NEW YORK — In a landmark deal for premium television, Showtime Networks Inc. has partnered with Pro Elite, Inc. to televise live mixed martial arts (MMA) events on SHOWTIME beginning in 2007, it was announced today by Ken Hershman, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Sports and Event Programming, Showtime Networks.
The first event will air live on Showtime on February 10, 2007, with additional events airing on the premium television network through 2009. All MMA events on Showtime will be televised in high-definition.
Pro Elite, Inc. is headed by an impressive team of successful entertainment producers, event promoters and new media/internet visionaries. CEO and entertainment executive, Douglas DeLuca (Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Man Show), and the President of the live event division, Gary Shaw, will promote the televised events with Rumble World Entertainment’s President and CEO Jay Dee Penn, a black-belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and a veteran promoter in the field of mixed martial arts.
Mixed martial arts is a sport evolved from a number of ancient combat disciplines including Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, Karate, Wrestling and Kickboxing. A competition unlike any other, world-class athletes engage in hand-to-hand combat in a ring—both caged and traditional—and must adapt their fighting style to fit their opponent. The wide variety of styles and techniques make every event an unpredictable and exciting spectacle.
The intense nature of the contests and the theatrical elements that accompany the live experience have made MMA one of the fastest growing spectator sports in the U.S. In the past three years, the genre has seen exponential growth in popularity, particularly from the coveted male 18-34 demographic. MMA is sanctioned as a sport in more than 20 states with others expected to soon follow.
“Having seen the great success of Ultimate Fighting Championship on basic cable and pay-per-view, we knew that this programming held great potential for Showtime,” said Hershman. “MMA is a global phenomenon that is impossible to ignore. This will be the perfect complement to our boxing franchise and we are proud to be the first premium network to embrace it. We can’t wait to deliver these action-packed events to our subscribers.”
“I’ve been in and around the boxing business for a long time,” said Shaw, who will oversee Pro Elite’s live event promotions. “The energy and the excitement that mixed martial arts events generate throughout the country and on television are astounding. Personally, and on behalf of Pro Elite, I am thrilled to be entering this sport with the exceptional team of professionals at Showtime.”
DeLuca has an extremely diverse background encompassing over sixteen years of experience producing feature films, television series and special events around the world including ABC’s hit late night program Jimmy Kimmel Live and hit reality show The Mole. Shaw, in addition to his role at Pro Elite, is also the president and CEO of Gary Shaw Productions, LLC, one of the country’s leading boxing promotion companies. Formerly, Shaw was the Chief Inspector for the New Jersey State Athletic Control Commission and a member of the commission’s board, and the Chief Operating Officer of Main Events, another boxing promotional company.
“MMA is the sport for a new generation,” added DeLuca. “The participants in MMA are some of the most dedicated and skilled athletes in the world. Our aim is to shape and nurture the core values of extreme martial arts and deliver it on multiple platforms to the fans and the athletes alike. Partnering with Showtime, a true leader in televised boxing, is an ideal situation for Pro Elite and all of MMA. Together, we will help this sport flourish and grow.”
“Rumble World Entertainment is a family owned and operated business,” said Penn, a lifelong martial artist. “And we’ve seen our events and MMA in general grow like wildfire over the past few years. Our team has been committed to identifying and partnering with the right company and television network to turn our dream into a reality. Today, we have truly realized that dream.”
Chairman of the Board for Pro Elite, David Marshall, who is also Founder and Vice Chairman of Youbet.com, one of the largest providers of technology and pari-mutuel horse racing content for sports enthusiasts through Internet and telephone wagering platforms, and also one of the largest broadcasters of live audio and video on the Internet, stated: “Mixed martial arts is not only the fastest growing spectator sport in the world, but also has perhaps the most passionate fans. This unique partnership with Showtime will revolutionize the sport by providing fans with enormous interactive benefits while creating the leading destination for Mixed Martial Arts on television.”
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