The sport of mixed martial arts has landed on a major television network.
ProElite Inc., the parent company of EliteXC, announced Thursday that it has inked a deal with CBS, the parent company of Showtime, which currently televises EliteXC events and will continue to do so.
The EliteXC-CBS deal is a multi-year agreement that will see EliteXC events air live four times per year on Saturdays as two-hour specials.
"Mixed martial arts is one of the fastest growing sports in the country and a wildly popular entertainment vehicle for upscale, young adult audiences," stated Kelly Kahl, the Senior Executive Vice President of CBS Primetime. "It's original programming for Saturday night, it's live, creating an event-atmosphere, and it's something that hasn't been seen on network television, until now."
This announcement comes less than two weeks after the end of the Writers Guild of America strike, which lasted November 5, 2007 until February 12, 2008. In dire need of programming not requiring writers from the Guild, television networks scrambled to fill their timeslots with a wave of reality television series and sports programming.
"Dexter," a serial killer drama on Showtime, also benefited from the writers' strike. The first season episodes of the hit series recently premiered on CBS and drew close to eight times its usual Showtime audience, according to USA Today.
The International Fight League first made headlines by becoming the first brand to sign a deal with a broadcast network outside of cable. But the network, MyNetworkTV, was and still is the lowest rated of all the major networks. CBS, on the other hand, has been around since 1939.
"This is a pivotal moment for the sport of mixed martial arts now that a major television network plans to broadcast live MMA events during primetime hours," ProElite CEO Douglas DeLuca said in a statement.
The UFC were in negotiations with CBS and were close to a deal late 2007, but the deal reportedly fell through for a reason similar to why the HBO deal fell apart: the UFC wouldn't give up creative control of the broadcast presentation.
EliteXC was willing to, and a new broadcast team will likely replace Mauro Ranallo, Stephen Quadros and Bill Goldberg for the CBS telecasts.