Rebooting classic media properties is a familiar strategy at this point in almost every arena except sports. NBC is taking a bold step in bringing back the Mr. Olympia competition which was last televised in 1984. The man behind the relaunch of the classic bodybuilding competition that gave birth to Arnold Schwarzenegger is Vlad Yudin. We spoke with Mr. Yudin about the challenges of bringing Mr. Olympia back to TV, his all time favorite bodybuilders, and how bring Mr. Olympia back into the modern media landscape.
1. What do you think is the biggest hurdle in bringing back the Mr. Olympia competition to TV after a 30 year absence?
The biggest hurdle must be making it exciting and understandable for the general audience. Most people don’t understand what bodybuilding is or how it’s being judged, so they don’t know what to look for. The key is to make people aware of what to look for and how the competition is actually being scored. That way the audience will feel the excitement of the battle.
2. You gained tremendous insight into the world of bodybuilding with your documentary Generation Iron. How will the re-launch of Mr. Olympia celebrate the competition’s rich history?
In many ways it will be a fresh start. For the new generation it will be a brand new experience to actually watch bodybuilding on a mainstream television network. Generation Iron opened doors for bodybuilding to be exposed to audiences outside of its core following. Prior to this, bodybuilding was a very niche sport. It still is, but with the film and now the national broadcast, the sport will keep attracting more audiences around the world.
3. What four men are on your Mount Rushmore of Bodybuilding?
I would have to say Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lee Haney, Ronnie Coleman, Dorian Yates… And the fifth could be Phil Heath one day.
4. What do you think is the biggest misconception about the sport?
The biggest misconception would be that Bodybuilders are “dumb.” Most people really believe that about the sport. Then when they see Generation Iron, most of them change their mind and actually get intrigued by these athletes.
5. With the rise of events such as the Crossfit games and Tough Mudders, do you feel a need to push the envelope in the re-launch of Mr. Olympia?
Bodybuilding is different from these other events. In a way a Bodybuilding competition is similar to an art exhibition… A very competitive art exhibition. I think the behind the scenes footage of the athletes’ preparation and drama will make for a more exciting show. That way the audience gets to see what the bodybuilders go through, as they get ready for the event. The audience gets to learn about all of the athletes’ and root for their favorite.
6. How important is the branding of new stars for the success of the show? Do you think that you’ve got another Arnold or Lou in your midst?
I think the branding of new stars is extremely important for the shows success. We do have a modern day Arnold and Lou – their names are Phil Heath and Kai Greene. The rivalry between these two is even more intense!
7. What’s on your list of must-see TV?
I don’t watch too much TV, but when I do I would say my must- see is Game of Thrones. It is one of the reasons I’ve partnered up with Mark Huffam for a future project.
Mr. Olympia is set to return to NBC Sports on October 18th at 1:30 PM EST.