FEG: Dream Promotion Going Nowhere

By Jordan Breen Sep 27, 2008
Fighting and Entertainment Group remains resolute that its Dream promotion is in the mixed martial arts business to stay, despite rampant speculation to the contrary following dismal television ratings for Dream 6 on Tuesday in Japan.

After the Hero’s promotion had begun to sag in the ratings department, FEG retooled its MMA program earlier this year. FEG worked with former staffers from Pride parent company Dream Stage Entertainment to create the decidedly more Pride-flavored Dream promotion in an attempt to reinvigorate the Japanese public’s interest in MMA and revitalize television ratings.

The Dream project yielded little television turnaround, as the promotion’s first primetime broadcast on the Tokyo Broadcasting System for its inaugural March event netted a dismal 8.9 rating. That was fifth out of the six major Japanese networks during the time slot and bested only the perennial sixth-place finisher -- TV Tokyo. The promotion’s second primetime TBS broadcast -- the finale of the Dream lightweight grand prix in July -- saw marginal improvement with a 10.0 rating. However, FEG executive Sadaharu Tanigawa announced following the event that unless ratings for the Sept. 23 middleweight grand prix final were higher, Dream may not make it past the month of September.

Japan’s leading television research firm, Video Research Ltd., on Wednesday reported that the primetime broadcast of Dream’s middleweight grand prix finale mustered only a 9.0 rating on TBS. The news ignited instant speculation that FEG’s MMA program would face immediate retooling if not outright elimination due to the anemic ratings. Such prognostication was reinforced for many by Dream event producer Keiichi Sasahara, who told Japanese media Wednesday that he and FEG had already turned their focus to the company’s annual K-1 Premium Dynamite!! show on New Year’s Eve -- the biggest night of the year for both television and combat sports in Japan.

However, FEG’s American director, Mike Kogan, told Sherdog.com that Dream is not facing the nightmarish scenario many have been led to believe.

"Japan is going through decline in martial arts interest, in general, so the problem is not with Dream as an event or FEG’s ability to put [on] the right matches or exciting fights,” Kogan said. "We are working on rebuilding that audience and reigniting their interest in martial arts. FEG in a form of K-1 has been on national TV [in Japan] for over 14 years. We know how to get ratings, so we will make it happen in 2009 and will reach the numbers we used to produce."

Beginning in 2006 with the Hero’s promotion, FEG has acquired four primetime television slots per year with TBS, a model that was adhered to this year for upstart Dream. In the past, non-primetime MMA events promoted by FEG were often shown in heavily edited form on network television later in the evening, or now in the case of Dream, live on SkyPerfecTV pay-per-view in their full, unedited fashion.

Kogan maintains Dream will continue on into 2009, and the blueprint for the promotion and its television presence will remain largely unchanged.

"Nothing has changed going forward. Dream is not going anywhere; we will have events next year as planned, and they will be televised on TBS," Kogan said. “Details at this point are being worked out, as to the number of events. It most likely will be six as this year. And just like this year, some will be in primetime and some will not, but all will be available on SkyPerfecTV PPV."

Last October, FEG promoted a Hero’s event in Seoul, South Korea, headlined by Yoshihiro Akiyama’s meeting with Denis Kang. Initially, such an event was tentatively penciled into Dream's 2008 schedule for this October, likely with another Akiyama headliner in Seoul in store. However, absolute silence regarding the card following the Dream middleweight grand prix was taken as further evidence of disaster for Dream.

"For this year, we are going to concentrate on New Year’s Eve K-1 Dynamite!! event," Kogan said. "We also have K-1 World Grand Prix finals in December and, as such, the talent is spread pretty thin as is. To add another show in Korea right now would make it very hard for fighters to train for that, and then come back and potentially fight again on Dynamite!! New Year’s Eve is very important for TV ratings time, so we will concentrate on that event for the end of the year."
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