Mark Burnett’s boxing competition The Contender, which aired its second and third seasons on ESPN, plus an all-star season, has been cancelled by the network, but its producers say they’ll find another home for the show.
“It was a hard decision to make. We were talking to [promoter Tournament of Contenders] about a renewal but we couldn’t come to terms,” ESPN VP Ron Wechsler told ESPN.com. He said that lower ratings for the second season, which aired last fall, were to blame. “We have the greatest respect for TOC, Jeff Wald, Mark Burnett Productions and DreamWorks and we stand by the quality of the show. But it’s a very competitive marketplace and the ratings weren’t as strong as they were the year prior,” he said. ESPN picked up the series in 2005, after NBC cancelled it.
Executive producer Jeff Wald said that producers are actively seeking another network. “We’re sorry it didn’t work out at ESPN, but we’re in the process of making another deal. Hopefully, the deal we are working on will be closed in the next few days. ‘The Contender’ is the show that will not die. The show is a success with the fans and it became that without much marketing or promotion. With the exception of Ron, who was in our corner from day one, the show was mishandled right from the beginning,” he said.
The show won’t end up on HBO or Showtime. Broadcasting & Cable reports that “a representative for HBO … told B&C the network is not interested,” while “Ken Hershman, Showtime’s senior vice president and general manager of sports and event programming, called a Contender acquisition ‘unlikely.’”
ESPN Cancels The Contender; HBO, Showtime Not Interested [Broadcasting & Cable]