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ESPN’s a Real Broadband Contender

ESPN is ringing the broadband bell to help promote the finale of boxing reality series The Contender.

The Mark Burnett-produced show began airing full-length, unedited versions of the semifinal fights on the ESPN360 broadband service Wednesday. Those bouts were partially telecast as part of the Sept. 19 linear installment of the series.

The fights will appear on the site up until the live Contender conclusion Sept. 26. In addition, the unedited semifinal fights will be available in their entirety to ESPN Motion viewers Sept. 25 -- the first time long-form video will be available through the broadband-video platform.

Furthermore, two bouts from the undercard of The Contender finale will be streamed live as a special ( Webcast event and will be available on-demand via ESPN360.

The show will receive additional exposure on cable: ESPN Classic will air each episode of The Contender as part of a Sept. 23 marathon beginning at noon.

ESPN hopes the added exposure for The Contender finalists will help to boost ratings for the network. For the 10 premiere installments through Sept. 19, the show averaged a 1.3 Nielsen Media Research household rating and 1.1 million viewers. ESPN officials said ratings for The Contender were up 43% over its 10 p.m. time slot (the show ran for one season on NBC), with 80% gains in key male and female demographics.

“While it is an ongoing commitment of ours to make quality content available across multiple platforms, this is significant because it is the first timeContender fights have ever been shown in their entirety and the first time long-form programming has been available on ESPN Motion,” ESPN Original Entertainment senior vice president of programming Ron Semiao said in a prepared statement. “It’s yet another example of how we maximize our assets to serve sports fans.”

EOE VP of development Ron Wechlser said the network is in discussions with Burnett about bringing the show back. “Obviously we’ll see how well the finale does, but right now, we’re beginning talks with them,” he added.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.