It will also air on some other networks, but that exposure on Versus and DirecTV is important, considering that DirecTV is a strong pay-per-view provider.
Will you do some undercard fights on Versus before the April pay-per-view, similar to what the UFC does with a couple fights on Spike before some of its pay-per-views?
I don't know. We've had those discussions with Versus and it's certainly something they're interested in. We have to wait and see how the NHL playoffs play out because that's right in the middle of their playoffs and some nights there's two games a night. So we'll wait and see, but that's a possibility, yes.
There's been talk about some type of WEC reality show. Is that still happening, and if it happens will it be on Versus?
At this point there's nothing beyond lots of meetings. We do want to do something but it has to be the right show and the right treatment. We'd always go to Versus first. They're our TV partners so it would make sense for any ancillary programming to appear on Versus but at this point there's nothing to report.
How much longer will the WEC be on Versus?
The renewal was a multi-year agreement. The number of shows and hours of programming has only been determined for 2010.
Long-term, where is the WEC on television? Are we going to see more pay-per-view shows, more fights on Versus, WEC fights on a channel other than Versus?
We'll do seven live fights on Versus this year and then we've announced the one pay-per-view. We'll have at least those eight fights in 2010. We have no immediate plans for WEC to air on any other network but we'll look at all opportunities, and you never know what's going to happen with the Comcast/NBC deal. There's a regulatory process it needs to go through but that could certainly open up some doors for us.
What will Comcast buying NBC mean for the WEC?
That remains to be seen, but we certainly view it as a positive for the WEC. I think it opens up more doors, absolutely, but as for what it means, at this point I think it's much too early.
I also want to ask about one of your fighters who has also doubled as one of your TV broadcasters: Is Jens Pulver done fighting?
We still have to talk to Jens, but he's still part of the family here and he'll be here in some capacity.
Does Jens have a future with your TV broadcasts? Could he be your color commentator on the pay-per-view card?
Jens does have a future, he's been our color commentator in the past and I think he certainly will be again in the future. We haven't finalized the broadcast team yet for the pay-per-view. We'll do that shortly and make an announcement.
Is Frank Mir out of the picture for a while because he's fighting Shane Carwin this month and then possibly fighting Brock Lesnar in July?
Yeah, he wasn't available for our last fight because he was training for his upcoming fight, and I think his focus is on that fight in two weeks. Then we'll re-assess our team. We haven't determined who the team is for the pay-per-view yet. Stephan Bonnar did a great job on the last fight, and he's obvioulsy a fan favorite who's a good TV presence. We have some good options for commentators.