Viacom Partners With Bellator As Agreement With UFC Ends
Industry timing, "more than a track record of success, is what led to Viacom’s interest" in Bellator Fighting Championships, according to Dave Meltzer of YAHOO SPORTS. Spike TV President Kevin Kay said, "We’ve been negotiating probably the better part of a year. We saw our relationship with UFC coming to an end and we needed to think about something else. We wanted to stay in the space we helped build. Guys come here (to Spike TV) for MMA content. We're known for it." Meltzer notes if Bellator "gains traction with the audience and the brand takes off, the company won’t have to get into bidding wars to keep it and will have lifetime ownership of the company tape library." Kay said, "Every two or three years, we had to renegotiate (with UFC) and it was only going to get worse as their brand grew and their success grew. ... We helped them build their brand, but it was only going to get more expensive over time. We were renters. The opportunity with Bellator with buying is that you own it for a long period of time." Spike’s contract with UFC "provides for an added year, 2012, in which Spike retains rights to televise taped UFC programming and is not allowed to air any other MMA events." Because of that stipulation, Bellator, "which currently runs on Saturday nights on MTV2 and the HD network Epix, won’t debut on Spike until early 2013." For the weekly shows, Viacom is "looking to upgrade production, lighting, audio and graphics, and want shows held in first-class venues." It wants to become "more competitive in acquiring top talent." Bellator is "also looking at doing more storytelling on the background of fighters and have ideas for non-live television specials, like Spike has done with UFC with 'best-of' type specials" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/3).