Is Zuffa Positioning To Take Advantage Of NFL Labor Dispute?
When it comes to business matters in sports there is very little that can be chalked up to mere coincidence. The timing around the recent purchase of Strikeforce, by mixed martial arts giant Zuffa LLC may be a very calculated move. Given the timing of the transaction and the number of potential dollars at stake it would appear that Zuffa, with mixed martial arts organizations Strikeforce and Ultimate Fighting Championship are gambling on a drawn out work stoppage between the NFL and its players union.
Less than two days after labor talks between the NFL and its players died, Zuffa announced the purchase of their closest rival Strikeforce. Zuffa now essentially owns the contracts to nearly all of the top fighters in the world, as well as presiding over what is one of the fastest growing sports in the world.
So how does this tie into the labor unrest in the NFL?
Easily. If there is an extended labor stoppage in the NFL, advertisers and fans are not simply going to fall off the face of earth. There will still be billions in advertising waiting to be sold to someone, and millions of sports addicted fans looking for their weekly fix of entertainment. Enter mixed martial arts. MMA fans fit in well with NFL's demographics (Male 19-49), as well as showing a loyalty and fanaticism that is on par with other major sports. Additionally, MMA is essentially an untapped market for many mainstream advertisers, giving them opportunities to bring new designs and products to the market through ad campaigns.
Why no other sport fits the bill:
With sports such as NASCAR and Major League Baseball falling off and losing their grip on the coveted Male 19-49 demographic, television networks will likely flock to pick up one of the fastest growing sports in the same demographic as the NFL. Organizations like UFC and Strikeforce have seen exponential growth in their brands over the last few years, taking the sport of mixed martial arts out of the underground and placing it front-and-center in homes all over the world.
Just a few short years ago NASCAR sat in the same driverís seat that mixed martial arts currently sits in. But since signing a remarkable eight-year, $4.48 billion media deal with Fox, ESPN, and Turner, NASCAR has lost nearly a quarter of its TV viewership base and has seen a serious erosion in the young-male demographic. In 2006, after NASCAR finalized its current media deal, it was averaging 7.85 million viewers per race on Fox, FX, TNT, and NBC. In 2010, NASCAR races averaged 5.99 million viewers over 34 races across Fox, ESPN, and Turner, meaning NASCAR has lost nearly 2 million viewers in the past four years, or near one fourth of its audience.
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