Report: Mark Burnett planning EliteXC mixed martial arts reality series
By Christopher Rocchio and Steve Rogers, 06/25/2007
Mark Burnett has used the reality realm to find heavyweights in numerous areas, from the boxing ring and boardroom to remote islands and the rock 'n' roll stage. Now he's apparently ready to enter the world of mixed martial arts.
Burnett has joined forces with mixed martial arts company ProElite Inc. to develop a primetime reality series centered around the popular sport with Olympic origins, according to The Hollywood Reporter, which learned of the agreement due to a recent ProElite filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The deal between Mark Burnett Productions and ProElite -- which organizes and promotes mixed martial arts events through its EliteXC division and also runs a social networking website for fans of the sport -- has the production company developing the potential series with its eventual contestants being signed by ProElite, according to The Reporter.
With the world of mixed martial arts growing more and more popular with young male audiences through the Ultimate Fighting Championship and PRIDE Fighting Championship divisions, ProElite reportedly approached Burnett about expanding the reach of its similar EliteXC division onto television and additional mediums, according to The Reporter. The parties will reportedly pursue Internet extensions of ProElite's websites and also share revenue from other joint endeavors, such as pay-per-view events.
As part of the agreement, Burnett has received the right to purchase up to 17 million shares of ProElite at $3 a share in eight portions that are "tied to the success of their joint venture," according to The Reporter.
A format for the ProElite mixed martial arts reality series "remains in the exploration stage," according to The Reporter, which added matches have been broadcast on Showtime since February 2007 when the premium cable network invested in the company and signed an exclusive programming agreement. Representatives for Mark Burnett Productions could not be reached for comment by The Reporter.
The ProElite deal marks at least the third time that Burnett has signed a development agreement that gives him an equity stake in a publicly traded company.
Back in September 2004, Burnett and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. (MSO) agreed to a deal for the development and production of new Martha Stewart daytime and primetime network television programs. As part of the deal -- which eventually resulted in a new Burnett-produced (and still-airing) syndicated Martha daytime show and a poorly-rated Fall 2005 The Apprentice: Martha Stewart spinoff of Burnett's Donald Trump-hosted The Apprentice reality series -- Burnett received a warrant to purchase up to 2.5 million shares of the MSO common stock at an exercise price of $12.59 per share.
That same year, Burnett also received a 5% minimum equity stake in Everlast, a then-struggling boxing equipment maker that served as one of the product placement sponsors for his The Contender reality boxing series.