Coming off Glory 29 in Copenhagen over the weekend, kickboxing promotion Glory now sets its sights toward Los Angeles, home of Glory 30 on May 13, with an all-American tournament in store for fans. Recent months say the promotion partner with global heavyweights ESPN and UFC in recent months in a strategic shift that will see content now carried across ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes and UFC Fight Pass in a move to make fights more accessible to both hardcore and casual fans. With kickboxers set to be featured on the likes of SportsCenter ahead of the LA card, Glory is hoping that increased recognition will help connect the dots with audiences and continue its growth trajectory.
Cynopsis Sports spoke with Glory Sports CEO Jon Franklin, who assumed the reigns in 2014, about the promotion’s distribution strategy, plans to grow the sport in the US, and what we can expect in the years ahead.
Franklin on joining Glory: Historically, I had been a vendor for Glory and we were helping through TV rights deals and selling some sponsorships for them. What I saw was very exciting. Everybody who sees the product, loves the product. I came from more of a boxing background but this was faster and seemed more modern in that the fights are shorter. However, while the crowds were growing, they tried to go the PPV route and were spending a lot of money to build the brand. Ultimately, they decided that the company needed a reset in a drive toward profitability. So when I came in, I knew we had to cut some costs and restructure some things and run this business properly for the size and scale that it is. Since then, we’ve really focused on keeping the television product strong and we’ve become efficient behind-the-scenes.
On potential growth in the US: I’ve seen people in the United States get very excited about this sport. It may not have worked out the way the promoters may have liked, but laid the foundation for people to watch it. For us in America, we had Spike and CBS Sports Network, the fact that we tried a PPV and it didn’t really work out didn’t scare me because I understood that the formula to have a big PPV simply wasn’t there. It was great to have a tournament with some great kickboxers, but those athletes were not yet big names in America. These things take time to build. If you look at where UFC was 18 months in, or some other promotions, they weren’t ready to run a PPV event at that time. Is there a PPV in the future? Maybe, but certain stars have to align. Of course, the way people are consuming content is changing so we decided to join UFC Fight Pass, whose model is different from the standard PPV model. We are trying to now focus on doing what we do best but in a modern way.
On new deals: On the UFC side, they tell us that we are doing really well. We have a solid base of fans that will go anywhere and love our sport. The live shows that we are doing on Fight Pass are doing, I’m told, as well as anything that they have on Fight Pass. As far as ESPN goes, we are getting pushed on ESPN3. Of course, I’m still an old school TV person and think that people need to be able to watch this on TV as well so we ultimately ended up with the best of both worlds with ESPN3 going live and then with a primetime follow-up on ESPN2. Since we are an international fight league with shows around the globe, sometimes the times are a bit odd for America, but if you are a fan you can watch it live or watch it in primetime. We also repeat primetime on Deportes, so we are on three of the four major ESPN platforms.
On the long game: We want to continue to fill holes in international distribution. We are in multiple countries around the world and probably have as as broad a footprint as any combat sports league, including the UFC, internationally. But there are holes and we are closing that all the time. We are not expanding into Latin America and have a deal we will be announcing soon in Africa. In addition, we are looking into increasing the number of shows. When the promotion started, they were doing one show at every event and now we do two shows, one that airs on Fight Pass and the other that goes to ESPN. We also do Countdown shows and Rewind shows before and after each event, and those shows are getting picked up by more and more broadcasters. So we are looking to build up our ancillary products, whether it is a reality show, a hunt for fights, etc. and drive more content into the marketplace.