The PFL may not be staging live fights in 2020, but the promotion is still plotting a new line up of original programming with the launch of PFL Studios.
The new venture will be led by 16-time Emmy Award winning producer George Greenberg, who previously spearheaded the UFC’s launch on FOX after they inked a broadcast deal back in 2011. Now Greenberg will be producing several new series that will begin airing on ESPN this year as well as additional programing for digital channels.
“For me when I left FOX, I was about to start my own production unit because there was a lot of opportunities,” Greenberg explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “There was sports, there was entertainment, I had touched a lot of things in television but my private passion was obviously the UFC. I was instrumental in bringing it to FOX but I was always blown away by the sport and what these athletes could accomplish and really how different it was from all these other sports.
“When they came to me, it was a really great time for me. I had a lot of great options. This was a great opportunity to build a project from the ground up.”
In an ideal world, the PFL would already be in the midst of their third season but the coronavirus pandemic put a stop to those plans. Rather than running a shortened version of the season or risking the health of the athletes, the PFL opted to postpone all events until 2021.
According to PFL CEO Peter Murray, there was no other logical choice for the promotion once the COVID-19 outbreak started. That said, PFL studios was already in the works and thankfully it gave the organization a way to continue producing original content in 2020 even without live events happening.
“No. 1, we made the absolute right decision to postpone the season,” Murray said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “We were fortunate in that COVID-19 hit before the start of our season so once again what guided that thinking was safety of our fighters and staff. We have fighters from 25 countries, so the logistics would have presented a lot of issues. Secondly, we wanted to preserve the integrity of our format. Regular season to playoffs to championship, it takes really eight months to execute, six [months] from the start of the season to the end of the season with the championship.
“We felt at the very early stage of this format and having success under our belt to do anything that was truncated and didn’t have the integrity of it, would do us a disservice. So it was a hard decision but safety first and the integrity of the format. So our strategy as a result of that was absolutely to double down on original content across all platforms.”
The launch of PFL studios will give the promotion a chance to do more in depth storytelling with the four original series set to debut this year. Here’s a breakdown of what’s coming:
Fantastic Finishes — a fast paced, highlight-driven, seven-episode series reliving memorable knockouts and slick submissions across all six PFL weight classes. The series finale is a one-hour Top 40 finishes special. Fans can also look forward to bonus knockout coverage from past PFL and WSOF stars including Justin Gaethje.
Inside the Season — a 10-part series providing fans with unprecedented access and insight into the inevitable ups and downs of an eight-month season. New fighter interviews, never-before-seen fight footage, access to fighter locker rooms, takes from journalists, and commentary from announcers will contribute to a fresh, in-depth look at the 2019 PFL season.
The Randy Couture Story — this multi-part series “will indulge viewers with details of his inspiring journey from wrestling standout to MMA legend. His career contributions extend beyond the cage, from work with veterans to roles in Hollywood. Starting in September, hear from the man himself, and an eclectic range of characters that helped shape his unique story.”
With Inside the Season and A Champion’s Journey, Greenburg sees an opportunity to introduce fans to a much different look behind the scenes at PFL not to mention engaging stories with the fighters that simply can’t be told during a broadcast.
“That’s the core of how you hook a viewer, whether you’re doing a live show for two hours or four hours, you need a hook,” Greenberg said. “You have to introduce them not only to the competition but why you need to root or choose a certain athlete to invest your time in. So you can make that show a lot more entertaining.
“That for us, is the invitation for every viewer but now with the shows we’re putting out for ESPN, it’s our chance to really dig deeper.”
When it comes to The Randy Couture Story, the PFL will be focusing on a legend of the sport and both Murray and Greenberg agree that even though he never fought for the promotion, telling his journey from Olympic hopeful to UFC legend was too important to pass up.
“You take his story and you can draw parallels to The Last Dance except there was no team,” Greenberg said in reference to the recent ESPN documentary focusing on Michael Jordan. “It was only Randy. That was it.
“He was a guy who came out as an Olympic alternate and then forged his way into MMA in the early days. He was a pioneer and he still is in everything he does.”
Murray hopes this is just the beginning for PFL Studios with ambitious plans already laid out for 2020 and beyond.
“The signature that we’re going to bring to this is a level of storytelling that has never been experienced in MMA,” Murray teased.
The first PFL programming will debut on ESPN in June with Fantastic Finishes and Inside the Season.