In November, 2015, White Collar DXB hit the screens of OSN subscribers across the region. The reality TV show followed the journeys of 24 plucky Dubai residents as they spent eight weeks immersed in boxing training, working towards a final fight night. The first season was so well received, it was commissioned for a second in 2016, though rebranded as Fighting Fit Dubai.
Those first two seasons earned Nomad Media, the company behind the programme, two Sports Industry Awards and a BroadcastPro award for ‘Best TV Show in the MENA Region.’
After a prolonged hiatus, Fighting Fit Dubai will return in 2019 with a new look and an exciting new platform.
The show is a transformative experience for its contestants and has proved the same for Phil Griffiths, who founded Nomad with wife Zoe. The company has continued to grow, making multiple factual and entertainment productions, and the new season of Fighting Fit Dubai will mark an exciting new partnership with sports giant ESPN as the show’s primary broadcaster.
“We love working with OSN, and there’s every chance the linear TV series my end up on their platform, but this time around we wanted to put the main emphasis on the digital audience,” Griffiths tells Sport Industry Insider. “I’ll always be grateful that they took a chance on us with the show. You can have an idea but getting someone to see it, like it, and broadcast it, is not so easy. They put their faith in us and I think we repaid that by producing a show that they, and we, could be proud of.
“There’s no doubt Season One put Nomad on the map. We consider ourselves the best storytelling, factual and entertainment production company in the region. This was a way for us to show everyone just that and it changed the way people and the industry perceived us. Whether it is broadcasters or corporate clients, suddenly you are speaking to them at a different level because you’ve shown you are more than capable of creating top end long-form and short-form storytelling content.”
The second season of the show saw a number of changes to both format and output. Notably, after having proof of concept, Nomad were able to secure a sponsorship deal with Under Armour, who kitted out Fighting Fit Dubai’s contestants. It opened up a new revenue stream beyond simple distribution fees and with partnership negotiations under way for Season 3, Griffiths sees even broader scope for potential sponsorship.
“Under Armour was a great fit,” he says. “When the contestants were elated, when they were crushed, when they were breaking pain barriers – all of it was done wearing their gear. It was a massive boost financially because we were able to structure the production in a more sound way. Also, it added that level of authenticity – Under Armour are a massive sports brand.
“We are speaking to various different brands about the new season and Under Armour is definitely one of them. It will be great to see what transpires.
“There is so much that can be done in terms of sponsorship – whether it’s technology, training equipment, apparel, health and recovery, automotive, or locations. There are so many verticals to it which is exciting. But you have to pick the brands to go after not just because you want to get their money but because they add value to the show, and the show adds value to their brand. If you can’t make them integral to the show’s storytelling, then it won’t work for the brand, the show, and most importantly, the audience.”
It is branded content, and a more digital-focused approach, that will be central to Fighting Fit Dubai’s offering in Season Three.
“We’re moving away from the traditional TV model of creating a show where most of your revenue comes from distribution to broadcast platforms. The advertising pot is spread so thin now across multiple channels and platforms that you need to be more creative about how you can monetise the content.
“The new series will not just be a weekly reality show that goes out on TV. It’s an all-encompassing beast that takes care of everything from individual sponsor campaigns, to digital and online publishers, to linear TV, to events, social media and influencer activations – that’s just how content production works now.
“The main output of the show for Season 3 will be in the shape of four online episodes per week. Both the audience and the contestants will be able to watch things unfold in real time which should make for a more engaging experience. It also provides far more opportunities for content and, in turn, content for our partners.”
I CAN . I CAN Begin I CAN Commit I CAN Overcome I CAN Change I CAN Succeed I CAN Transform I CAN Be Anything. To be part of the auditions for FFD Season 3, simply post a picture of yourself using the hashtag #ICanIHaveIAm#fightingfitdxb #ICanIHaveIAm #ICanBeAnything pic.twitter.com/DRYVA5Hjuj
— Fighting Fit Dubai (@FightingFitDXB) November 14, 2017
The new platform for Fighting Fit Dubai is a bold new step for Nomad, one which recognizes the quality of the product they have nurtured. It will offer greater exposure, which is likely to attract more sponsorship revenue.
“ESPN is a really exciting platform to work with,” Griffiths says. “They are really backing us and they really believe in the show and they are driving it towards what we want to achieve in terms of content, viewership and audience interaction. With an online viewership of 3.2 million unique users a month in the GCC alone, the potential is huge.
“Sponsors nowadays want more than just a 30-second TV commercial that costs them half a million dollars to make. Now they want the money to work much harder – they want to see it across different platforms. They want it to target precise demographics, and give them content wherever they consume it.
“We’ve had conversations with sponsors and the interest in TV exposure is definitely on the decline. I hate to say that because I still watch TV but there is a huge segment of these sponsors’ target audience who just don’t watch traditional TV any more.
“That’s why ESPN as a platform is a really good fit. It’s at the forefront of where the trend is going in terms of content and branded content. It feels like the right time to do that and we hope it will be a really formidable partnership.”
Despite the obvious changes in the media landscape, distribution revenue still remains important to Nomad – not least because it expands the reach of the shows. With Limonero Films now looking after the show’s distribution, White Collar DXB and Fighting Fit Dubai have now been snapped up by pan-African provider Kwese, while iflix picked up the rights in Asia. Discussions are currently underway with several European providers, too. Fighting Fit Dubai’s global reach is particularly gratifying for Griffiths, who believes adaptation will be key to the long-term success of his idea.
“There’s massive potential for the show to be localised around the world. You think about a format like MasterChef or Pop Idol, with so many different versions. Reformatting it for a local audience would be great. So Fighting Fit Dubai becomes Fighting Fit London or Fighting Fit Singapore or Fighting Fit Jeddah.
“Seeing a concept you created come to life across different countries – in TV production, I’d say that’s the dream.”