Bellator Set For Live Debut On Spike TV; Looks To Retain UFC's Demo
As MMA promotion Bellator makes its live debut on Spike TV tonight at 10:00pm ET, CEO Bjorn Rebney is “gambling that Spike's reach and influence can take his burgeoning mixed martial arts company to the top of the industry,” according to Kevin Iole of YAHOO SPORTS. It will be a “long and difficult road” for Bellator. The UFC is “almost universally regarded as the major league of MMA and, indeed, it was UFC programming that helped build Spike's brand.” Bellator's shows for the last year were broadcast on Spike's website and on MTV2 as Spike TV's non-compete clause with the UFC "prevented Spike from broadcasting any other promotion's fights.” Bellator tonight “returns to the big-time, so to speak, as it debuts its newest season on Spike to its nearly 100 million television homes.” Neither Rebney nor Spike TV President Kevin Kay is “willing to say the long-term play is to overtake the UFC as MMA's dominant promoter.” But viewers in the "coveted male 18-to-34-year-old demographic" have the potential to make Bellator "a major player in the marketplace.” Rebney said, "Younger male consumers who identify themselves as MMA fans identify Spike as the home of televised MMA." But Iole wrote the question remains whether those viewers are "looking for UFC content specifically or simply MMA from any promoter.” That is a “critical difference that could mean success or failure for Bellator as well as millions of dollars won or lost.” Rebney and Kay are “counting upon the consistency of having live Bellator fights every Thursday at 10 as a way to build an audience.” It is “what Rebney calls the ‘same time, same place, same channel’ concept” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/16).
BEHIND THE SCENES: SI.com’s Loretta Hunt noted Bellator has worked with Spike for “more than a year to prepare for its live debut, and a lot has been accomplished in that time,” with the two companies “planning and refining" their product. Bellator less than a month after its deal with Spike was announced “signed into an agreement with Fremantle Media to distribute the promotion's televised events in 107 countries.” Bellator in July “moved its headquarters from Chicago to Southern California to be closer to Spike” in L.A. There has been a “re-branding of both Bellator's logo and name” as there has been “more exposure for Bellator fighters, who have popped up at celebrity events such as Spike's ‘Video Games Awards.’” Spike also has “hooked a big fish in reality TV master Bertrand Van Munster,” who is “producing a Bellator reality series to debut later this year" (SI.com, 1/16).
RAISE THE CURTAIN: In N.Y., Marc Raimondi noted tonight's Bellator fight card will “feature two title fights,” with lightweight champion Michael Chandler defending his title against Rick Hawn in the main event. The card also will “mark the debut" of UFC veteran Renato "Babalu" Sobral. Bellator, which “operates more like a TV show, will air weekly cards every Thursday night on Spike until April.” There will be “three ‘summer series’ events in June, July and August before the ninth season begins again in August.” Welterweight Karl Amoussou said, “Bellator is already the second organization in the world. I think it’s gonna be huge now. It’s going to be way bigger with Spike” (NYPOST.com, 1/15).