By LJDB; June 8, 2005

Photo: NBC Universal
NBC’s “The Contender” may still live on. The Sylvester Stallone/Sugar Ray Leonard/Mark Burnett produced reality series was absent on NBC’s Fall 2005 schedule when NBC executives announced the primetime line-up on May 16th.

NBC Universal Entertainment President Jeff Zucker reasoned that in addition to the low ratings, the very high cost of producing the series was not in its favor when it came time to restructure NBC’s primetime strategy. Many have been baffled by NBC’s somewhat cautious approach to the new season, especially when numbers for the network have plummeted over the past season.
Since the show’s finale, there has been talk that Burnett and Stallone are in negotiations with ESPN to pick up the series. Fans and critics alike have been praising “The Contender” since its premiere, but the ratings didn’t match the accolades. On average, only 6.5 million viewers tuned in to the series on Sundays at 8PM. That figure is slightly less to the previous timeslot holder, the family drama “American Dreams” (also cancelled by NBC).

While Executive Producers Leonard, Stallone, and Burnett are reportedly talking to ESPN about picking it up for a 2nd season, NBC has said that they haven’t officially “turned it down.” Last week, Burnett told the New York Times that a renewal announcement was “highly likely” last week, but there has been no word since then.

However, all signs are pointing to “The Contender” being saved by the bell, whether it be ESPN or NBC. In fact, rumors about a July 5th pay-per-view bout with the final four Sergio Mora, Peter Manfredo, Jr., Jesse Brinkley, and Alfonso Gomez have been making the rounds as well. Stallone had commented during the finale that he would love to see a rematch between Mora and Manfredo, while announcer Al Trautwig advised “Contender” fans to check the show website becuase “it [isn’t] over yet for these Contenders.”

THE CONTENDER is currently re-airing on CNBC Mondays-Wednesdays and Fridays at 5PM and 8PM

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