Since launching almost four years ago, FITE TV has emerged a force within the combat sports community. Mike Weber, COO, remembers its humble beginnings initially starting out as a consultant previously through parent company Flipps Media and trying to figure out its identity. Where did they fit in the marketplace? Starting initially as an app with some Ring of Honor and Impact Wrestling events became more. A glimpse into their future and what they want their digital network to become came with the successful presentation of New Japan Pro Wrestling's Wrestle Kingdom 8.
After testing and planning, FITE launched February 2016 with a handful of shows from more than 20 organizations. The first was Tuff-N-Uff MMA from Las Vegas. Jim Ross brought legitimacy to the network early on serving as a spokesperson. The focus has grown into opening up accessibility for fans of pro wrestling, MMA, kickboxing, boxing and now bare-knuckle fighting under the pay-per-view model. FITE also provides a wealth of free programming from ROH TV to Major League Wrestling, which will have their first PPV on November 2.
"We now have 1.6 million registered users," Weber said. "We've done more than 2,500 live shows since we launched, which comes to a thousand a year roughly. It's not unusual for us to do 20 shows on a weekend or 7 to 10 shows at the exact same time. You always have something to watch."
FITE prides themselves on the method of delivery, providing the opportunity to stream anywhere in the world that has WiFi or internet connection. Weber finds the beauty is since being its roots are from a technology company in Europe, the quality is always at a high level. Weber has been a fixture in pro wrestling for many eras through history under WCW, WWE and TNA (Impact). He has worked in high level roles within media relations, marketing, promotion, production departments, wearing many hats within the business spectrum. Approaching 35 years of experience, Weber finds it rewarding to see the role FITE plays within the landscape.
"It's fantastic to see where independent wrestling has taken hold," he said. "Of course we work with Impact and Ring of Honor, they've done well and have been with us since the beginning. We've always been there from the start of AEW, airing their programs and working with them. Then there are companies like Game Changer Wrestling, which I don't think anyone had heard of a year-and-a-half or two years ago. We are sharing them exclusively on FITE pretty much every week...They've done a great job with the programming. They have a niche following. We gave them a platform for the fans."
Coming up is a big weekend for FITE as the platform steaming Starrcast III, a convention during AEW's All Out weekend featuring a wealth of panels and live shows. The main event for many fans is CM Punk taking the stage for a Q&A that is sure to get the pro wrestling talking.
"Starrcast was an eye-opener, how well it did," Weber said. "It came off pretty good from a technical standpoint and content standpoint. People seem to like it. Working with Conrad Thompson has been a pleasure. He is a professional who has a knack for this type of event. He is a great leader, so people will get behind him. He has the right foresight and vision with this type of event. We're just recording it and making it happen. This event coming up in Chicago is a well-organized event with a site survey.
"We're also airing a New Japan event called Royal Quest from London. It's a stellar card they are putting together...We've upgraded. So let's say you've tuned into a program and you're watching it halfway through, you can now go back and watch from the beginning while it was happening live. The next thing we're going to look for is how we can go ahead in time for live shows. We haven't figured out that time travel stuff, but give us a little time."
FITE saw tremendous success outside of pro wrestling as well. Weber said last September's Gennady Golovkin (GGG) and Canelo Alvarez fight was a standout winner in number of buys and revenue, given its hefty $85 price tag. They have contracts now with more than 100 companies across the board with Impact Pro Wrestling New Zealand, Rocky Mountain Pro and Lucha Libre AAA coming on as partners. And moving forward Weber is always looking for more companies to feature, even WWE. The skies the limit.
"As a person who's responsible for getting content on our platform, we talk to everybody. Of course, we're talking to WWE about getting their pay-per-view programming. A SummerSlam, WrestleMania or Royal Rumble type of event," he said, squashing the news out there of FITE possibly looking to sell to the sports entertainment juggernaut.
"Outside the WWE Network, they are already available on other pay-per-view platforms. We say why not us also. So, we've been in conversations with them to make their programming available and find another way to make more money because we know WWE hasn't made enough money already. Obviously, someone got wind of that communication and meetings and put two and two together and came up with 17, which I'm pretty sure has happened in wrestling quite often before. A business built on rumors. A great rumor."
In Weber's eyes, if they're talking about FITE, they must be doing something right.