Bout Tout


ESPN is ringing the broadband bell to help promote the finale of boxing reality series The Contender. The Mark Burnett-produced show on Sept. 20 began airing full-length, unedited versions of the semifinal fights on the ESPN 360 broadband service. Those bouts were partially telecast as part of the Sept. 19 installment of the series.

The fights will appear on the site until the live Contender conclusion on Sept. 26. In addition, the unedited semifinal fights will be available to ESPN Motion viewers on Sept. 25 — the first time that long-form video will be accessible through that platform.

Furthermore, two bouts from the undercard of The Contender finale will be streamed live as a special Webcast event and will be available on-demand via ESPN360. The show was scheduled to receive additional exposure on ESPN Classic, which planned to air each episode in a Sept. 23 marathon.

ESPN hopes that the added visibility for The Contender finalists will help boost ratings. For the 10 premiere installments through Sept. 19, the show averaged a 1.3 household rating and 1.1 million viewers.

ESPN officials said Contender ratings were up 43% over its 10 p.m. time slot (the show ran for one season on NBC), with 80% gains in key male and female demographics. EOE vice president of development Ron Wechlser said the network is in discussions with Burnett.

”Obviously, we’ll see how well the finale does, but right now we’re beginning talks with them,” he said.