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‘Martial Arts Olympics’ to hit millions of more screens

‘Martial Arts Olympics’ to hit millions of more screens

MMA: Is America ready for a Muay Thai high? ONE Championship chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong and his Amazon Prime partners in pugilism are taking it to the bank.

By Bangkok Post

Saturday 27 August 2022, 02:30PM

ONE Championship chairman Chatri Sityodtong. Photo: AFP

ONE Championship chairman Chatri Sityodtong. Photo: AFP

On a recent Zoom call, Chatri, clearly at the top of his game, explained why ONE’s five-year, eight-figure deal with a platform, which industry insiders tip for the top slot among the world’s live sports streamers, is a knockout.

Around 10 years and running and with US$1.4 billion (B51bn) in annual revenue, ONE is one of the fastest-growing global sports properties in history. And that’s not hyperbole.

An industry report by Nielsen media ratings agency ranks ONE at No.5 on TV in 150 countries worldwide and on digital, including Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram.

In cumulative reach on global broadcast television in 2021, ONE was ranked No.4 behind the Tokyo Olympics, Euro 2020 football tournament and Champions League football competition, and ahead of Formula One (No.5), NFL (No.7), NBA (No.8), and UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship, No.9) - ONE’s only US rival.

And all because, “If you are a combat sports enthusiast or fight fan, ONE Championship gives you the opportunity to enjoy the greatest martial arts world champions on the planet,” Chatri said.

“We are by far the youngest. And in terms of viewership and engagement, we’re definitely Asia’s largest global sports media platform.

“It’s the first time in history that an Asian sports property has been broadcast live in US prime time on a regular basis. Normally, the traffic is all the other way with American sports, music, and Hollywood content exported into Asia.”

The Amazon Prime tie-up started with a roadshow to the US last year, where Chatri pow-wowed with all the major US broadcasters.

“We had a few offers, but we chose Amazon because of its subscribers and its push into sports. It’s a trillion-dollar company that already has tremendous success. If you’re living in the US, you go to Amazon every day to buy pretty much anything and now you’re watching the NFL on Thursday and ONE on Friday,” he said.

“Amazon is obviously the 800-pound gorilla in ecommerce but what people don’t realise is their sports numbers are rivalling all the major sports broadcasters in America.”

UFC, which can be viewed on ESPN, is already in the US. By contrast, ONE’s particular formula is breaking new ground in a market with enormous potential - just a fraction of Amazon’s 200 million subscribers translates into tremendous viewing numbers.

Under the deal, Amazon gets 12 live events a year in primetime for five years plus archives and on demand.

If Americans take to it as assiduously as they are expected to, it could be the start of something even bigger; ONE is projecting around 65 live events altogether in the coming year, according to Chatri.

As well as selling advertising, Amazon is spending a lot of money marketing ONE in the US. Meanwhile, ONE also skims some advertising, sponsorship, and pay-per-view revenues.

Thai Residential

But what will American fans, hooked to ONE’s marquee sports properties ONE Championship and ONE Esports, get? “One is completely different from anything that exists in the US right now. It’s a completely differentiated product and brand in terms of the ethos of martial artists, the authenticity coming out of Asia, with the world’s greatest champions all on a single platform,” Chatri said.

“Moreover, it’s done with the true spirit of martial arts - a DNA of integrity, humility, honour, respect, courage, discipline, and compassion.

“Fans are blown away by our shows. It’s a mix between a rock concert or a hip hop concert and the Olympics held in a massive indoor stadium.

“With adrenaline and thunderous roars from thousands of fans, the energy is electrifying. We have fireworks and laser lights and smoke and pyrotechnics, and it’s an explosive dynamic show that America has never seen before.”

ONE will host its first live event on US soil in the first quarter of 2023. Live events are also upcoming in Europe. Moreover, the Asian schedule - with stops in Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai, Bangkok, Jakarta, Manila, Dubai and more - is being steadily resumed after the COVID-induced hiatus.

But while America plays catch-up, it’s all nothing new in Thailand where ONE is well-entrenched in Thai Rath TV, ranked fifth for viewership in Thailand in 2021 by Statista, its broadcast partner for the past several years.

Moreover, ONE recently partnered with Fairtex Fight and Tero Digital to arrange the Fairtex Fight Road To ONE Thailand, a feeder league into ONE where the winner walks away with $100,000 and graduates into ONE Championship.

As for Muay Thai, ONE is the world’s largest stage for Thailand’s traditional combat sport.

“We have the greatest multi-role champions from all over the world, not just Thailand. They’re the world’s greatest strikers, so there’s a lot of high-level technique American fans have never seen before,” Chatri said.

The list of superstars staged by ONE is exhaustive indeed.

They include Nong-O Gaiyanghadao, Stamp Fairtex, Liam Harrison, Jonathan Haggerty, Rodtang Jitmuangnon, Superbon Singha Mawynn, Tawanchai PK Saenchai, Petchmorakot Petchyindee, Michael Savvas, and more.

“Now it’s going to be a seamless experience for our US viewers, too,” Chatri said. “How do Millennials and Gen-Z consume media? First thing in the morning, they look at TikTok and Facebook and Instagram. They don’t pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV to get all their stuff. When they go to bed at night, it’s the same.

“ONE Championship is dominant on social media and digital media, which are the prime portals into the whole ONE experience. In a call at 9pm Eastern Standard Time, you sit back and whether you’re watching from your mobile device or at home on your OTT platform in Amazon, it’s highly accessible and irresistible.”

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