Court Bauer’s Major League Wrestling has inked a television deal with national network beIN Sports.
Beginning April 20, MLW will be part of beIN Sports’ “Friday Night Fury” fight block at 8 p.m. ET, with a replay airing at 11 p.m. ET.
“We’ve been in talks since the fall, and they were very impressed with our product,” said Bauer. “We offer a different presentation because we identify ourselves as a combat sport, but we have a lot more creative freedom than every other combat sport to give the most high-octane presentation.”
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beIN, which already airs international soccer, NCAA football, and professional boxing, was particularly enamored with the way MLW positions its wrestling as sport instead of sports entertainment.
The television deal allows MLW to reach over 50 million households in both English and Spanish, and also marks the official return to prime time for Tony Schiavone after a 17-year hiatus from his final broadcast on WCW’s Nitro in March of 2001.
MLW is crowning a world champion at its April 12 “World Championship Finals” show. Later this year, Bauer confirmed, MLW will unveil both tag team titles and a middleweight title.
The shows will be taped, with MLW recording a monthly broadcast and then assembling its weekly programming from there. In addition to MLW CEO Bauer, who worked on the WWE creative team, the front office includes Bruce Prichard, who reported directly to Vince McMahon in WWE for over two decades, and the former head of WWE television production in Nelson Sweglar.
The talent roster will feature Lucha Underground stars Pentagon Jr. and Rey Fenix.
“It’s a new age for wrestling,” said Bauer. “Part of that is to collaborate with other promotions and showcase talents. There is so much open space now, and the Lucha Underground arrangement is exhibit A of that.
“We worked something out with Lucha Underground and AAA to have Pentagon Jr. and Rey Fenix as regulars on the TV series. That’s such an appealing aspect to have those two features as part of our core roster.”
The move elevates MLW to a rarified air in pro wrestling. Ring of Honor is owned by its provider, Sinclair Broadcast Group, and although Impact Wrestling airs in more homes, their deal with Pop TV is a barter deal. The nature of that arrangement is Impact only has a certain amount of minutes to sell advertisements, while MLW is receiving a rights fee. The only other company with that privilege and status is WWE.
“MLW’s calling card is tapping into what fans are excited about,” said Bauer. “We struck oil with our podcast network, and this will continue in that spirit with the way we present the next generation of wrestling. We’re presenting talent in a distinct tone that is different from anything else out there.”
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.