Pact improves reach to cable subs in N. America

Japan-based fighting circuit Pride FC grabbed a toehold in the U.S. market, announcing a pay-per-view distribution deal with In Demand and its first-ever U.S. event.

The moves are important steps for the 6-year-old circuit of almost-anything-goes fighters, which is trying to take on established grappling giants such as World Wrestling Entertainment and Ultimate Fighting Championships for a share of the lucrative U.S. market.

Dream Stage Entertainment, the company behind Pride FC, also named Nobuyuki Sakakibara as company president, and said Sky PerfecTV!, the big Japanese digital satellite TV provider, had bought a stake. Terms of the investment were not released.

The Pride matches bring together fighters of numerous martial arts traditions from around the world in full-contact matches that allow nearly every kind of hold or move.

The franchise already has deals with DirecTV and the Dish Network among other satellite and pay-per-view providers in various territories, but the In Demand deal should substantially improve its footprint among terrestrial cable subscribers in North America. In Demand can reach 27 million households and will carry its first Pride event June 13.

Sakakibara, the new president, actually founded the Pride franchise in 1997 in Japan, then joined Dream Stage in 1999 as chief producer. Last summer he was promoted to managing director of the company. Previously, he worked for Tokai TV Promotional Co., producing golf tournaments and an annual summer music festival, “Kai-Yu-Sai.”

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