AXN delivers a boxing punch to the reality genre

MUMBAI: AXN is strengthening the reality programming genre in Asia. The action oriented broadcaster has acquired the rights to NBC's upcoming reality show The Contender , following its success with other reality shows like Fear Factor .

The show, which deals with 16 boxers competing for the chance to win a million dollars and go professional, will air across AXN Asia from January. Episodes are expected to run less than 24 hours after their initial broadcast in the US on NBC.

The show is the creative brain child of Mark Burnett who is also responsible for Survivor. Dreamworks will co-produce the show and actor Sylvester Stallone will supervise and mentor the contestants. Stallone will be jojuned by boxing legends Sugar Ray Leonard and George Foreman.

AXN Asia GM Ricky Ow said, "We are extremely excited to bring The Contender to Asia. The Contender's combination of high adrenaline action and real-life drama, together with the creative genius of Mark Burnett, Jeffrey Katzenberg, the unprecedented line of boxing legends and the mega star power of Sylvester Stallone, are certain to make this show a knock-out hit amongst our viewers across Asia."

What is interesting is that in the US Fox had entered into the boxing arena first by airing its own boxing reality show The Next Great Champ in September. Endemol USA had conceived the show for Fox.

There was a heated fight between the two broadcasters. However responding to an NBC lawsuit in September trying to block Fox's show from airing a California trial court had said that Fox's show was protected by the First Amendment.

Fox had come up up with its own boxing based reality show after losing the bidding war to NBC for The Contender. However The Next Great Champ's host Oscar de la Hoya had been quoted in a report claiming to have been approached by Dreamworks head Jeffrey Katzenberg to consider the host's role on the NBC show.

He claimed to have turned it down because The Contender is "merely a glorified tough-man contest and not a legitimate boxing-focused show". De la Hoya said that, by contrast, his show was "going to have real amateurs fighting, and I think that it will be great for the sport."

Burnett was not surprisingly furious at Fox's move. In an interview with Variety he said, "Fox lost out fair and square in the bidding. It is hard to believe that they would do something substantially similar. " While The Contender was an original idea after having seen Fox's show there is the danger that come January NBC's show could well be viewed as a copycat among US viewers.

Talking about his show The Contender Katzenberg said, "Everyone connected to this series has felt a rush of adrenaline in the struggle to see one champion emerge victorious. We can't wait until America gets its chance to see the emotional challenges faced by our contenders as their quest to be number one begins in January."

"It has long been our dream to bring boxing back to primetime television and this show is the realisation of this goal, said co-executive producer Jeff Wald. I couldn't have asked for better partners in this great endeavour than Mark, Jeffrey, Sly and Ray."

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