Bodog Has Its Day

'Battle of the Bands' Helps Entertainment Company Branch Out Beyond Online Gambling

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CHICAGO -- When the final, winner-take-all episode of Bodog Entertainment's "Battle of the Bands" airs on the Fuse cable channel early next month, the entertainment conglomerate will have a lot more on the line than the $1 million recording contract for which the featured bands are competing.

Bodog is still most often associated with online gambling, its primary revenue source, but in recent years has branched into programming centered on mixed martial arts, poker and music.


The contest/reality series, which began airing on Fuse in July, has added visibility and talent to Bodog's fledgling record label and helped diversify a brand still dependent on the increasingly restricted online-gambling space. Video content from the series on the company's website has drawn 8 million to 10 million monthly unique visitors.

Working on follow-up season
The series has been successful enough for Bodog to begin working on a follow-up season. Fuse, which makes its living targeting the same young men Bodog covets, is waiting to see if the finale -- an "American Idol"-style sing-off for the finalists -- delivers bigger ratings before it decides whether or not to renew the show.

"We're just making our way in the first season, and obviously we want to see how the finale goes," said Jason Miller, VP-advertising sales at Fuse. "Certainly a series about breaking bands is a great fit for our network."

The show -- developed by Bodog's agency of record, KSL Media -- grew out of founder Calvin Ayre's desire to leverage a record label he launched in 2005 into more content that could be used to expand Bodog's brand. Bodog is still most often associated with online gambling, its primary revenue source, but in recent years has branched into programming centered on mixed martial arts, poker and music.

KSL Media developed the concept of a yearlong search for the label's next signee -- with a million-dollar record deal for the winner. It drew more than 7,000 online submissions from interested bands. Over the course of 10 months, 300 live music events were staged and original recordings vetted, and Bodog whittled down the list to 16 semifinalists.

Like 'American Idol'
The 17-market U.S. tour that followed -- and much of what transpired behind the scenes -- has been televised on Fuse, as well as Bodog's website and mobile channels. One band is eliminated each week, "American Idol" style, after being lauded or thrashed by a rude British judge (in this case, former Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten reprising the role of Simon Cowell). Also among the judges is Bodog's top music talent, tattooed punk songstress Bif Naked.

The fate of the series' second season, as well as the identity of Bodog's next recording artist, likely will be decided Sept. 5, when the season concludes with performances at the House of Blues in Los Angeles.

Regardless of whether Fuse decides to renew the series, KSL's Hank Cohen said it's been a hit for Bodog. "It's a much better way to build a brand than just using 30-second spots," Mr. Cohen said, touting the web-traffic stats. "It's a pretty high number for a show that's built from the grass roots."
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