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Taking the fight to the fans
New digital network aimed at fight fans set to launch later this year
By STEVE RENNIE- SLAM! Wrestling




A new digital channel devoted to combat sports is throwing its hat into the Canadian television ring. The Fight Network, which bills itself as the first and only service of its kind in North America, is prepared to launch later this year, offering viewers a combination of professional wrestling, boxing, mixed martial arts, kickboxing, movies, documentaries, television series and special events.

Part of the network's strategy is to expand beyond television into radio, print, and the Internet. To that end, The Fight Network announced on Jan. 24 that it had purchased a majority interest in the popular Live Audio Wrestling (LAW) radio program. According to Mike Garrow, president of The Fight Network, the channel is thrilled with the acquisition of The LAW.

"We've got some good plans for The LAW and they've done an excellent job over the last number of years," said Garrow. "As someone who has listened to it quite a bit, I think that given the positioning of bringing it in under the Fight Network umbrella and keeping it as a brand and being able to put more resources behind it, it's something I think we can make exciting in terms of a radio entity for the wrestling and fight fans."

Brian Sobie, the network's Director of Programming, believes the acquisition of The LAW adds longstanding brand name value to the fledgling channel.

"First off, it's a great show," said Sobie. "As you know, it's been on the air for over eight years and they have a very loyal following. If you look at the numbers, it's a really big following. Among young males in the Toronto area, they're number one in their timeslot by, I think, more than double, which is pretty good; it's a very competitive market."

According to Sobie, the network plans to simulcast The LAW's long-running Sunday night radio program on television. However, he is quick to ease the fears of LAW fans worried about drastic changes to their favourite program.

"It'll always be a radio show. The only thing is that we'll throw cameras in and you'll get to see how handsome Dan is," said Sobie.

The network also plans to launch a website (www.thefightnetwork.com) shortly, where fight fans will be able to read about all the latest happenings in the world of combat sports.

"It's going to be a really strong site. It's going to have a lot of interactivity for the consumers," said Garrow.

According to Sobie, the website will be a natural resource for fight fans who already turn to the Internet to get their fill of news and results.

"Guys who follow it go on the Internet for UFC, for example, that's where you go to get your news and results. For wrestling guys, that's where you go to find out what's really going on. We really want to tap into those young guys who are really very comfortable getting information on the Internet," said Sobie.

While the network has yet to announce the specific wrestling programming it will broadcast, Garrow says fans of the squared circle can expect to see "content that you have never seen in Canada before."

"We really want to give viewers a chance to see stuff that they don't usually get to see. That obviously would include some international stuff," added Sobie.

While the network realizes it is fighting an uphill battle against established sports-oriented channels like TSN, Sobie expects the new channel will strike a nerve with fight fans in the highly sought-after 18-34 male demographic.

"The real philosophy of the network is that we really look at our audience as a club or tribe, meaning that the guys who watch it, watch it and like it," said Sobie.