HDNet Fights continues to make moves

Mark Cuban's MMA outfit, HDNet Fights, was quite busy this week. On Tuesday, the promotion announced that HDNet will televise the first three IFL events this year live. From the press release:

"The first event we did with the IFL was a great success, and we are very pleased to be able to expand that relationship into the first quarter of 2008," said Andrew Simon, CEO of HDNet Fights.  "HDNet Fights Presents: The IFL is a fantastic addition to MMA action on HDNet."


The first of these televised IFL events will take place Feb. 29 at the Orleans Arena in Vegas and includes three individual title fights.

This is a good move for both parties. HDNet is quickly becoming a TV destination for MMA action and news, and adding a brand like the IFL only adds to its library of programming and increases HDNet's profile in the industry. For the IFL, HDNet replaces MyNetworkTV, which was the league's TV home last year. While HDNet doesn't have the same reach as MyNetworkTV, the league desperately needed a TV deal to have any chance at success. Along with a new camp-based format and an emphasis on matchmaking this year, this deal should also help the IFL's profile. It certainly can't hurt.

And yesterday, HDNet Fights announced that it is partnering with Strikeforce to promote four events this year. The first of those events will be a live televised event on HDNet on Feb. 23 featuring Bob Sapp. From yesterday's press release:

"We're excited about this new deal with Strikeforce as they are such a well respected MMA organization," said Simon.  "This announcement reinforces our commitment to deliver a minimum of 24 events in 2008 and the partnership between HDNet Fights and Strikeforce ™ guarantees many great match-ups for MMA fans."

"We are excited about the opportunity to showcase our brand of mixed martial arts on HDNet," said Scott Coker, President of Strikeforce.  "HDNet delivers television content to viewers in the highest quality format possible and Strikeforce has worked diligently to produce the finest, world-class fights for mixed martial arts fans.  Together, the two entities will be able to deliver a superior product."

While the IFL and Strikeforce are two of the bigger name promotions in this country, HDNet Fights also has partnerships with smaller promotions and with promotions in other countries, including Canada. Yesterday, HDNet Fights also announced that it will air Canadian promotion Maximum Fighting Championship's Feb. 22 card in Edmonton live on its network.

All three deals illustrate how powerful HDNet Fights' vertically integrated model can be. Not only does the promotion have the ability to co-promote events, it can also televise and distribute the content. At this point, HDNet Fights is giving the Pro Elite/Showtime tandem quite a run for its money. The main issue for HDNet, however, is the relatively low number of subscribers to its high-def channel. If the channel can come to some sort of agreement with the country's major cable providers, its profile will improve dramatically. It's not a stretch to believe that MMA fans will gladly pay a monthly premium for wall-to-wall MMA programming that they currently can't find anywhere else.