Bellator Expected to Announce FX, FSN, Fuel TV Deal; Signs TV Deal in India

December 6, 2010

MMAJunkie reports that Bellator Fighting Championships is expected to announce a multi-year broadcast deal with Fox Entertainment Group in the upcoming weeks.

The deal includes the Bellator product airing live on FX, and on tape delay on FSN and Fuel TV.

“We’re super excited about our next evolution on TV,” Rebney said. “We’re always trying to produce the most exciting and captivating MMA for our fans. Our next step is a significant move in that direction. But at this time, I can’t elaborate on what those alliances would be.”

Sources, though, said Bellator likely will keep its Thursday-night live timeslots with the move to FX. The FSN and Fuel TV broadcasts likely will include “highlights” packages from those events.

MMAPayout was in the process of confirming a potential TV deal with FX and Fuel TV several weeks ago before MMAJunkie broke the story, but the deal was not finalized and the parties were not able to comment at the time.  MMAPayout’s Robert Joyner reported on FX looking for a sports franchise back in July of 2009, making the argument that Bellator would be a good fit for the network.

Bellator has been aiming for a ESPN tie-in, but this would be a good fallback position for the company. Bellator would be attractive in that they offer a strip of programming. They air could offer 12 to 13 week strips of programming back to back, either live or on a one day delay. That constancy would be attractive for FX looking to build a brand. Bellator would be the best option for FX in my estimation.

Some MMA insiders speculated that the UFC was in line to sign a deal with FOX, FX, or Fuel TV, either for a network or cable TV slot, since they already broadcast UFC events on Fuel TV in Australia and Fuel TV recently stated on the SportsBusiness Journal that they were very interested in adding MMA content to their programming in the upcoming months.

Fox Sports’ action sports channel won’t be limited to surf, skate and snow programming anymore.

Fuel TV plans to add lifestyle programming and sports programming from motorsports and mixed martial arts to its lineup over the next month and a half. The moves are designed to expand the channel’s target demo from 12- to 24-year-old males to 12-35 and enlarge its audience.

Fuel TV general manager C.J. Olivares, who’s channel is said to reach around 31 million homes,  stated that Fuel TV was expanding beyond action sports, looking to make the channel a sports and entertainment network inspired by the new generations of sports.  The move is not a surprising one, as Fuel TV was almost sold to MTV last year before the deal fell through in the closing stages and is currently making changes to better position themselves for re-negotiation next fall, when their deal with DirecTV, one of it’s biggest affiliates, is set to expire. FOX Sports and C.J have since agreed not to sell Fuel TV, claiming that big plans are in the works for the niche network, hoping these moves help Fuel TV become a rated network in the future. Simply put, “To survive and thrive in the competitive landscape of cable television, we need to move to a rated environment,” Olivares said.

On the other hand, with the addition of FX, Bellator has now increased its reach to 96 million homes considering that the channel can be found in most basic-cable packages in the U.S.  FX is the home of several hit TV programs such as “Rescue Me”, “Sons of Anarchy”, and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, with Bellator becoming the sole sports programming property on the network.

Bellator Signs TV Deal In India With Big CBS Prime

Bellator Fighting Championships has signed a TV deal in India with recently launched BIG CBS Prime, a joint venture between Reliance Broadcast Network and CBS Studios International, which launched the network across 20 million homes in India on November 29th this year.  Bellator is scheduled to make its debut on Friday, December 3rd, at 10:00 PM, with two hour episodes, which will be a first-of-it’s-kind mixed martial arts initiative in India.

Aparnaa Pande, the business head at BIG CBS Prime, commented of the deal: “Cricket and sports programs are known to draw huge audiences in India. Our audience entertainment preferences and consumption mapping pointed at an excellent opportunity to bring to India, this world acclaimed and unique form of martial arts that has never been seen in Indian this far. The Bellator Fighting Championship promise to revolutionize the way fighting championships have been consumed this far.”

CBS Prime will also make other popular U.S. programming available, including hits such as NCIS, movies from NBC Universal and Sony, and is in talks with other international studies to acquire other Hollywood films.  Par of the networks strategy will be to localize international shows, such as Indian versions of Entertainment Tonight. BroadcastingCable reports the details on the U.S. breaking into the TV market in India.

“The launch of Big CBS Prime is the first step towards addressing the current need gaps of Indian viewers for internationally acclaimed quality programming,” noted Tarun Katial, CEO of Reliance Broadcast Network, in a statement regarding the channel’s strategy and programming.

Adding that Indian viewers have traditionally waited nine months or more for new U.S. fare to reach India, Katial noted that these delays and the lack of content exclusivity had mean that “English programming as a category is highly under-developed. With our exclusive range of programming mix, Big CBS is uniquely posed to grow the size of this market.”

Big CBS is planning to air some U.S. shows within 24 hours after their appearance in the U.S.

As part of its ad sales strategy the network is planning to target luxury brands, which have increased their ad spend by about 43% in the last four years in India.

Payout Perspective:

This is a great deal for Bellator, finally giving MMA fans what they have been coveting since season one, live Bellator events showing on an easily accessible network, which the combination of FX, Fuel TV, and FSN provides for the promotion.  We will have to wait on the details of the deal, but it appears to be a good one for Bellator at the moment.

It increases their distribution a great deal, rivaling the UFC in terms of homes reached for a promotion in North American and creates big opportunities for next season.  The question for Bellator now is if they can capitalize on the reach they have with sponsors and other means to generate revenue.  You also have to wonder if they will enter the PPV market this year, since they promised their investors a turn-around this year, originally claiming that they would hold multiple PPV events by the third year of operation, which is where they will stand next year.  It is possible that they could switch over to a non-PPV model similar to Strikeforce, but without knowing what type of licensing fees Bellator is receiving from FOX, it’s still to early to speculate on that.  Either way, this move is a huge step up for Bellator, which has improved their TV reach and distribution deals each of it’s first three seasons.

17 Responses to “Bellator Expected to Announce FX, FSN, Fuel TV Deal; Signs TV Deal in India”

  1. Tweets that mention Bellator Expected to Announce FX, FSN, Fuel TV Deal; Signs TV Deal in India : The Business of MMA -- on December 6th, 2010 9:16 PM

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by MMA Ninja and Danny Denhard, MMA Supremacy. MMA Supremacy said: Bellator to Announce FX, FSN, Fuel TV Deal; Signs TV Deal (CBS) in India … #MMA #MMAPayout #Bellator #FOX #FX […]

  2. rick on December 7th, 2010 1:32 AM

    Awesome news…Bellator..keep it up, i love the format they have!!

  3. jv on December 7th, 2010 7:51 AM

    Funny that Bellator ends up on the CBS India channel and not Strikeforce. We have M1 cutting a deal with Showtime. I have to wonder if things are not so good between Strikeforce and the CBS empire.

    In the mean time I wonder if Bellator will have to cut expenses again like they did after season 1 to keep the investors happy. I also hope they end up with a better TV deal up in Canada. The Score treated them like toilet paper.

  4. Stan on December 7th, 2010 8:15 AM

    good to see Bellator got some wider exposure with non-delayed events.


    I’m wondering about the SF/Showtime/CBS thing myself… will be interested to see how the ratings for Saturday did… it definitely was action packed so maybe picked up some casual fans… if it stayed steady against a UFC card (I know the paper SF card was better and it delivered with action, but UFC = MMA to so many casual fans) it’s a good sign IMO… just hoping it didn’t take a big hit.

  5. Jose Mendoza on December 7th, 2010 2:32 PM

    jv, Stan:

    International TV deals and north American ones don’t have much correlation, here are some examples.

    1) UFC is on ESPN in the UK but talks fell through between them in North America.
    2) Fuel TV airs UFC in Australia but Fuel TV in NA will now air Bellator.

    Also, this channel is a joint venture between CBS International and RBN, so I wouldn’t read too much into that regardless. Great for Bellator though. You also have to keep in mind that SF deal with Showtime is not exclusive, so there is no issue with showing M-1 Challenge as well.

    P.S…. I have rating estimates for Saturday! =)

  6. Stan on December 7th, 2010 3:33 PM

    looks like UFC did a 1.4 while SF did a 1.2 according to Meltzer, that’s about 2m for UFC about 350k for SF… Isn’t that roughly in between a Challengers card and a main SF card?

  7. Jose Mendoza on December 7th, 2010 3:34 PM

    Interesting note:

    As far as I can tell, Bellator may be the first big MMA promotion with a decent TV deal in India for MMA events. If anyone knows of any others, let me know.


  8. Jose Mendoza on December 7th, 2010 5:48 PM


    SF peaked at 465K, it did expected #’s, peaked well without a rating draw like Gina, Walker, or Fedor.

  9. Sergio on December 7th, 2010 5:53 PM

    Hey guys! I have a quick question about the SF/CBS deal?

    -Is it safe to say that the reason why SF never did another show this year on CBS was because of the brawl?

    -And also because maybe Coker didnt get back to CBS after the brawl in a timely manner to smooth things out?

    I know Coker will be talking to CBS in Jan to setup shows for 2011 but I find it hard to belive from a business standpoint that he would wait so long after the brawl to smooth things out with CBS.Coker hasn’t really said why no more shows on CBS this year.Maybe it was a combination of the brawl & poor ratings that killed it for the year? Also can some one give insight as to how Paul Haymen can help SF? Id love to hear anyones insight on why no CBS shows this year.
    thank you!

  10. jv on December 7th, 2010 8:17 PM

    Some thing to keep in mind about the ratings that SF did this weekend is that they were up against a live UFC show. When they were being counter programmed it was with either month old shows or other older material.


    The killer for Strikeforce on CBS was the low numbers that the last show drew. They did a fair bit of advertising for that one on CBS and the numbers still stunk. If they were doing 5million viewers Jake could have pulled out a 9 and shot Miller dead in the cage and CBS would have been begging for the next show. If you went to the CBS web site in the days following they had the brawl up on their web site.

    Viewers=money and money talks. The affiliates hate, hate, hate MMA and the CBS mother ship gets huge blow back when they run a fight card. Some affiliates just won’t run it, others shove it to the middle of the night etc. But if the money was good enough every one would get in line.

    As for Coker talking to CBS it doesn’t really work that way. Showtime is part of the CBS empire. Ken Herschman who is the head sports dude at Showtime would always be the lead on any discussions with CBS.

    One side note is when you listen to the fightnerds recent interview with Evgeni Kogan about the Fedor negotiations he says that there are negotiating with Showtime,Strikeforce and CBS. So it sounds like what ever they are talking about has a CBS component to it. Not surprising as Showtime would really like to rev up their PPV machine and CBS would be invaluable in making that happen. At one time the UFC was giving up 50% of their PPV income to the PPV providers. That is probably down to 40% now. The cable companies get a taste of that as well. But that is a heck of a lot of money that the PPV providers get to pocket for not much work.

    As for Paul Haymen my thoughts are that there really isn’t a lot that he can do that SF doesn’t already have being worked on. He would be really useful in fixing the production side but that is all Showtime and they are trying to force the Strikeforce fights to fit the image of the rest of their sports. Disastrously I might add. Watch one of the Super 6 fights and compare it to what you get for a Strikeforce show. It is almost identical except the ring girls are more skanky in boxing because Rockstar isn’t running them. If Paul took over as the spokesman for SF that could be a big help but it doesn’t sound like that is what Coker has in mind for him.

  11. Sergio on December 7th, 2010 11:59 PM

    Hey jv

    Thank You for taking the time n giving me your great insight! regarding your response I have a few more questions

    -Is it safe to say that the Strikeforce/CBS deal is on a show by show basis vs CBS
    committing to 4-6 shows a year.I remember last year,Coker saying SF will on network tv 4-6 times in 2010 obviously that didnt happen

    -What needs to happen for SF to have consistent successful long term shows on CBS? a)More starpower via Fedor,Carano,Walker? b) A stronger commitment from from CBS via 4-6 shows a year? What needs to lineup for this to happen for SF?

    -What do you think caused this last SF/CBS card to tank?..They did a pretty good job plugging the show during the games n on paper the fights looked exciting
    unfortnatly it didnt unfold that way..was it the lackluster fights? that time of year in sports/CBS? Lack of solid starpower?

    Thanks for your insight!

  12. Jose Mendoza on December 8th, 2010 1:33 AM

    Sergio and JV:

    The leading factors as to why SF did not make back on CBS in 2010 was the brawl, the ratings, and scheduling.

    Yes, CBS and SF are on a show-by-show basis. A card has to make sense to air it on CBS at this point.

    A key component that will affect CBS and PPV shows in the future is SF being able to get a TV show on regular TV, similar to Unleashed and TUF on TV.

  13. jv on December 8th, 2010 9:14 AM


    Scott said he has a syndicated show coming in the spring. Have you heard any rumours about where that might run? The way a lot of the international TV deals is structured makes sense for it to be there. But as to North America I am kind of scratching my head. If it is syndicated it probably isn’t going on Showtime like the fight camp 360 shows. Which is good news. I am having a hard time seeing CBS picking it up. HDNet would make sense as I guess one of the sports channels would as well. Any rumours floating around?

  14. Jose Mendoza on December 8th, 2010 12:55 PM


    That’s what I am currently looking into. As soon as I find out, I will let you know. Nothing but unfounded speculation at this point. =)

  15. Sergio on December 8th, 2010 3:11 PM

    Hey jv / Jose Mendoza
    Thank you both for your insights! I really appreciate it!

    -So dont the CBS executives understand that it takes a commitment of shows through the year or a syndicate show to build the SF product and make it profitable for everyone? You would think the initial upfront investment n risk would be alot cheaper then gambling on a sitcom that may or may not take off.

    -Also why would CBS wanna do more shows in 2011 if they were gun shy to commit through out 2010 after the brawl? I gotta assume if they do more shows in 2011 that they will want a bigger cut of the deal to off set the potential down ratings right?

    The SF product is usually pretty good n i hope they can get a good tv deal that will
    launch them into the big time,they deserve it! Thanks again for your feedback

  16. jv on December 8th, 2010 4:40 PM

    The show which is going to be a highlights/preview/interview the fighters kind of thing could end up on CBS. But if it did it would be at a really crappy time. The reason being that time on a network is very, very expensive. It is far cheaper to get on a cable channel.

    If CBS commits to some thing in 2011 it will because there is some thing really big to put on that will get the casual fans crawling out of the wood work. A combination of Lashley vs Batista to drive the casuals and Fedor vs some one big for the hard cores would be my best guess. But Coker keeps making funny noises with his throat that sound a lot like heavy weight tournament as well. If they ever got that going that might be CBS worthy as well.

    At one time there was a good chance that EA would do a pretty big spend to push the game if SF got back on CBS and that would have greased the wheels. But I don’t know how much stomach they have for it now with the numbers the game is turning. Of course if they tried to relaunch it like I suspect they will then it might make sense.

  17. bikash subba on December 12th, 2010 1:35 PM

    oh my god! MMA is finally in India….hope it flowers into the landscape and not simple wither away….

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