Bellator Season 2 Delay to be Costly?
September 3, 2009
In an interview with MMAFanhouse this week, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney took the time to discuss the delay of Bellator’s next season and his plans for a third season set to follow later in 2010:
The delay between Season 1 and Season 2 sort of begs the question, might Bellator lose some of the momentum it built over Season 1 with such a long delay between its next event?
It’s a situation that’s sort of analogous to prime time network television series that undergo prolonged periods of hiatus between seasons or in the middle of seasons. Often times ratings decline upon the return of the continued season or the brand new season, ostensibly because some viewers have either lost interest or moved on to other programming. It’s not a perfect analogy, however, because MMA, as a sport, doesn’t require the linear following that scripted television does. MMA fans have also proven to be fairly loyal (at least to the UFC).
The real question is probably whether or not fans will follow the series from ESPN Deportes to its new home. Can they? Do they have the interest? Might new fans have moved on to the more consistent, nearly ubiquitous UFC?
Rebney also stated in the interview that the new platform will provide both Spanish and English language programming. It’ll be interesting to see whether the organization’s focus starts to shift away from the Latin-American market that they originally targeted last season with ESPN Deportes. The Latin market was the means through which Bellator tried to differentiate their brand, but in seeking a larger platform it would appear as though they’re moving away from that focus.
The delay is reportedly due to extended negotiations with a new television partner, which Rebney has yet to disclose. Although, Dave Meltzer speculates that it likely won’t be with ESPN:
In the not a good sign department, Bellator, which had told fighters that it was going to be upgraded for ESPN Deportes to ESPN 2 for a second season that would start in November, has moved that season to January. ESPN hasn’t confirmed the upgrade and with ESPN in talks with UFC, I’m not sure about them adding programming on one of their two major stations with a different promotion. Bellator has since announced a television deal would be announced within two weeks, and the shows will air live and claim it will be available to “150 million people.” That would seem to mean being on a station with 50% U.S. clearance. It’s a huge upgrade from ESPN Deportes, but that would indicate no ESPN 2 (which has 86% clearance).