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EliteXC to Sign Deal with CBS?

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Wow. If this pans out its a major major shakeup for MMA in the US. MMA Junkie breaks it:

ProElite Inc., the parent company of Elite Xtreme Combat, is expected to announce a deal with CBS that will put MMA on major network television for the first time.

Sources close to the deal tell that an agreement has been reached between CBS and the Los Angeles-based ProElite. However, officials could not publicly comment on the matter.

EliteXC was founded as a partnership with Showtime Networks Inc. in 2006. The organization's events, which are held under the EliteXC and ShowXC banners, currently air on Showtime.

Showtime is owned by CBS.

A source who spoke exclusively to said that CBS will broadcast live EliteXC events in prime-time slots. The events will likely take place every other month.

How did Gary Shaw beat Dana White to the network? Simple, Dana's control freak tendencies queered the deal for the UFC:
Beginning in October, UFC president Dana White stated that he was confident the organization would reach a deal with a major TV network, most notably CBS or NBC. In November MediaPost Publications reported that the UFC and CBS were in "advanced negotiations" and that the announcement of an official partnership was expected to happen at any time. UFC 81, which took place earlier this month, was expected to be the first UFC event to air on CBS.

However, the deal eventually fell apart — reportedly over issues with the creative control of the events. Those same issues kept a deal between the UFC and HBO from coming together last year, as well.

Update [2008-2-27 16:21:40 by Luke Thomas]:: Sam Caplan adds some salient commentary:

The big key though is for EliteXC and CBS to make sure the right producer is involved with the project. Getting on TV is not enough. It’s what you do with your allotted amount of time that counts. Unfortunately, the IFL learned that lesson the hard way. Landing a deal with MyNetworkTV was a huge coup for them. However, the vision set forth by the original production company did more harm than good for the IFL.

A producer who understands the needs of the hardcore MMA fan but also the casual fan is essential. If the sport is presented in an overly technical manner, hardcore fans will be pleased but the telecast will fail to resonate with casual fans. However, if an attempt is made to appeal only to casual fans and we end up with a product that is essentially "American Gladiators" but for MMA, it’s going to be a total bomb. Hopefully the corporate synergy that exists between CBS, SHOWTIME, and ProElite will be utilized. I’m biased, but I think SHOWTIME has done a strong job with how it has presented MMA. I hope the key principals involved with SHOWTIME’s production for MMA also become key principals of CBS’ production for MMA.

I had been quoted on the record in the past as saying that I believed the sport’s growth had plateaued, but it looks like I may have been incorrect. I’m starting to get the feeling that MMA is about to undergo another major growth spurt.

You have to think a rival network is going to sign the UFC very soon. White & Co. won't let this go unanswered even if it means bending on demands that they heretofore would not do.