Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) managed to break into to the mainstream sports realm when millions of fans across the continent tuned in to watch the first live broadcast of Extreme Fighting Championships (EFC) Africa 12 on e.tv on 2 March this year.
Ratings were reported to have surpassed other sport broadcasts, clocking a peak audience of over 1.6 million and pulling 25.9% of the total available South African TV audience.*
“When EFC Africa started our goal was to create a world class event with regards to television production and the fights themselves,’ says Cairo Howarth, EFC Africa president. “We are very critical of our own work and always endeavour to improve on every single department of our production. Fortunately, television viewers have embraced the fight showcases so now we have to continue producing a world class event.’
According to Howarth e.tv’s huge World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) following and extensive African footprint made the free-to-air channel an ideal platform to broadcast EFC Africa and to introduce it to the African masses. “MMA content is booming worldwide and Africa is no exception so I expect that viewership is going to grow as e.tv continues to broadcast live into 49 countries across the continent,’ he adds.
The cage fighting tournament is produced in house by EFC Africa in conjunction with Johannesburg based FinePoint Productions, with Nu Metro Home Entertainment responsible for the DVD authoring and distribution. Shaun Pearce and Nadia White are used as the show’s directors with Silas Howarth and Rowina Dawson performing the producer and production manager duties respectively.
EFC Africa, which takes eight weeks to prepare for, presents a number of challenges for the production team. “Broadcasting live is always a challenge because you have to ensure that everything runs smoothly so that the production remains within the allocated time while factoring in last minute deviations,’ says Dawson.
“Sometimes a fight can be cancelled at a moment’s notice due to medical reasons and it is up to the team to fill that time slot while simultaneously pleasing both the live and television audiences.’
The tournament is recorded using seven high definition (HD) Phillips LDK 8000 cameras, consisting of three cage-side cameras, an overhead camera, a single Jimmy Jib and a Steadicam. “We used to use Sony cameras but the Phillips LDK 8000s are better for low light and they allow us to shoot on a clear filter for quite some time before needing external lights,’ adds Dawson.
So far EFC Africa has produced 11 DVDs with three new offerings scheduled for release in the coming months. The DVDs are available for purchase in leading DVD retail outlets and the EFC Africa’s web shop. “Each DVD is world class visual production that contains loads of exciting knockouts, technical submissions and some of the best MMA fights ever fought on the African continent,’ concludes Dawson.
The next live event, EFC Africa 15, will be held on 27 July at the Carnival City Big Top Arena. The main card bouts will be broadcast live on e.tv from 10.30pm.
*Media Update 2012. EFC Africa at the top of TV sports. [online] Available at: < http://www.mediaupdate.co.za/#IDStory=46487>
By Simba Nyamukachi
Screen Africa magazine – July 2012