Our friends at MMAjunkie.com point out that in Monday’s press release to announce the re-signing of Kimbo Slice, Robbie Lawler, and Gina Carano, EliteXC also confirmed that the second airing of “Saturday Night Fights” is scheduled for CBS on July 26.
Slice, Lawler, and Carano, three of the company’s most prominent fighters, are all slated for the first EliteXC show on CBS on May 31. Many bloggers have raised questions about whether the lineup currently in place for that show is strong enough to draw a good enough rating that will warrant a second airing.
A lot of people panicked after CBS axed “Secret Talents of the Stars” (or is it hidden talents? I’m not sure, nor do I really care) after just one airing. The show’s quick cancellation was a reminder of how everything changes in television if you don’t draw ratings. There’s probably a magic number that “Saturday Night Fights” needs to hit. I’m not sure what that number is, but Michael Rome of BloodyElbow.com recently wrote an article where he says he believes that the number is a 1.5.
If that’s the number, then I think EliteXC is going to do fine for the first show. We don’t know the full cost dynamics of that broadcast and while ratings are extremely important, the cost of running a show is also a factor. Saturday is traditionally the worst-rated night of the week for prime-time and CBS is also getting a piece of EliteXC for every show it runs. As such, I think the expectations for “Saturday Night Fights” is going to be different than a typical show that airs mid-week on primetime.
Where I think EliteXC runs into trouble is during that second show in July. And when I say trouble, perhaps I should say major trouble?
Network TV ratings traditionally go down in the summer. Saturday’s are especially bad. Saturday’s in the dead of summer? Man, I don’t think there’s a worse situation to have to draw a rating. People that don’t usually leave the house tend to go out on a Saturday night in the summer, even if it’s just to take their kids out for ice cream. When it comes to CBS, EliteXC will live or die by the viewing habit of the casual viewer. Hardcores will tune into that show no matter what because it’s free MMA but the casual viewer might have other ideas that night (a baseball game, a Hollywood blockbuster, etc.).
The question I have is who is going to headline that second show? Right now, Kimbo is the promotion’s top star. However, having already competed on May 31, it is hardly a given that he’ll be ready to fight again on July 26. There’s always Frank Shamrock but he broke his arm during last month’s loss to Cung Le. Personally, I don’t see how EliteXC can hold a show on CBS without either Slice or Shamrock headlining.
I also have questions about the undercard for the July show. As of today, there is a June 14 SHOWTIME show in Hawaii that is tentatively scheduled to be headlined by K.J. Noons defending the EliteXC lightweight title vs. Yves Edwards. It was also mentioned during the Shamrock vs. Le post-fight presser that Jake Shields and Drew Fickett will more than likely fight for the vacant EliteXC welterweight title on that show. I’ve also heard the names of Nick Diaz, Antonio Silva, and Kala Kolohe mentioned in conjunction with that show as well.
Logistically, I think EliteXC is in for an uphill battle when it comes to that July show on CBS. They could always do something big like try and sign Tito Ortiz, but even if they are successful in that endeavor I doubt that he’d be ready to headline a July show. There’s the fact that he will have just competed on May 24 against a dangerous opponent in Lyoto Machida and the issue of the issue of the UFC retaining the right of first refusal. Given the UFC’s ability to match any contract that Ortiz signs with another promotion, negotiations to sign Ortiz could become protracted.
If I was in EliteXC’s shoes, I’d either move the July show to August in hopes that Slice or Shamrock will be ready to headline or I would cancel the June 14 show in Hawaii. I think EliteXC’s current summer schedule is overly-ambitious at this point and if they want to run such a schedule they better get some money together and expand their roster.
As of now, the current roster is not configured to meet the demands that will be placed on it. EliteXC not only needs to do a better job of creating news stars, but it will also need to spend big money on existing stars because you don’t create new ones overnight and the promotion needs immediate help for the July 26 CBS show.
So the moral of this story is that while many people believe the first CBS show could be the company’s downfall, I think the more realistic concern is the second show.
One name I’d keep an eye on is that of Bobby Lashley. Dave Meltzer reported in this week’s print edition of the Wrestling Observer that Lashley could now be leaning towards MMA. A company in the position that EliteXC is in may need to roll the dice on someone like that because he at least brings some name recognition value to the table.