Karate Combat, a two-year-old professional, full-contact karate league, has signed an international media rights agreement with global broadcaster beIN Sports covering 37 markets including the United States.
In the agreement, beIN will 12 weekly episodes of Karate Combat competition beginning September 24 on beIN Sports Xtra. The rights deal covers North America, the Middle East and North Africa, Turkey, and 10 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. New episodes will premiere on Thursday nights, with re-airs on Saturday nights. Fights will be hosted by former Ultimate Fighting Championship title holder Bas Rutten.
The New York-based Karate Combat seeks to differentiate itself from the spate of other established and start-up combat sports properties by incorporating high-end video production and extensive special effects into its live events, in effect merging the real and virtual worlds in its competitions.
The property’s special effects are developed using the same technology behind popular video game franchise Fortnite, and will result in four different virtual worlds that will serve as the settings for the upcoming season of Karate Combat.
“Necessity is the mother of invention, and our second season of Karate Combat is one step ahead of the game. Forget virtual fans and fight islands,” said Rob Bryant, Karate Combat, referring in part to rival entities World Wrestling Entertainment and UFC. “We are rebuilding sports from the ground up to give fans something wildly entertaining.”
The beIN deal, several months in development, significantly expands the upstart property’s global distribution for its planned second season.
“Karate Combat is presenting martial arts in a way never seen before and is poised to transition combat sports from niche to mainstream,” said Antonio Briceño, beIN Sports North America deputy managing director.
Global agency Octagon aided Karate Combat in the creation of the beIN Sports deal.
The video game-like presentation, Bryan argues, is what is needed to bring live sports competition in a new era. And a result, he says the property derives more than 90 percent of its audience from the age 18-34 demographic.
“We’re looking to present this in a very different way from not only other combat sports, but sports overall,” Bryan said. “The idea is to appeal fundamentally to a younger generation.”