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.
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.