Court Bauer believes his Major League Wrestling promotion will fit right in on DAZN.
The powerhouse streaming network possesses top-notch combat sports rights, from exclusive Canelo Alvarez boxing matches to Bellator MMA, and the MLW CEO sees his organization — which announced a deal with DAZN on June 10 — as one that can complement that. Some of MLW’s top stars such as Tom Lawlor, King Mo and Dominic Garrini have backgrounds in high-level MMA or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. MLW isn’t meant to be a “variety show”
“We want you to go and when you experience MLW you have true suspension of disbelief,” Bauer said in a phone interview. “You feel like this is a combat sport like MMA or other sports, just something weird that doesn’t happen in [those] other sports may happen here.”
The deal with DAZN is part of a larger media-rights strategy Bauer has been able to focus on with the company’s live shows on hold since March 13 in Mexico because of a coronavirus pandemic. MLW can currently be seen in 20 countries and Bauer said he ambitiously hopes to add 20-30 more by the end of the year. It’s those media rights deals that have allowed MLW to pay the bills and re-sign talent even while shows are not going on.
“We are in a unique position where we’ve been able to just kind of come into port and weather the storm and I think because of what we’re doing in the meantime [we’ll] reemerge as a winner because we’ve shifted all of our bandwidth to focusing on media rights deals, new talent, restructuring talent contracts and growing our global footprint,” said Bauer, a former writer for WWE.
MLW’s deal with DAZN — which has eight million subscribers worldwide — doesn’t mean all of its content will be moving there. The New Rochelle-based company’s weekly show, “MLW Fusion” will continue to air on television partner beIN Sports. Replays of that show can currently be seen on DAZN along with it’s Opera Cup pay-per-view.
Bauer said he was unable to go into detail at this time about what specific MLW shows would be coming to DAZN, but described the offering as “premium” and content that’s “complementary” to Fusion. MLW did not have an exclusive pay-per-view partner when live events went on hold.
“There is more, stay tuned,” Bauer said.
One thing he does plan on changing is where fans can watch MLW content for free. It would mean moving content from YouTube to a different paywall-free video service that would offer the company a better revenue stream. MLW currently has nearly 95,000 YouTube subscribers. It has a roster filled with young stars such as Brian Pillman Jr., Davey Boy Smith Jr., and heavyweight champion Jacob Fatu.
“There’s always going to be content on YouTube, but as soon as I can move it to another service that’s easily accessible that you don’t have to pay to watch, we’re gonna make that move,” Bauer said. “YouTube grossly underpays unless you have a strategic partnership, which we attempted to have.
“You get to the point where you know the value of your property, you know that this is now a very temporary thing, but you also never want your audience to be disrupted from watching it because they’ve gotten do use to something like this.”
Bauer said MLW is under no pressure from its broadcast partners — for whom they are still producing new content for — to resume traditional shows. He is unsure when those will begin again. MLW plans to follow states’ coronavirus guidelines when they do. Bauer isn’t in a rush to have MLW shows return.
“Until there is some sort of therapy, treatment, and or a vaccine, we’re just gonna standby,” he said.
He said if he was doing fanless shows, he’d present matches with lighting similar to the movies “Cinderella Man” or “Raging Bull” where the crowd is more blacked out and the action in the ring has a limelight on it from above.
Until then, Bauer’s focus is on having as many potential eyeballs ready to see MLW when it does return and he views the deal with DAZN as a big part of that.
“As we try to grow or global footprint, that really helps accelerate that for us,” Bauer said. “It really strategically fit like a glove for us.”