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Putting The “Fix” in Affliction

If Affliction Entertainment has a future as a successful promotion in the world of mixed martial arts, then they best get out their tool kits and fix a major problem: the production of their pay-per-view telecasts.

Putting on quality fights – at least through their first two pay-per-view events (“Affliction: Banned” and “Affliction: Day of Reckoning“) – hasn’t been an issue.

However, their fighter payroll, which is reported to be over $6,000,000 combined for those events, is an issue. And, if the company has any chance at financial success, especially with their astronomical payrolls, then they must succeed in two areas: live gate and pay-per-view revenues.

Affliction can keep their pay-per-view numbers on the down low if they choose. Various sources have reported that their latest show, “Day of Reckoning,” sold anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 buys (FiveOuncesOfPain.com has been told the number right now is 120,000 but that it could increase when late buys are collected by the cable and satellite companies).

But there’s one thing they can’t hide: the production of Affliction’s pay-per-view telecasts is not good. In order for their pay-per-view numbers to increase – and the promotion to continue – changes must be made.

PRODUCTION AND PACING:

Golden Boy Promotions took over the production reigns for “Day of Reckoning.” “Day of Reckoning” was nowhere near the train wreck “Banned” was, but the improvement was more like an F to a C-minus as opposed to an average to good improvement.

In short, Affliction pay-per-view shows are still poorly produced.

When viewers, especially in this economy, are forking over their hard-earned money for a pay-per-view, they expect a quality show. In the world of mixed martial arts and television, that translates to a show that focuses primarily on the fights, without having to sit through dead air and useless segments. It’s about producing and pacing.

Affliction needs major work in those departments.

To appreciate what Affliction’s television team is up against, let’s make a comparison to the UFC and Zuffa’s pay-per-view telecasts.

During a UFC pay-per-view event, the fights are certainly the cornerstone of their telecasts, but there’s also more “business” to conduct. Their production team needs to hit promo spots for things such as future pay-per-views and television shows, as well as sponsor segments (a movie, a poker company, a motorcycle company, etc.).

With Affliction Entertainment, at least for the time being, there are no future events to promote during their pay-per-views. There are no reality shows. And there are far less sponsor spots to hit, especially when your company is a spinoff of a t-shirt company.

In other words, the “rundown” of the show focuses primarily on the fights. Therefore, making seamless transitions from one fight to the next can be challenging at times.

With “Day of Reckoning,” viewers could have watched The Godfather trilogy during the time it took to get from the show’s woeful open to the first fight of the night. For nearly $50, you were treated to that woeful open, the announcer previews of the card, Scott Ferrall and Chuck Zito interviewing Freddie Roach and then the PRIDE-like introductions of all of the show’s fighters, all before seeing anything resembling a fight.

Question: Do you go out to a $50 dinner and expect to get just a glass of warm water 20 minutes after ordering your meal?

Personally, I would have canned all of the above; especially the fighter introductions. I believe that the lineup of the fighters is geared more towards the live audience than those sitting at home waiting for fights to start. It’s overkill, especially if you consider the fact that we’re also going to see pre-fight packages on these same fighters.

The solution is simple and different, especially for a promotion with almost no existing fight history of its own to fall back on: start the broadcast with what I call a “Cold Open Fight.”

That’s right…the broadcast begins, blow-by-blow announcer Sean Wheelock quickly introduces himself on camera along with his partners, Jimmy Smith and Tito Ortiz… Smith quickly introduces the first fight of the night and then tosses it to the referee asking the if the fighters are ready…the bell sounds… and within 30 seconds of the pay-per-view telecast that you are shelling out almost $50 for, you have a fight.

What if this idea had been executed for “Day of Reckoning’”s controversial opening fight, Dan Lauzon versus Bobby Green? Even with Green landing three supposed low blows on Lauzon and the delays that followed, it still would have been a high-energy way to start the night, especially with Lauzon reaping revenge on Green by making him tap out.

Speaking of producing and pacing, how does one make the call to NOT send Ortiz into the ring to interview Lauzon, especially after stating during the fight that Lauzon was “putting on an acting job?” Isn’t this the reason why you’d want to take the time to cut to a post-fight interview? Someone made that call in the truck – and someone failed at capitalizing on what could have been an interesting post-fight segment between the always opinionated Ortiz and Lauzon. Again, with just one card under their belt before “Day of Reckoning,” Affliction producers weren’t dealing with a lot of dramatic storylines coming into this telecast, so not recognizing the opportunity to let one play out was a poor judgment call that can’t happen again.

Another poor judgment call that cannot happen again is staying on shots of a fighter who may be seriously injured. This was the case with the Vitor Belfort Matt Lindland fight. Lindland, who was knocked out in devastating fashion by Belfort, was shown unconscious on the ground with his legs twitching. Of course, you cannot predict how a human being’s body will react to such a violent act, but making the decision to stay on Lindland for so long, when it was clear that he was very, very hurt, was a terrible decision. Good, experienced crews who’ve done MMA telecasts before know this. If Affliction’s television crew was experienced, then someone simply made a horrible judgment call.

There were other options available, such as cutting back to the announcers while doctors tended to Lindland. It’s the equivalent of an NFL game cutting to a commercial after a serious injury; except this was a commercial-free broadcast. The decision to stay on Lindland could have been devastating – to Affliction, to the sport of mixed martial arts, and most of all, to Lindland, had he been seriously injured. Thankfully, he recovered – and hopefully, such bush league decisions will not be made in Affliction’s next show.

Affliction and its television producers also need to re-think how they present their fighters before their respective fights.

With “Day of Reckoning,” it seemed as if Affliction’s production team was trying to fill as much time as possible with fighter packages and introductions. The decision to go from a fighter package into that fighter’s ring walk (and vice versa, at times) into the ring announcement of that fighter completely brought the broadcast to a halt; especially considering that this was done for each fighter. If the producers were trying to do something different, it was a bad choice. Something different would have been producing fighter packages that resembled anything but a poor man’s rip-off of what the UFC does.

The solution? Keep it simple and get to the fight as soon as possible. Produce fighter packages that include both fighters, followed by each guy making his ring entrance, just like the UFC does. Oddly enough, the producers chose to actually do this with just two fights: Josh Barnett Gilbert Yvel and Fedor EmelianenkoAndrei Arlovski. If they felt that this gave the two featured fights a “different” look, they were wrong. This is simply a case of Affliction and its producers trying too hard.

Another problem that was obvious on “Day of Reckoning,” which also supports the “fill as much time as possible” theory, was the reluctance of the show’s producers to end the telecast properly.

Fedor provided his knockout of the ages, and of course you have to interview him. And of course the viewer expects the announcing team to quickly wrap up the fight and the night in general. But to go to Zito and Ferrall for their analysis of the fight? Really? And then provide the viewers with a useless, long recap of all of the fights that we all just paid up to $50 for and watched with our very own eyes? Really?

The question Affliction’s producers need to ask themselves is, “What reasons are we giving the viewer to keep watching beyond the last fight?”

The answer: “There were none.”

Note to Affliction Entertainment: You’re not fooling the viewers. They know when a show begins and a show ends. Focus more on what comes inbetween that, and you’ll most likely have well-paced shows with good fights that are actually worth paying about $50 for.

THE ANNOUNCE TEAM:

A very positive decision by Affliction Entertainment was to bring in M-1’s announce team of Wheelock (blow-by-blow) and Smith (analyst) for “Day of Reckoning. Wheelock and Smith called the card exactly as they should have, which is professionally and as” a team who has worked together many, many times.

Even more impressive was how they incorporated Ortiz into the equation as the third member of their team. Both Wheelock and Smith allowed Ortiz enough time to show the viewer that, while very, very raw, he certainly has the opinions and knowledge to become a good MMA analyst.

Ortiz was hardly smooth in the analyst role, and he often stumbled upon his own words. But if you throw aside your personal opinions for Tito Ortiz the fighter, whatever they may be, you have to be fair and acknowledge that if he works on his delivery, he’d be a pretty darn good analyst. Also consider the fact that he was joining two guys who’d worked together on numerous occasions, so fitting in was a challenge. Assuming he’s available for their next pay-per-view, Affliction should not only use Ortiz again, but groom him even more as an analyst.

Then comes Tito Ortiz, the post-fight interviewer.

Let’s put it this way…you’re never going to see “The Tito Ortiz Talk Show” following Oprah. Matter of fact, Affliction should never, ever put Ortiz in the position of conducting a ring interview – whether he’s getting booed by the crowd or not – ever again.

From a production perspective, you don’t want the post-fight interviewer to take away from the fighters or interview itself. And almost every time Ortiz entered the ring, he was booed. Whether the booing got to him or not, Ortiz did not deliver. Fighting while being booed is a whole different story than trying to conduct an interview while being booed. When you’re fighting, I imagine you can block it out more. When you’re in the center of the ring and all eyes and ears are focused on everything you say, and not how you fight, I imagine it’s harder.

Also, eliminating Tito Ortiz as a post-fight interviewer will eliminate the possibility that viewers will ever have to listen to these types of lines ever again:

To Renato “Babalu” Sobral after beating Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: “I wanna tell me what you see. Let’s go ahead and see by the fight, what you saw, in the ring.”

Also to Sobral: “Everybody let’s give a hand to Renato Babalu,’ one of the greatest light heavyweights…of the night.”

Ortiz also didn’t appear to be too comfortable interviewing “Fee-dor” Emelianenko after his fight. Note to Tito: it’s “Fay-dor.”

The solution is to keep Ortiz in the “booth” and bring in somebody else to conduct post-fight interviews. Who that person should be is not my call, but I remember when I first saw Jim Gray on boxing telecasts and how odd it seemed. Now, he’s one of my personal favorites when it comes to conducting post-anything interviews. Gray gets my vote here.

Which brings us back to Ferrall and Zito. Personally, this writer is a fan of both of these men, but not in the roles they served for “Day of Reckoning.” Matter of fact, I believe that both men should be eliminated from future Affliction telecasts, only because the producers didn’t have the slightest clue on how they should use them.

As a sports talk show host, I’m a huge fan of Ferrall. But let’s face it; he’s an acquired taste. The same is true with Zito, who, if sitting in as a guest on a show, is a fantastic interview due to his amazing stories.

The problem with using Ferrall and Zito is that they use none of their above skills for these pay-per-views. Having Ferrall, on “Day of Reckoning,” give the viewer an over-hyped play by play of Babalu getting ready for his fight was completely forced. And having them analyze any fight, especially when you already have Smith and Ortiz doing the same thing, is absurd and unnecessary. It’s almost as if the producers weren’t quite sure what to do with Ferrall and Zito. The solution, to no fault of the twosome: lose them.

AND FINALLY….

Many viewers of Affliction: Banned may recall how awful the audio was for that show. The audio quality improved for Day of Reckoning, but the richness of the packed crowd still doesn’t compare to the UFC’s stellar audio production. On “Day of Reckoning,” one of the first things Wheelock did was describe the crowd as “a frenzied crowd.” The problem was, the audio quality hardly sounded as such; not to mention the fact that the director didn’t even cut to the crowd to compliment Wheelock from a visual perspective. Maybe they weren’t lit properly? Maybe the lack of micrphone placement prevented this from being executed? I’m not sure, but crowd cutaways and top-notch audio are very rare in Affliction Entertainment shows; yet both are crucial elements needed to energize television productions such as MMA shows.

There is absolutely no doubt that those who run Affliction Entertainment understand the importance of producing top-notch, pay-per-view events. But the bottom line is, there’s a big difference between understanding that and then executing it.

Hardcore fight fans may not care how it’s produced, because there’s only one thing they tune in to see: the fights.

Well, without significant improvement in the production of their pay-per-view events, there won’t be any fights left for Affliction to broadcast. Because some of those fans who do care about quality shows won’t continue to spend their hard-earned money anymore. And without that pay-per-view revenue, money will be lost.

Right now, the numbers speak for themselves.

And for a fledgling company like Affliction Entertainment, that could be devastating. The clock is ticking.

23 COMMENTS
  • takimeathead says:

    Note to Lee Gerowitz:

    It’s actually “Fey-OH-dor.” Ask any Russian worth their own weight in salt. :)

    //tomasi

  • hexrei says:

    A better title for this article would have been “Fixin Affliction”

  • Madmax says:

    Not to mention the two fools(dont know their names)they cut to backstage now and then. Never said an intelligent thing, either of them. Lose these guys too.

  • Dr. Sardonicus says:

    I found most of the article on target. But I liked the recap of all the night’s fights at the very end of the show.

  • Madmax….you’re referring to Zito and Ferrall.

  • Handover Fist says:

    Caught the last Affliction event at a local sports bar that usually has 200+ people in it for UFC events. The owner said Affliction charges almost as much as the UFC ($1,500) to carry the PPV.

    There where about 15 people there.

    The owner was going to take a bath and said it was going to be the last one he carried.

  • roshambo says:

    Personally, I am a fan of MMA. My preference is to UFC as they put on the biggest fights and have the deepest roster but I enjoy WEC, Strikeforce, Affliction or who ever else is showing it for that matter.

    Although I don’t think Affliction is great, I do hope they can get things going more so than they are now and survive their start-up period. I think the more organizations that are successful, the better it is for MMA fans. Without competition, you wouldn’t have the UFC playing against Affliction and puting on the huge cards they are right now.

    Sadly I think that if Affliction continues with their current game plan, they will go under before the year is out. They have the same guys fighting each time, they are over paying a bunch of UFC rejects that while some are decent fighters, I feel that the money would be much better spend trying to lure away top UFC guys that are approaching the end of their fight contracts. The fact that Arlovski got 1.5 million is insane to me. You could have payed him in the 250,000 to 500,000 range and that would still probably been more than he would have been getting at UFC. You would then have 1 million plus to go after other top notch fighers. If they can’t improve their roster, no one in the long run is going to look at them as a serious competitor. What if Fedor gets injured in a fight or training and can’t go for 6 months to a year? They have nothing to draw fans in. Elite XC had the 1 trick pony and it came crashing down as everyone knew it would. Affliction is setting themself up for the same demise. I also think that in this stage of their promotion, they need to grow their fan base. This is going to be hard to do when you charge $45 dollars for your pay per views that aren’t as strong or desireable as some of the UFC pay per views. If I have $45 to spend and I have to chose between Fedor vs Arlovski or BJ vs GSP, I’ll go with the UFC fight each time. If instead they charged $20 dollars, they would probably get twice as many buys and still make the same profit yet they would be able to increase their fan base as people would see it as a cheaper more affordable alternative. I hope Affliction can get things going and make some better business decisions, but sadly I don’t think it’s going to happen.

  • mindone says:

    I thought it was ok..

    especially for the second show.

    I find mike goldberg incredibly annoying .. any mma broadcast with quality fights and with out goldberg announcing is a plus in my experience

  • mu_shin says:

    Didn’t get to see the whole event, as I was watching on an internet live stream that took me an hour and a half to connect and stay connected. This after seeking to purchase the event, not available on my cable system, seeking a public venue to view it, closest to my house was seventy miles away. Caught Barnett/Yvel and the main event.

    I grew up with a father who worked in radio, print and television advertising, and who associated with a lot of on air talent. Broadcasters don’t get enough recognition for what a skill it is to speak smoothly and concisely under pressure at a live event. I agree with the comments about Tito’s Ortiz’ potential as a ringside analyst. Who better to give insight into this young sport than a former champion who has watched MMA grow for the past ten plus years? Becoming a professional announcer does not happen overnight, and with more experience and exposure, and perhaps even some coaching and preparation, I think Tito could become a good addition to an MMA broadcasting team.

    Just a passing thought to close: if Affliction sold 120,000 PPV’s, that’s $4.8 million dollars. If I recall correctly, they said their live gate was $1.5 million. That’s 6.3 million, with a payroll somewhere around $3 million. Very tight profit margin for a promotion struggling against a successful giant in the UFC. Investment in production values would go a long way toward helping Affliction gain a foothold in the MMA market, and attempt to produce further events.

  • BigDave says:

    Good article i agree with most of it but zito and farrell sucked real bad. and the part about showing a bad injury you where so wrong on that point. Not only does the nfl show a guy being worked on on the field a long time but they show the replay of the injury about 50 times from 10 different angles and in super slow motion. Another problem i had with your rightup was that the ufc production is better because the promos and trailers it shows. That to me is the worst part of any ufc show. They repeat the same thing over and over again (i.e. If have to see a promo for a a Randy Coture fight again and listen to Rogan say that guy is my hero again 30 time on a telecast i may just throw my tv out the window.) these take forever and its nearly 20 minutes between fights. But ya thats all i got on this one.

  • Austin says:

    Tito Ortiz has always been a stuttering idiot. Not to mention he makes up words. His grammar could use some work.

  • GetItOn says:

    BigDave – yea it’s nice to see instant replays of what happened that caused the damage but seeing someone completely incoherent laying on the ground for an extended period of time is unnecessary. Especially showing when the guys body “comes to” but his mind doesn’t. IMO it was interesting to see but for the average viewer who has been turned off to MMA because of horror stories or bloodbaths and broken limbs certainly should not be viewing that situation. It’s not necessary the amount of time spent filming Lindland unconscious. I am sure that if a player in the NFL was out cold and flopping on the ground, they certainly would go to a commercial and maybe come back when that player is conscious, body and mind and getting ready to be hauled off the field.

  • GetItOn says:

    As far as Tito Ortiz and his issue with pronouncing words/names correctly, I honestly don’t think that will ever change. I know people that have this very issue and even though you correct them, they still continue to screw it up. Makes me laugh but hey, you are who you are. Everyone has flaws.

  • JollyDV says:

    Nice write up!

    Agree, keep Tito out of the ring. If only as a favor to the fighter who is getting a chance to speak post fight. With more experience Tito will improve as a color commentator.

    I have purchased both Affliction shows and DOR is by far the better show. The production was better and I think the fights were better. As with any new “project”, there are going to be snafu’s. I truly hope that Affliction can work through these and continue to put on exciting, action packed cards.

    I think re-allocating monies from prize purses toward production would be a good start.

  • RoadsideGraphix says:

    I feel this is overly critical of a 2nd show.

    For starters…. This event was shown all over the world.
    It made money… NO DOUBT

    You can compare everything to the UFC but if you love the UFC is your view askew?
    I think DREAM is a great promotion even though I can understand 70% of what is being said.

    Affliction is growing and should get better with time.
    I am glad its not like 1 huge PPV COMMERCIAL like the UFC is anymore.
    Yeah the UFC gives us some free fights on Spike (most are better then the PPVs) but they dont pay their fighters anything compared to what Zuffa is earning.

  • Jak says:

    I don’t mean to be critical, but right before Day of Reckoning, there was an article written(by Jonathon Snowden) on this site saying how fans were dumb to even ask questions or “focus” on Afflictions business model and the way they go about putting on shows.

    And now there is an article, doing exactly that.

  • Jonathan Snowden says:

    This was an interesting article and I don’t want to shift focus from it to me. But to be fair, the above was not really the point of my early article. I had an issue with:

    “Fans that are discussing the finances above all else.”

    I don’t have a problem with people discussing the business of sport. That has its place. I just wanted people to appreciate the card we were given and think about the fights for just a moment. especially when the show was just a day away and people were only discussing buyrates and gross and box office.

    Anyway, this article is a different bird all together, talking primarily about how the show was put together and how the production can and should improve. It’s a far cry from the kind of article I was talking about.

  • RoadsideGraphix …”This event was shown all over the world.
    It made money… NO DOUBT.’

    Let’s say you are correct. Well, this article is talking about the long term prospects for the company. If Affliction survives long-term with the payroll they’ve had during their first two shows, then MSNBC (or another biz channel) should dedicate a whole week’s worth of programming on them.

    “You can compare everything to the UFC but if you love the UFC is your view askew?
    I think DREAM is a great promotion even though I can understand 70% of what is being said.”
    No, my view is not askew. Bottom line is, the UFC is, for all intents and purposes, what every MMA promotion wants to be, in terms of financial success and popularity. I hope that you’re aware of the fact that DREAM also has financial issues. And to admit that you don’t understand most of what is being said, but you love it, well…c’mon.

    If Affliction survives financially, the opportunity is there for them to get better, no doubt. But it’s a big “if.”

    I think I can speak for every writer on this site and MMA fan when I say that I hope Affliction succeeds, because competition is good. And from a personal perspective, I would like to write on more promotions than just the UFC. Unfortunately, no one has the TV presence that they do right now.

    Thanks for the feedback. Always appreciated, even if we agree to disagree.

  • Cathedron says:

    I hate to defend him, but Tito was pronouncing Fedor’s name correctly. Or at least, he was closer than 99% of North America.

  • notdanawhite says:

    Terrific suggestions, well done.

    Affliction is quite the enigma. It seems basic that an outstanding presentation is required for PPV success.

    The best of the best TV and event producers and crew on the planet are right there in LA. All they have to do is give some of that Affliction money to them.

    I like their fights and am glad the fighters have an opportunity to work and receive a nice payday.

    But the goofy production keeps me from spending for the PPV. I’ll go to a bar that shows it for free.Or, check out the “counter programming” and watch Affliction later via a friend with DVR.

    My 2 cents.

  • Angry Mike says:

    I don’t think that the production issues will be problematic, assuming Affliction continues to promote fights. I say that because there was improvement in the second show as compared to the first. Affliction’s biggest challenge is in marketing to increase ppv buys. Speaking of which, were its final numbers ever publicized? I don’t recall seeing them.

  • s00nertp says:

    Affliction has many challenges, I dont know the solution… but it is easiest to want to copy the UFC.

    All I have to say is I’m enjoying their attempt, I appreciate the fights they have set up, and eagerly await the next event.

    PS: I cross my fingers that more people continue to follow with the same enthusiasm.

  • PlagueAngel says:

    This has been my favorite article and Blog discussion yet! I didn’t know that bars had to pay as much as 1,500 to televise ppv mma. “GetItOn” was funny with his comments on Linland. You know it was awesome on a scientific level to see him twiching after a good smack in the kisser!

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