Former agent hopes to turn martial arts into ratings hit
Xavier Kochhar is joining what’s turning into a martial arts fight club.
The former William Morris agent has thrown his hat into the ring of television producers around town hoping to turn the sport of mixed martial arts — which combines judo, kung fu, karate and boxing, among other techniques — into a major ratings grabber among males 18-34 in the U.S., the same way wrestling has for many years.
Kochhar has obtained the rights to create and pitch TV properties around 10 official martial arts orgs, including the U.K.’s World Boxing Federation, Italy’s World Assn. of Kickboxing, France’s World Kickboxing Network and World Kobudo Federation, Canada’s Ultimate Combat Championships, Japan’s Pancrase and Intl. Karate Organization and Korea’s Intl. Judo Federation.
“These sports organizations generate huge ticket sales, Kochhar said. “We’re saying, ‘Let’s create a show, attach the organization as a backbone to it, find a showrunner and take the whole package to a network.”
Wrestling with success
It’s the same approach around which the World Wrestling Federation originally built a franchise — taking its events and creating shows like “Raw” and “Smackdown.” Series became ratings powerhouses that helped put UPN and cablers USA and TNN on the map.
Given mixed martial arts’ popularity among the same demo around the world, the sport, second to only soccer as a worldwide draw, is now expected to be the next big thing for TV auds. Kochhar is now shopping several weekly format ideas to the major broadcast and cable webs. The ultimate idea is to expand the shows’ earnings potential into several revenue streams, including pay-per-view, licensing and merchandising, including vidgames.
“What made ‘American Idol’ so great wasn’t the show itself, but the scalability of the show,” Kochhar says. “When the show was over, there was a CD and tour. They have a company whose business it is to do that. We have the same thing.”
Across town, other production entities are also looking to create fight programming around other orgs, with LMNO Prods. teaming with Ultimate Fighting Championship; and Battle Entertainment and “Survivor” supremo Mark Burnett creating a series around Japan’s K-1, considered the NFL of mixed martial arts. Meanwhile, Larry Kasanoff plans to launch a 24-hour cable web called Blackbelt TV.
XK Entertainment isn’t only focusing its efforts on fighting. The company is also looking to acquire reality, gameshow or relationship-driven formats that have proven successful overseas and adapt them for the U.S. It’s also looking to create entertainment around consumer brands.
While at William Morris, Kochhar worked in the tenpercentery’s corporate advisory group, repping brands such as Nokia, Texas Instruments, Anheuser-Busch and Tommy Hilfiger.
“Martial arts and the extreme combat stuff is today where skateboarding and snowboarding was three years ago,” Kochhar says. “The feature film business has already figured it out. There isn’t an action movie that doesn’t have one form of martial arts in it. But there isn’t anybody in television that’s been able to crack the nut.”