MLW owner Court Bauer sat down with Wrestling Inc.’s own Raj Giri to talk about MLW’s new TV deal with Vice TV. Bauer revealed the process for this deal started a year ago and was held up by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had a few go arounds with them,” Bauer said. “We actually spoke with them first, with our agency, about last winter. So like, January/February of 2020. Then the pandemic hit, and everybody’s game plan for, whether on our side of the conversation or the network or streaming partner, it all changed.
“Budgets got weird, ad dollars got weird; everything got weird. Everything became a big question mark. And also from our end, they wanted to know when we could run and we didn’t have those answers for awhile. So like a lot of conversations we hoped we could revisit them and move forward. We were able to reignite the conversation down the road and we’re really happy with that.
“Ever since January it seemed like we’d just had some really interesting conversations that are still in play with other things we’re working on. We’re working on more than just this. But this is a big one for us; we’re excited about it.”
Bauer explained why January was such a turning point.
“We had a few things hit. Some optimism, just ‘hey, there’s a vaccine, now there’s a few vaccines. Now there’s light at the end of the tunnel.’ Budgets start to thaw out a bit, which is nice. And then what happened which I thought was great was the Peacock deal. [WWE President] Nick Khan did an amazing job talking about the upside of being in business with WWE and wrestling in general. And really just, when he was doing the courtship for this tentpole deal, which ended up being a bigger and more ambitious deal with Peacock, part of the process was getting people warmed up and interested in wrestling. He did a hell of a job with his deals with Fox and of course with Peacock. And by saying they’re exiting conversations and completed their discussions, there’s still one free agent (MLW) left in the room. That was a great opportunity for us to knock on some doors or open conversations or reopen conversations. And that’s what’s keeping me busy to this day is keeping these conversations.
“We have our broadcast deal, we have opportunities in the streaming space. But we also have opportunities still in the linear broadcasting/cable space. It’s like the NBA, NFL, PBC and boxing; it’s not necessarily one place you’re with. You can be with Fox, ESPN; you can be with all these different places, depending where you are. A league, and that’s the beauty of a sports league, can have many partners. And we’re really excited with the Vice partnership, because it just meshes perfectly with where we want to be with the product and there sensibility and culture of what they do.
“Believe it or not, Vice was actually filming the first night ever for MLW, well not the first night ever, but the night of the comeback in 2017. They had cameras backstage filming everything for another show they were working on, Damian Abraham. So it’s almost serendipitous that four years later here we are, kicking this thing off this spring.”
Later Giri asked Bauer whether the show on Vice would differ from MLW Fusion on beIN Sports. Bauer indicated as such but stopped short of confirming, instead discussing how MLW content would be rolled out on the network.
“We’re developing a lot of different things,” Bauer said. “Phase one of this partnership is just getting a larger audience aware of what we are as a league, what makes us different, how we showcase different styles and really lean into the legacy of different family stories, families from the past. And just a very combat sports centered product. So phase one is getting everyone acclimated, learn we exist and from there kind of bite into the product. And then phase two will be new content you’ll see later on this summer. ”
“Part of me was like, we could just show empty arena stuff. But for me it’s like, the empty arena stuff is tough. And I think at a certain point, if you’re going to introduce yourself to a larger audience, it would behoove you to show it with a crowd.
“So we came up with the elegant solution in that we can just show our footage from when we were super hot, just before the pandemic. And then we can get people ready for the flipside when we return.”
Bauer revealed that MLW is looking to hold shows with fans again later this summer. “We’re tracking that way. It depends. We’re having great conversations with state athletic commissions, with the local arenas. Every city in every state is going to have a different criteria.
“And the nice thing is athletic commissions are really giving us a hard look. New York, Pennsylvania, ect. And they’re going to determine the best practices to put on a show, with a crowd or without a crowd. And I think that’s been very helpful for us.
“We have our own COVID compliance officer. But on top of that, some of the places we’re talking with, they have their own COVID compliance officer. You talk with our COVID compliance officer, we talk to yours and let’s figure this out. But it’s great because you need these steps.
“You want it for the betterment and health of the talent, the crew your fans, everyone in that building. You want it to be the best it can be, and the healthiest it can be.”
Finally Bauer revealed when fans can expect MLW content to appear on Vice TV. The answer; sooner than you think.
“MLW’s presence will hit in May,” Bauer said. “We’re going to be putting that out, the exact date, very soon…you know what? F**k it; it’s May 1. That’s when you’re first going to see MLW. This isn’t like new footage, it’s just the library so you can see the 2020 stuff.”
Bauer’s full interview will air on The Wrestling Inc. Daily tomorrow. You can find today’s episode of The Wrestling Inc. Daily featuring Charlie Haas below: