It seemed that almost as soon as the UFC announced that they had struck a seven year deal with the FOX network, effectively leaving their long-held television partner SPIKE TV, attention turned to Bellator Fighting Championship as a potential suitor for SPIKE.
Bellator has quietly moved into the second largest US-based promotion following the UFCs recent acquisition of Strikeforce, which had enjoyed such a spot for a while. Currently Bellator has a broadcast deal with MTV 2 that serves as the television home for the Chicago-based promotion. With UFC jettisoning SPIKE TV in favor of the much greener pastures of the FOX family of channels, many fans are clamoring to see who will step up and fill the void left in the wake.
Bellator seems like a candidate for a couple of reasons:
1. Bellator’s current deal is with MTV 2 which is owned and operated under the Viacom network of channels. Viacom is a media giant with ownership of MTV, CBS, Showtime, and SPIKE TV just to name a few. Seeing as how Bellator is already operating under the Viacom banner, a vertical move up the cable box seems like it would be pretty seamless.
2. Let’s be honest, the MTV 2 broadcast of Bellator cards sucks. Granted, most fight fans have grown spoiled by the big budget production values that the UFC and Strikeforce employ, but the issues with MTV 2 go deeper than that. First of all, there is the very annoying fact that MTV 2 is not broadcast in HD. Sure, this may seem like the plight of the middle class, but I’m venturing to guess that there are a good number of fans with HD televisions. Fights, like nearly every sporting event, are infinitely more enjoyable when HD is involved. Bellator’s broadcast, in contrast to say your average UFC Fight Night or Strikeforce card, just seems inferior.
3. Continuing in on the trend, MTV 2 is not a viable outlet for MMA. I know, I know, when this deal was struck many, including myself, applauded the efforts of Bellator. After all, Bellator’s old television deal with FOX SPORTS was comically bad and plagued with shows being preempted for programing like high school track meets and bull riding or other crap like that. Unfortunately, it has become abundantly clear that MTV 2 is not exactly catering to the MMA fight fans. Oh sure, they specifically hit a male demo shows like Funk Master Flex Full Throttle and Burnout are not exactly hitting the older male demo that advertisers love. Plus, name me an average early 20s to mid-30s male who religiously watches MTV 2 and I’ll show you a guy who can’t let go of his high school exploits. Sure, MTV 2 has shows like Bully Beatdown and the Lingerie Football League which seems catered to the average MMA fan, but again, we’re talking MTV 2. And hoping to get new eyes on an MMA promotion that is broadcast on a network more associated with Teen Mom and Jersey Shore is a lesson in disappointment. Bellator needs to move to a “big boy network” and SPIKE TV or Versus would seem like a perfect fit.
4. Also, let’s not overlook the fact that SPIKE TV executives have been in attendance at a number of recent Bellator events. While Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney downplays the significance of their attendance, Sherdog.com has some wishful quotes from the Bellator CEO.
“They’ve been at all of our shows,” Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney said of Spike honchos. “They’re part of the MTV networks family. Our deal is with MTV Networks, it’s not a deal that we did with MTV 2, or a deal that we did with MTV Tres. So we’ve been able to leverage that expertise.”
“I mean, I don’t know,” he said. “I know what the specifics are of our agreement with MTV2, but from a transitional perspective, our deal is with the bigger corporate entity and they make all of the programming decisions. [I’m a] big fan of Spike and an enormous fan right now of MTV2 as well.”
5. Besides, SPIKE TV seems like the perfect fit to host another MMA promotion. Not only is their entire line up of shows specifically designed to the male 18-35 demo, the network also has a long standing relationship with the MMA community as a result of the years spent partnering up with the UFC. While injecting a largely ignored promotion like Bellator will not guarantee the ratings that the UFC enjoyed, it would keep SPIKE TV in the MMA landscape as well as potentially growing the brand much like it did with the UFC. Plus, Bellator would not have the same financial demands that the UFC has so it may be more appealing to their budget.
Fact of the matter is that a company like Bellator deserves more than what MTV 2 can offer. There is a real void on SPIKE TV, and to a lesser extent Versus, that could be helped by the inclusion of a promotion like Bellator. Plus, as a fight fan, I’m pretty sick of suffering through promos for shows I will never watch on MTV 2, but I guess the same could be said about MANswers.