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Where does Strikeforce fit into Showtime’s plans now?

By Zach Arnold | January 25, 2011

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Easily the combat sports article of the year so far (of which I’ve read), Thomas Hauser at Maxboxing talks about how HBO lost Manny Pacquiao. What’s interesting about this article, to me anyways, is that Showtime will now have to put out a significant amount of money to pay for a new wave of boxing programming. Where does this put Strikeforce? Given that there doesn’t seem to be much of a crossover between boxing fans and MMA fans, you can’t really say that Showtime will be able to draw from each other’s fan base. (ESPN2 took a lot of heat, as they admitted recently, with airing “the MMA minute” during Friday Night Fights. It was part of an experiment where FNF would be a lead-in for MMA Live on the network.)

I saw the Showtime-produced Strikeforce 1/29 San Jose Arena show ads start up yesterday on Comcast in the Bay Area. Interesting that Nick Diaz is getting all the push on this one. Last time that happened, the crowd wasn’t so big in the building. Herschel Walker’s appearance was touted as one of those “also on the card Herschel Walker” type deals. Interesting that Walker’s comments about wanting to return to the NFL got way more media play than his upcoming MMA fight, which hardly anyone is really discussing on a mainstream media level. Herschel says that MMA is safer than football.

Everything else

The UFC Fight for the Troops 2 show last Saturday from Fort Hood drew a 1.3 rating on Spike TV. In other words, standard fare. At least Spike TV will have 12 prelim shows before PPVs this year. Here’s an Army press release on the show.

All the talk about the TV deals UFC is doing in Japan is largely bluster and not significant in the grand scheme of things. They can target a show in 2011 in the country and that’s fine, WWE did some shows under the Total Sports Asia banner. I remember vividly when WWE ran a show in March of 2003 at Yokohama Arena and the industry there panicked greatly that WWE was going to invade their home turf. This was when WWE was on Fuji TV, something UFC could only dream about. In the end, Fuji TV cut ties with WWE and WWE never was a serious threat to the industry there. UFC isn’t even at WWE’s level in the country for media penetration and WWE PPV business is not so hot in Japan. Of course, it doesn’t help that WWE PPVs air a month after they take place. The WOWOW deal for UFC is no earth-shaker, either.

If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that the audience UFC draws in Japan will not have a significant cross-over to the traditional Japanese MMA audience. In other words, separate fan bases (similar to WWE and the Japanese wrestling groups.)

Randy Couture involved in the indoor trampoline park business. You learn something new every day.

Jens Pulver won a fight last weekend, and the media backlash about him continuing to fight has exposed some fissures in what is normally a unified MMA media front. Another older MMA figher, Nate Quarry, is focused on life after fighting. Speaking of Nate, he along with other UFC fighters recently were in Guam as part of a seminar for The Fighter for Fighters Tour.

Who else is ready for UFC 126 presented by

Team Alpha Male at the opening of a new Comcast facility in the Sacramento area.

Topics: Boxing, Media, MMA, StrikeForce, UFC, Zach Arnold | 50 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

50 Responses to “Where does Strikeforce fit into Showtime’s plans now?”

  1. edub says:

    Combat sports article of the year? Really, did we read the same article?

    • IceMuncher says:

      I really enjoyed it. I had no idea what was going on, and now I feel like I have a finger on the pulse of the boxing world.

      An interesting thing about a claiming something as “the best” is that all one needs to do to disprove the statement is provide a counter-example that is better. You got a link you want to show us of a better combat sports article written in the last 25 days? I’d like to read that too.

      • edub says:

        Haha good point about the last 25 days. Didn’t even think of that. I keep forgetting we’re in a different year.

        It wasn’t really all that relevant to me. There have been whispers, and rumors about this situation happening for months. Hell Arum has talked about leaving HBO since last 2009. Also, I’m not really a fan of Hauser so I might see the article differently than other people.

        To your original point, no I can’t think of a “more important” article off the top of my head for 2011 so Zach has got me there.

  2. 45 Huddle says:

    1) When Strikeforce’s contract comes up…. And if they aren’t pulling in the ratings they are supposed to…. It’s easy to see Showtime just allocate those $8 to $10 Million towards boxing instead. Especially if they go to war with HBO. They will need that money.

    2) Snowdrn is right for once. Shame on the MMA media for cheerleading Pulver when he should be retired.

    3) The ratings for FFTT 2 are very good considering the card.

    4) Nice to see the prelims becoming a staple on SpikeTV. The ION thing was either the UFC testing the waters or SpikeTV saying that their new years marathon was more important. Doubt we ever find out the truth.

    5) Diaz is not a huge draw. Not sure why they keep on treating him as such.

    6) The appeal of Walker is already starting to wear off. You can tell it by the reaction of the hardcores. With each fight he has in SF that is against a joke opponent…. The less people will care. Sort of like the freakshow stuff in Japan. You can’t keep that type of crowd happy unless you continue to up the anti.

    7) UFC in japan? Always will be a bust….

  3. smoogy says:

    Who cares what ESPN2 is doing? Showtime has been cross-promoting their Boxing and MMA shows via in-program advertising for a while now. They even did a 2010 recap show that treated both as a cohesive product. It should be pretty obvious by now that Showtime intends to promote both on more or less equal footing. Pacquiao moving to Showtime has the potential to lift Strikeforce’s profile.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      So they now plan to compete with BOTH the UFC and HBO!!

      Ever seen the dark knight? Where the accountant tries to blackmail Batman. Fox laughs and says something like: “Good luck with that.”

      Showtime might be successful in the short term…. But all they will do is force both the UFC and HBO to up their money commitments and then they won’t be able to compete again.

      Showtime just can’t compete on these two companies level both organizationally and money wise. Sure HBO has their problems now, but they have too much money to really fail in the end.

      Not to mention how stupid it is to go head to head at the same time and trying to expand that way…. They have bitten off more they can chew and Arum will put his tail between his legs and crawl back to HBO as Strikeforce crumbles to te ground at the same time….

      • 45 Huddle says:

        Simply put….

        Showtime can either be mediocre against both or try and be very good (and probably still not #1) against one.

        Competing against both companies is suicide. You can’t piss off two major players like that when you are the little man.

      • smoogy says:

        If you actually read that article, the common complaint is that HBO thinks they can just throw money at their problems, and that attitude may have led directly to the Pacquiao defection. So the rationale that HBO and UFC will just “price out” Showtime in short order is disingenuous to say the least.

        Showtime arguably has the majority of the popular draws in American boxing now. And they have an impressive rogue’s gallery of MMA stars. The more organized and formidable they become, the more frazzled and desperate you sound. When is Strikeforce supposed to “crumble to the ground”, exactly? Within the year?

        • 45 Huddle says:

          I read the entire MMA Boxing article a few days ago.

          Doesn’t matter what Showtime has. They don’t have the promotional power of HBO or UFC. And HBO will get their act together. They always do.

          This has nothing to do specifically with SF. It has to do with Showtime just not being able to compete in the long run. They don’t have enough subscriber. They don’t have enough money. It just isn’t going to work out

          Doesn’t matter how much you fanboys dream of this. Showtime is too small time to makethis work long term.

          Come back in even 6 months so we can all laugh at you!!

        • smoogy says:

          So Showtime can afford to acquire Manny Pacquiao, but boxing giants like Kelly Pavlik are too expensive. And Strikeforce will “crumble” within six months. Whenever an entity other than UFC has good news to report, you seem to lose your mind. Why is that?

  4. notthface says:

    Zach, curious what your thoughts are on potentially Strikeforce doing a card in Japan? Personally I think it might be successful for them for all the reasons the UFC is going to run into trouble – no having anyone in Japan to run the show for them.

    As for Showtime, I think they’ve made a huge commitment to combat sports. Not only does it fit into their plans to have programming with “”cool-guy” testosterone appeal to draw more men and younger viewers to the premium channel.” as David Nevins, their new entertainment president put it, but if one looks at Ken Hershman and Al Bernstein’s recent comments concerning mma and the moves they’ve made to sign fighters for the HW Grand Prix, it looks like they are very serious about it.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      1) Boxing doesn’t bring in young male viewers on average.

      2) What signing have SF and SHO done in MMA? Their Heavyweight signings include no draws and guys who were good in 2005. Their 2 biggest signings in 2010 were Paul Daley and Dan Henderson. And neither of them can draw ratings or a crowd on their name value alone. They couldn’t sign Tito Ortiz or Kimbo Slice when they had the chance. And they certainly have nonchance at signing any of the bigger UFC draws.

      • notthface says:

        1. No, and yet I think it fits into the “cool-guy testosterone” category, no?
        2. You don’t think the commitment they made to resigning Fedor says something? You don’t the think the money they’ve dished out to sign HWs – the most expensive division in mma – says something?

        • Of course not re:#2. That would go against the argument that Showtime is looking to get out of the MMA business. He needs to find things to support that. He has mmalogic posting on BE and nothing else.

        • IceMuncher says:

          HW isn’t the most expensive division. Either you’re thinking in terms of which division has bankrupted the most promoters, or you’re confusing MMA with boxing in its hayday (because now it’s the WW’s making bank). 205 lbs is the premiere division in MMA, and has been for the entirety of the Zuffa and Pride eras.

        • 205 hasn’t been the marquee division in the sport since CHACK got laid out.

    • Zach Arnold says:

      Zach, curious what your thoughts are on potentially Strikeforce doing a card in Japan? Personally I think it might be successful for them for all the reasons the UFC is going to run into trouble – no having anyone in Japan to run the show for them.

      Coker will not run in Japan unless Ishii is backing him, which is the only way to do it. However, it’s all contingent on where K-1 stands financially.

  5. Robert Poole says:

    It gets worse for HBO. Greenburg really angered Arum when he booked a card head to head with the Cotto date so they lost Cotto’s fight and ultimately since they weren’t that warm on Manny’s upcoming matchup with Mosley it made it that much easier to pull that fight away as well. Now Arum takes those two and puts them with another fighter Showtime has almost exclusively featured (Donaire) and will likely offer them the Margarito-Cotto rematch later this year which may do decent numbers. Oh and hey HBO probably just lost out on the Gamboa and Juan Manuel Lopez fight later this year as well.

    Then you have to tie in the exclusive deals whey have with the Super Six competitors and Lucian Bute, the deal they have with Perez, Agbeko, Darchinian and Mares…

    Oh and hey the Klitschkos don’t want to deal with HBO anymore either… and yeah Bernard Hopkins felt disrespected by them as well recently.

    Now you’re starting to talk about having very little left to work with. Sergio Martinez. Juan Manuel Marquez. Maybe Kelly Pavlik (who’s star has fallen big time).

    Who is left? The Bradley-Alexander-Khan-Ortiz-Maidana-Berto group only fill so many fight cards.

    Not a good start of the year for HBO.


    • 45 Huddle says:

      Showtime can’t afford all of those fighters.

      So no matter how mad people are with HBO…. There is only sonmuch that can be done.

      It’s no different if the UFC started to do poorly. There wouldnt be enough homes for the angry ex UFC fighters. Some would be forced to stay.

      • Robert Poole says:

        They’re not buying long term deals with any one of them but they already have most of those fighters under contract (Super 6, Bute, Agbeko, Mares, Darchiniyan, Perez) as well as having at least individual rights to the Manny/Mosley, Cotto fights… they only need buy in to the Klitschko fight against Adamek, any Donaire fight they want to air and get decent rates on JM Lopez/Gamboa fights.

        If you think Showtime will pass up their first chance since they signed Tyson to get the major step up on HBO and be pay TV’s premier destination for Boxing, you’re crazy. They’ll pay those fees and get those fights. This is the first time they’ll ever have had the chance to step on HBO’s throat and really crush them competition-wise.

        It’s also why I can see Showtime totally scaling back on funding to SF. There’s no reason to spend heavy there when they will own all of the top boxing stars in 2011.

    • edub says:

      – Who told you gamboa and JML were gonna fight this year? That fight has been sitting on the backburner forever, and shows aboslutely no signs of being made.

      – HBO stopped dealing with the Klitschkos. Not the other way around. They got tired of distributing fights that put people to sleep.

      – Everything else is spot on though. Not the best of starts to 2010 for HBO. At least they got Sergio Martinez vs Sergiy Dzinzurik.

      • Robert Poole says:

        Arum has been saying that they would meet later this year since last year so we’ll see if he follows through.

        As far as the Klitschkos, they just signed an agreement to fight Adamek which is a fight HBO might be interested in and they’re going to be passed over because the Klitschko’s management wants nothing to do with HBO at all. They’re automatically excluded from the discussions which would include any fight with Haye should it get signed.

  6. Fluyid says:

    “The agreement provides Couture with a minority stake in Sky Zone Franchise Group, the management company that awards and oversees the sales of franchised Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Parks worldwide.

    Read more: UFC fighter Couture buys stake in Sky Zone Franchise Group | St. Louis Business Journal”

    I guess THIS looks fun. Best of luck to Couture in this venture.

  7. Its way too early to tell anything from the Top Rank/Showtime situation, particularly when it comes to Strikeforce. The evidence that Strikeforce is in trouble is a percieved lack of money from Showtime and its parent company, which the evidence of is lacking to say the least. You’d think that if Strikeforce was really endangered, a guy as anti-MMA as Hauser would have had something to say about it.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      There is only so much money to go around.

      • And that sum is what? I’ll tell you this – HBO has $10 million dollars wrapped up in the fight this weekend and in the next fight for each man in that bout. $10 million. That’s the money budgeted to Strikeforce every year. If it represents a different demographic than what boxing brings in, what is the evidence that Showtime would like to eschew that demographic to spend money on a different one? Aside from it being a convienent argument to make should you want to see Strikeforce fail.

        • Robert Poole says:

          Not to mention, they are willing to chuck $10 million at relatively unknown fighters that don’t draw a lick outside their hometowns (so far the Bradley-Alexander fight has sold a whopping 339 tickets for the Silverdome). Boxing is the crown jewel sport for these pay channels to air and their budgets are going to be more expansive. Not to mention if CBS is involved, Showtime will have the coin to buy every major fight I mentioned above without issue. The most expensive fight for them to carry is Manny’s fight and if CBS buys that one for Showtime, it frees them to carry the rest of the fights as if that one were a buy one get one free arrangement for Ken Hershman. They pay for Cotto and get Manny on their network and it’s not on Showtime’s official boxing budget.

          Just two totally different budgets here. Boxing is and will likely continue to be the one and only major budgetary sporting event expense the pay channels aim for. MMA is nothing more than a side curiosity for them at this point.

  8. Chris says:

    Showtime is trying to do it with boxing but I dont see how this will help SF or mma.

    If anything this will hurt mma cause all there money and focus is gonna be on Manny and boxing more then mma, lets be frank, SF on Showtime doesnt do shit, they will be lucky to do 700k peak viewers for the Fedor/Big Foot fight, while Manny will be on PPV making them a ton of money, they will put preview shows on CBS for Manny fights and boxing, they want to go heads up with HBO, SHowtime has no desire to try and rival UFC< they couldnt in a million years, in boxing you sign one guy like Manny the tide shifts, in MMA SF could sign Brock and still wouldnt matter, cause it would be only one fighter.

    They have no depth, shit announcers and production, they dont have any big fights other then Fedor/Reem, once the GP if you even call it that, I call it fights that should have been made that will now heppn, cause its not a GP or tournament, but onces that is over then what? WHose Jacare fighting after Lawler that is gonna be huge? MIller? Diaz/Daley after that then what? Tyron? anyone care about him?

    What about when Gilbert/Crusher is up, then who? Fancy Pants? Huge fight right? I mean plus when the GP is over the winner fights who? Say Reem wins then who does he fight? Cormier and Shane?

    SF isnt going under or anything but they dont have any big huge fights, and the ratings show people dont watch SF on showtime, I dont see Showtime caring about mma when they are at war with HBO and just got Manny and Cotto.

    Just watch, what gets more promo and money spent on marketing, the Manny/Shane fight or the SF HW GP fights?

    That tells you what SHowtime is focused on more, its Manny and boxing.

    • Manny is a bigger draw in combat sports than pretty much anyone, even the UFC brand name. I’d be pretty damn interested in Manny Pacquiao too if I were a network, much more so than anything or anyone else. The upside is insane.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        Bigger then the UFC Brand? Bwahahha!!

        He’s not even the biggest draw in his own sport.

        Not to mention the UFc brand brings in sonmuch more money then he does year after year. Not to mention the brand has staying power. Every fighter gets old.

        Man Alan, you are talking out of your @ss lately….

        • Manny Pacquiao sold more PPVs than any UFC this year and sold 40K+ tickets with a guy who can’t get 30K in buys. Pacquiao can’t bring in what the UFC does in total because he can’t fight 32 times a year: No shit. He’s still a bigger name and draw than the UFC to the general populace.

        • The Gaijin says:

          Oh my…45 has lost his marbles.

          Here’s a litmus test for you – would UFC run on the same weekend as Manny? No.


        • 45 Huddle says:

          So what if Manny can sell more PPVs? He can’t make boxing as much money as the UFC brand.

          Your comment was stupid.

        • The Gaijin says:

          “So what if Manny can sell more PPVs? He can’t make boxing as much money as the UFC brand.”

          Last I checked “boxing” wasn’t really a brand…”Manny” is a brand (or Top Rank I guess if you want to go by promoter) and that brand has more awareness, more cache and moves the needle more in every relevant way than the “UFC brand”. Not to mention that the “UFC brand” has shown it’s good for about 300,000 buys and 8,000 tickets as a brand.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          So what if he gets more viewers once or twice a year.

          Over the course of the year, the UFC brand wins out. Not even close.

        • edub says:

          If you’re going with Top Rank vs. The UFC I think it’s a lot closer than you think 45. They have Cotto, and Pacman who are the top two ticket sellers in the sport (Floyd is more of a PPV draw). But they also have an assortment of talent at weight classes throughout the sport. Juan Ma, and Gamboa (along with Germany) at FW. Margarito who while a despicable person still draws eyes. Brandon Rios and Humberto Soto at LW. Nonito donaire and Eric Montiel at BW. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at MW. And there’s many more that draw a lot of eyeballs around the world.

        • The Gaijin says:

          Alan C – “Manny is a bigger draw in combat sports than pretty much anyone, even the UFC brand name.”

          45 – “Bigger then the UFC Brand? Bwahahha!!…Man Alan, you are talking out of your @ss lately….”

          “So what if he gets more viewers once or twice a year.”

          So what? Well, Manny is the bigger draw. Alan said “Manny is the biggest draw in combat sports, bigger even than the UFC brand.” Draw is measured on a performance basis and the only comparable is card-for-card – how else can we tell if GSP or Lesnar is a bigger “draw” than Frankie Edgar? Because the UFC draws X number of viewers every year? No. That’s completely preposterous – they are a bigger “draw” because every card they headline outdraws a card that Edgar (or fighter Joe) headlines by Y buys and the average card by Z buys.

          Card-for-card Manny beats any “top draw” card the UFC has to offer and destroys every other card in between.

          Two cards are on the same weekend – Manny and UFC – who sells the higher gate? who gets the biggest media buzz? who gets the most buys? Manny. Who’s the bigger draw? Manny. Get the f**k out of here with your nonsense.

          I’d accuse you of moving goal posts, but right now we aren’t even in the same sport…hell I think you’re in comic books.

        • Chuck says:

          Jesus 45, you are surely out there with these little gems of knowledge! Do you have any idea how stupid you sound right now? As EVERYONE here said, boxing isn’t a brand, it’s a sport overall, like MMA is a sport. Manny Pacquiao (and Top Rank by proxy I guess) is the brand. UFC is the brand. How can you really compare the two? Manny fights twice a year, UFC puts on 30 some events a year. How about we compare individual fighters instead?

          The biggest combat sport draws in North America right now are Manny Pacquiao, GSP, and Brock Lesnar. I would put Floyd Mayweather, but he hasn’t fought since last May, and it doesn’t seem like he’s fighting anytime soon. Of all three of those fighters, who brings in the most amount of ppv buys and ticket sales? Manny, no question about it.

          And you say Manny isn’t even the biggest draw in boxing…..then who is? Really, who is? I can’t even begin to guess what kind of logic you are trying to get at. It’s just pure insanity on your part.

          And we can’t really compare how UFC (just the brand) does against boxing (as a whole) because there are always weekend boxing events that aren’t on TV, many of which don’t announce ticket sales or anything like that. If you want to compare UFC to Top Rank then that makes sense. But, from where I stand, it’s still pretty damn close between the two.

  9. Joe says:

    I can’t imagine Showtime putting any LESS push behind Strikeforce than they currently give, but at the same time I don’t think Showtime/CBS jettison MMA unless they’re going to replace it with the UFC, which the UFC will never do.

    And as for Nick Diaz, he’s not a huge star to be sure but he is a star. I’ve been to two Strikeforce cards in San Jose that he was on, and there’s a huge amount of “war Stockton” types who journey out to see him. He’s not going to sellout anywhere, but will give a nice boost to any card he’s on.

  10. David M says:

    45’s trolling was ridiculous in this thread. Did you not read the boxing article about how Showtime is owned by CBS? You think they are willing to spend all this money on Pacquiao but somehow think they are running out of money?

    • 45 Huddle says:

      I read the article.

      Doesn’t matter who they are run by. In most businesses, each entity needs to make money. It’s that simple.

      And all of these delusional fanboys on this site are out of their minds if they think Showtime is going to be able to compete long term with the 2 big boys in their respective industries. Common sense will tell you they won’t.

      Not to mention…. Just look at how cable is structured. HBO gets more per subscriber. HBO is easier to get. Many cable companies have it as part of moderate bundles. To get Showtime you either need to buy it a la carte or have one of the highest packges.

      Many things would have to change for Showtime to become dominant enough to free up enough money to compete. Right now they have found an error in HBO’s business and capitalized on it. It doesn’t meN thT will work. If anything they will have awoken a sleeping giant.

      Sorry for bringing in reality to this discussion. I won’t do that again for sure!!

      • Robert Poole says:

        The irony meter totally exploded when you of all people referred to posters on this site as “delusional fanboys”.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          What irony?

          In no other sport is it so looked down upon to cheer for the biggest and best league. These people are delusional fanboys. It would be like calling me a MLB fanboy. Basically all baseball fans would laugh at that logic.

        • Isaiah says:

          That’s why “delusional fanboy” is appropriate. Most people don’t buy the league analogy that the UFC is trying to sell. Not only do you buy it, you don’t even seem to understand that and why others don’t. So it’s not about a difference of opinion as much as that your who intellectual framework is a fantasy.

        • Isaiah says:

          Oh, and obviously MMA fans “cheer for” the biggest promoter. If you think that you’re looked down on for that, that’s another delusion.

  11. A. Taveras says:

    Showtime was content to bide their time playing second fiddle to HBO for a long time, and now are making some great moves. I can imagine them also playing second fiddle to UFC for a long time and waiting for their chance to make some moves.

    Also as other have pointed out Showtime cross-promotes the two sports. It remains to be seen if ESPN keeps trying this or gets scared off. I think patience in this matter will be rewarded. Boxing needs a new audience just as surely as MMA needs more exposure.

    I have been loving what Showtime has been doing for the last 3 years and look forward to the downfall of HBO’s staid product and stranglehold on matchmaking.

  12. 45 Huddle says:

    Word on the street is that Zuffa is currently in talks with FEG to purchase K-1/DREAM.

    I wouldn’t be shocked if they purchased Bellator later in the year as well….

    Things are consolidating in MMA finally. And there seems to be a shortage of money marks to prevent it this time…. Not to mention zero chance of Japan rebounding this time around.

    Could Zuffa keep K-1 around and use it as a way to push the UFC into the Japanese market? Call be a skeptic because I don’t ever see the UFC being successful in Japan…..

    • LOL. From what I hear, FEG doesn’t own shit. Not even the contracts or the K-1 name. I would laugh my ass off if they threw their money away again.

    • The Gaijin says:

      “Dave says: January 22, 2011 at 11:30 pm

      […] All you need to know is that Kazuyoshi Ishii still owns K-1 and DREAM, all of their copyrights, TV deals etc. FEG is the umbrella company that takes care of the money for them and is in financial duress.”

      They can deal with FEG all they want, but if they want K-1/DREAM, they’re need to talk to Ishii. And if they thought dealing with Sakikibara was a nightmare…

      Further, I’ve seen none of this “word on the street” at all, but for what it’s worth, I agree with Alan. They can’t be that f**kin’ dumb that they’d throw away their money (again) on a deal with these characters.


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