Versus Connects With 'The Contender,' Burnett


Versus has reached an agreement to bring the fourth season of boxing reality competition show The Contender to its air.

Comcast Corp.’s competition network has inked a deal with Mark Burk Burnett Productions and DreamWorks Television for a 13-hour season of The Contender, which this time will feature 16 cruiserweights, pitting American boxers against international pugilists.

Additionally, Versus has reached a deal for The Contender Muay Thai, produced by Imagine Omnimedia in association with Dream Works Television and Burnett’s company. That series, encompassing 14-hour installments and a two-hour finale, is scheduled to debut on Versus July 31 at 10 p.m.

Deal terms were not disclosed.

The agreements mark the second time Versus will work with the prolific reality producer -- its forbear OLN picked up enhanced syndication rights to Survivor in 2005. Versus last ran Burnett’s CBS Thursday night staple in February 2007.

The first season of The Contender aired on NBC in 2005, while ESPN subsequently carried second and third campaigns.

With six-time world champion Sugar Ray Leonard in negotiations to return as The Contender host and mentor and Buddy McGirt serving as trainer, the fighters will go through intense and ring battles. Over 11 one-hour episodes and a two-hour season finale, only two boxers will remain and then square off to become Contender champion.

Based on the U.S. format, The Contender Muay Thai brings 16 international Muay Thai kick boxers together to compete until one is crowned the international champion. Shot on location in Singapore, each episode will culminate in a five-round professional bout after which the loser goes home. The series is executive produced by Burnett and Jeffrey Katzenberg.

“We are thrilled to announce our alliance with Mark Burnett, DreamWorks Television and The Contender brand. As Versus continues to build upon its ratings momentum, The Contender and The Contender Muay Thai are a perfect complement to our ever-growing portfolio of programming in the genre such as WEC, TapouT and Fight Night,” said Versus executive vice president of programming, production and business operations Marc Fein in a statement. “When you have the opportunity to bring a top brand with an established following to the network, and the ability to work with someone with a proven track record such as Mark Burnett and DreamWorks, you jump at it.”

Noted Burnett: “The gang at DreamWorks and I are really excited to be partnering with Versus on the fourth season of The Contender. If the work they've done with the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs and Tour de France is any indication, we are confident that The Contender will be a successful franchise for the channel."