Saturday night’s Bellator 98 event drew an average of just 437,000 viewers on Spike TV.
That’s a very bad start for the promotion’s ninth season, dropping 501,000 viewers compared to the eight season debut earlier in the year.
In fact it’s actually the worst ratings for a live Bellator event on the channel to date which is likely to set the alarm bells ringing for all concerned after the ‘Fight Master’ reality show also failed to find a meaningful audience over the course of the summer.
If there was one consolation it’s that the show peaked with 663,000 viewers during the main event, but even that is beneath expectations based on the previous season which averaged 793,000 viewers.
The Saturday night slot was a one-off – the weekly live shows now shift to Friday nights which is considered to be a worse night, though it does steer them clear of having to compete with the likes of the UFC, boxing and most other major sporting events.
As I’ve said before when discussing Bellator’s ratings, they have relied very heavily on TNA Wrestling’s in-built audience to bring viewers to the eight season and again in the latter stages of the ‘Fight Master’ show when it also moved under the show’s wing on Thursday nights.
What we are seeing now is what happens to the numbers when they don’t have that to fall back on. We’ll have to wait and see what effect the Friday switch will have, but I’m certainly not optimistic about it.
It’s been a rough road for Bellator lately, and to make matters worse they also find themselves in the midst of something of an injury jinx – something that rival promotion the UFC knows a thing or two about.
For instance, former champion Joe Warren had to pull out of Saturday night’s show after being KO’d in training, ‘Fight Master’ finalist Joe Riggs had to delay the show’s finale after suffering an injury, recent signing Matt Riddle has declared he’s retiring after picking up a rib injury that’s forced him out of the upcoming welterweight tournament, while featherweight Shahbulat Shamhalaev and lightweight Rob Sinclair have also pulled out of their respective tournaments.
It’s important that the steady the ship as soon as possible, especially as they would like to build some kind of momentum leading up to their debut pay-per-view event in November.
I view that as slightly separate from the current Bellator situation given that the likes of Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Tito Ortiz will generate interest and hype around their headline bout than the promotion ever would be able to normally, but you still have to question the logic of going ahead with this when they are struggling to turn in a decent TV audience for their weekly programming.