Bellator Fighting Championships, currently the third biggest MMA promotion in the world behind the UFC and Strikeforce, has been purchased by media conglomerate, Viacom.
The news comes via USAToday who report that the promotion will stay on the Viacom owned MTV2 for now, but will make the switch to another of their networks Spike TV in 2013.
Spike TV is of course currently home to the UFC and Viacom admit this is a move that will ensure that they still have a strong footing in the MMA scene when they depart at the end of the year for FOX.
“As we realized that our relationship with UFC was likely to come to an end, our Viacom mergers and acquisitions folks, and us, started to have conversations with MTV2 about getting invested in a mixed martial arts promotion and become owners as opposed to renters,” Spike TV director Kevin Kay told USAToday. “You’re building value in something that you own, and you own it for the long term. You’re not in a constant state of negotiation.”
Unfortunately however they will have to wait until 2013 before they can air the promotion on Spike since as part of their existing deal with the UFC they still have a year remaining in which they have the rights to broadcast their library of programming.
Until that ends the terms of the deal prevent them from airing a rival promotion. Spike execs had hoped that the UFC would buy back their library before the end of the year in order to have a completely fresh start, but Dana White has so far been adamant that will not be the case.
Still, overall this is great news for Bellator and ensures their survival in the longer term which is a relief for their owner Bjorn Rebney.
“It puts all of those cornerstones of ownership in place for us,” Rebney, who will remain the head of the company, said. “Which is something that’s been so seriously lacking in the MMA space with so many different companies, including Strikeforce and the IFL and Affliction and all the different failures that have occurred. … It alleviates those issues.”
It should also lead to significant growth in terms of their audience when they do eventually land on Spike TV given that their ongoing fifth season is currently averaging 176,000 viewers on MTV2, while Spike regularly produce between 1-2 million viewers for live UFC events.
Naturally Bellator doesn’t currently have, and in all likelihood may never have quite the same level of brand awareness and cache as the UFC, but Spike TV undoubtedly have acquired a great deal of experience over the past six years regarding how to help develop a successful MMA promotion and they can now apply that to Bellator.
“It’s a very, very good day for mixed martial arts as a whole,” Rebney stated. “Because now you have two groups in the space that have a very substantial presence that obviously isn’t going to go anywhere for a very, very long time.”
Responding to the news on Twitter UFC president Dana White revealed that this was far from unexpected.
“They did it months ago. You just found out I Knew :)”
Just a couple of weeks ago White had stated that he had no problem with Bellator, but it’ll be interesting to see how things go once the promotion does finally make the jump to Spike TV.
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