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IFL Q3 2007 conference call recap

By Zach Arnold | November 20, 2007

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The conference call was scheduled to start at 10 AM EST, but instead started at 11 AM EST. The archived audio of today’s conference call.

Jay Larkin stated off the call talking about Gareb Shamus stepping down from his current position in the IFL. Larkin said that Shamus helped the IFL become a “number two factor” in the MMA industry. Larkin went on to talk about his experience in TV and broadway, really putting himself and his credentials over as hard as he could. Larkin believes that MMA has lots of room for growth and the IFL is positioned to benefit from it.

The focus on improving cash flow and investment value starts in Q4 2007, with changes to the league for reducing costs for the house shows. The 2008 broadcast schedule should be coming out publicly within the next few weeks.

Michael Keefe did his best to put over improvements in revenues from this year versus last year, with “strong” increases in TV revenue. Ticket sales increased “60%” on a per-event basis. Read our summary of the 10Q Q3 2007 report here.

Jay Larkin said that the company’s short-term goal is to show significant growth in Q4 by 1) outsourcing some of the company’s operations and moving to cheaper office space (moving out of Manhattan) and 2) reducing television production costs by 25% now and another 25% in the future. The IFL wants to increase revenue by selling tickets, selling licenses, selling TV broadcasting rights, and attracting major sponsors.

The most important point that Larkin emphasized very hard in different language several times in the conference call is that the IFL needs to move away from the Internet message boards and start appealing to casual fans. He said that the IFL needs to be expanded from MMA message boards to the sports pages in newspapers. Right now, the public thinks of UFC when they think of MMA and Larkin plans on using his past experience with Showtime (competing against HBO) to help formulate a blueprint for the IFL to gain more public exposure.

The other major point that Larkin kept emphasizing is getting rid of the ‘old’ team concept. He used phrases like ‘rather than the facade of hometown teams’ and ‘really a fabrication’ to describe the old model that is being changed to a camp-based system.

The IFL hopes to announce a TV partner for their 12/29 Mohegan Sun Arena event. Larkin said the internet produces an environment where results are posted quickly, therefore making the proposition of airing live shows even more critical. Larkin promised ‘significant cosmetic changes’ will be made to the way the IFL TV shows are produced, starting in December. He wants to make the shows ‘more dramatic.’ Larkin said that ‘there is a splintered landscape in MMA’ and that ‘we see this as an opportunity for consolidation.’

Larkin stressed that the IFL needs to go ‘from the MMA universe to the mass market’ and transition into a broad company ‘using MMA as our platform.’

The conference calls shifted to caller questions. Only two people, both from capital firms (including one who openly stated they were heavy investors in the IFL), asked questions.

Larkin was asked if Shamus will be given a severance package and how many of the fighters re-inked new deals with the company. He responded by saying that most of the fighters have re-signed and are supportive of the new camp-based format, but that he can’t talk about a ‘couple of defecting fighters’ right now because they are in the process of talking to them.

One point that may get missed on the conference call (because it was subtle) was Larkin emphasizing that the camp-based concept will allow them to have a deeper ‘bench’ of fighters to use. Essentially, he was saying that the camp-based format is easier in terms of having fighters being more interchangeable on the cards.

Larkin said that the IFL lost a ton of money because they were travelling all over the States and running in big buildings, so the company must reduce the number of venues it runs and focus on fewer buildings.

The IFL is not exclusive to FSN or MyNetwork TV and they are ‘talking to several other carriers.’

Larkin said that the new camp-based format is ‘not trying to manufacture an illusion, a facade’ unlike the old format. “The MMA landscape has changed dramatically since we started a year and a half ago.”

Larkin emphasized that there will be at least one title defense in 2008 on every IFL they run. The plan is to run 9 IFL events in 2008, using 3-4 venues that the company has had past success in doing business in. “A detailed road map” will be published within the next few weeks.

Larkin answered one final question with a line sure to attract heat. He said that it is a mistake for the IFL to consider themselves ‘in the MMA business’ because someone like Renzo Gracie ‘is in the business,’ but the IFL is a business entity that uses MMA to get to their business benchmarks. “We are in the sponsorship, licensing, merchandising, ticket sales, television business.”

Larkin was asked about Kurt Otto’s status with the company. He answered that Otto would stay on and gain a bigger role creatively because he is ‘an expert in competition and matchmaking.’ Larkin admitted that his MMA knowledge is lacking, so he will be leaning more on Otto for booking.

Topics: IFL, Media, MMA, Zach Arnold | 15 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

15 Responses to “IFL Q3 2007 conference call recap”

  1. It sounds rather like the ‘camp based format’ means that they will be paying more fighters on an appearance basis (single event contracts). This is getting away from the attitude that you are signing fighter to long term contracts and providing them stability.

    It’s very similar to the apparent relationship between the Red Devils and M-1.

  2. David says:

    Always been a fan, hopefully they can turn their fortunes around so I can make a profit on their OTC stock. I have lost too much money in the market downturn lately!

  3. […] out Zach Arnold’s recap of today’s IFL conference call for details on the new directions the company will pursue in […]

  4. Jeremy Lynch says:

    The excuse that not airing shows live hurts the numbers is nonsense. The UFC did massive numbers for the tapedelayed UFC 75. Does anyone think the show was hurt by not being live?

  5. GassedOut says:

    Not I. I think their show hurts because their product sucked. The fights were good enough I suppose, but the packaging…yuck…

  6. Well, there’s a difference between doing a same day delay so that you can air during primetime and being delayed a week or more. There’s something to the kind of illusion that you get of a same day delay still being plausibly live that works better than events that you know were taped weeks or months earlier.

    I mean, a lot of people will go out of their way to avoid seeing results for a few hours. I can’t think of anyone who is going to interrupt their normal routine of blogs etc to avoid results on an event like IFL for a week.

  7. Jonathan says:

    Man…I remember when they came out and just hyped the team concept as high as it could possibly go…and now, they are trying to shed it like lead weights in a sinking boat.

    And let’s be honest here folks…when a company replaces there CEO less than 2 years after the start of the company…things are not going good and there is a big chance that the IFL will go under.

  8. Dru Down says:

    “I mean, a lot of people will go out of their way to avoid seeing results for a few hours. I can’t think of anyone who is going to interrupt their normal routine of blogs etc to avoid results on an event like IFL for a week.”

    Also, delays of longer than one day create a problem with the marketing of the event. You’re basically forced to market the event twice- first to those who will attend the event, and then later to those who will view the event. With a live (or at least same day show) you just need to throw the one date around and can create a traditional marketing push that gradually ramps up to the day of the fight.

    With two different dates, you tend to confuse potential viewers. If people need to do extensive research or pull out their calenders in order to watch your event, they’re just as likely to ignore it all together.

  9. GassedOut says:

    With two different dates, you tend to confuse potential viewers. If people need to do extensive research or pull out their calenders in order to watch your event, they’re just as likely to ignore it all together.

    Like most of us apparently did with the IFL 😉 Good point.

  10. Kev says:

    Man…I remember when they came out and just hyped the team concept as high as it could possibly go…and now, they are trying to shed it like lead weights in a sinking boat.

    Um, no, they’re not abandoning the team concept at all. They’re only abandoning the more hackneyed elements of it (teams named after cities that they might or might not be trained out of, hiring faded MMA starts as coaches that aren’t really coaches, etc.)

  11. Dru Down says:

    “Um, no, they’re not abandoning the team concept at all. They’re only abandoning the more hackneyed elements of it (teams named after cities that they might or might not be trained out of, hiring faded MMA starts as coaches that aren’t really coaches, etc.)”

    It’s definintely time to let these concepts go, but the “coaches” idea was a great gimmick at the outset. The coaches are really the one thing (besides the Zuffa lawsuit) that brought recognition and credibility to the league among the hardcore fans. This early recognition is probably what kept the IFL going as long as it has.

  12. xx2000xx says:

    Jordan Breen to Sam Caplan to Adam Morgan. Even them will comment within this site.

    mmaweekly/sherdog is king i guess, but when it comes to the blog. Zach is king.

    Zach can’t do it, but I can. The first real blog, that dealt with MMA, who had respected people within this community talked, starts from here.

    Now we got:
    http://fiveouncesofpain.com/
    http://www.jarrypark.com/
    http://www.bloodyelbow.com/
    http://www.sprawl-n-brawl.com/

    Besides Meltzer, they hit it. mmajunkie and mmamania.com

    Point is this – Even Frank Trigg said, the first page he goes to when he wakes up is fightopinion.com ——- it’s sooo underrated.

  13. 45 Huddle says:

    The “Live Show” has never been the problem for the IFL. It has always been the TV production. I don’t know how WWE RAW is done today, but at one point it was live every other week. They would tape a double show and air the second half the next week. You would never see a huge drop in the ratings because the show FELT like it was live.

    Even during the recent live IFL show, it still felt like a bad product. It didn’t have excitement. It didn’t force the viewers to come back the next week.

    Either way, the damage has been done. Unless they get a major network deal, the company will be out of business by the end of 2008. Of course they could always get more funding, but it is a broken system at this point. They blew there big chance on their first Battleground show.

  14. GassedOut says:

    Like I said…the packaging…

  15. D.Capitated says:

    They blew there big chance on their first Battleground show.

    They blew their big chance on the first 4-5 Battleground shows. By the time they decided to stop endlessly introducing people, the viewership was gone. That’s why they had a Countdown show to begin with, and by the time they figured out what was wrong it was perhaps too late.

    Once they switched over to the pseudo FSN format, it was way too late. I was very excited to watch on a weekly basis, but they killed my trust from the opening second and it was tough to ever justify watching it over stuff I had taped or movies on HBO.

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