NBC KO’d The Contender after the boxing reality series’ first season, and the sport of boxing itself is in a sad state, but Contender creator Mark Burnett is more than willing to go a few rounds on behalf of both.
“We are looking not just for a TV partner, but for a partner overall to help really re-launch the sport,” Burnett says. “This relationship will be as much about the overall opportunity of rebuilding boxing as it will be about a TV show. If we just wanted a TV deal, we’d be done already.”
Though Burnett would only acknowledge talking with “a number of outlets” about reviving The Contender, industry insiders say ESPN or HBO would be the most likely new venue, though Spike TV, FX and even Fox (which decided last season’s The Next Great Champ was a chump) would also qualify as a prospective partner. Burnett says he expects, within weeks, to announce “big fight night” televised events that would be a prelude to the series’ return, possibly by January 2006. Burnett’s partners on the show, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Sylvester Stallone and Sugar Ray Leonard, would remain with the project, he says.
The Contender averaged a mediocre 6.2 million viewers for the season, but did draw nearly 8 million for the finale bout of the elimination series. Those numbers obviously didn’t impress NBC, but some other stats made Yahoo! perk up: a lightly promoted afternoon Webcast of three fights prior to NBC’s May 24 Contender season finale prompted 516,000 video streams, according to the company. Jim Moloshok, Yahoo! SVP of branded entertainment, says: “If the program were to come back, we’d love to be involved.” Rematch!