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Kelly Kahl Sounds Like A Man Willing To Give Strikeforce Another Shot On CBS

Fedor EmelianenkoThe CBS Saturday Night Fights ratings are in, but we don’t know yet if they were good enough to convince CBS to give Strikeforce and potentially Fedor Emelianenko another shot on their network.

It does look promising however. The man in charge of all this MMA business at CBS, Kelly Kahl, made a few comments in Josh Gross’ latest piece that point towards another show if they get all the right pieces in place.

Still, for CBS, which garnered near triple-digit increases in male viewers aged 18 to 34 on Saturday (dropping its median viewer age to 41), and its advertisers, the results proved once again that young men will change the dial to watch MMA. The feeling at the network, especially now that people know the Russian’s name and face, is that a second prime-time bout featuring Emelianenko — something that could happen by the spring or summer of 2010 — would produce noticeably better numbers.

“The thing I’ve concluded after four of these is that we still clearly need a story, personality and draw to make a successful network show,” said Kahl. “The sport itself — even with a quality card — isn’t enough. Even a relatively unknown person — Kimbo or Fedor — works if there’s a great angle. Gina Carano would be helpful. I’d love to have Fedor again if we can get him. Now that we’ve reached a critical mass with him, I think we could really build on it.”

You definitely get the sense that they’re not yet where they want to be with the ratings, but they believe they now understand what it takes to get there. Fedor Emelianenko is an amazing story and I wholeheartedly believe the mainstream audience will embrace him like the MMA community has for years. It will take time though. I’d expect the numbers would increase with a second show and perhaps by the third he truly will become a household name. They just have to sell him the right way, and I think the Fight Camp 360 special was a good start.

Moving on, for those of you interested in how the “co-promotion” between Strikeforce and M-1 works, at least one of the sides says it’s a 50-50 split.

Viewership for the card in Russia, Korea and other countries, which was engineered by M-1 and is responsible for much of its take of the co-promotion, is expected to easily trump the 4.04 million overall number CBS pulled in the U.S., they said. M-1 and Strikeforce negotiated a 50-50 split of the profits, according to Emelianenko’s camp. While Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker wouldn’t confirm the number, he said he was pleased with the venture and look s forward to working with MMA’s No. 1 heavyweight.

The question is, are M-1’s international TV deals bringing in as much revenue as Strikeforce is? I don’t know, but if they are, then maybe M-1 isn’t as bad as everyone likes to think they are. A 50-50 split is fair if both parties are contributing equally. How that’s determined in this instance probably isn’t that simple though.

Image via Esther Lin for Showtime

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