Bellator Signs 3-Year MTV2 TV Deal

December 14, 2010

After a rumored FX, Fuel TV, and FSN package TV deal failed to come to fruition , Bellator announced this morning a 3-year TV deal with MTV2 for next year, set to debut in March 2011.

New York, NY, December 14, 2010 – Bellator Fighting Championships, a growing force in the world of mixed martial arts, has a new television home, MTV2.  It was announced today jointly by Bellator Chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney and Eric Conte, SVP, Programming and Production, MTV2. The three-year deal will commence in 2011.

Featuring some of the sport’s top stars, Bellator brings a unique format of world-class fighting to fans with 12-week, eight-man tournaments in respective weight classes. MTV2, which features the highest concentration of M12-24 and M12-34 in television, will telecast two of these LIVE tournaments per year, plus a collection of special feature events. The first tournament will premiere in March 2011.

“MTV2 is the perfect home for the intense mixed martial arts action of Bellator,” Eric Conte, SVP, Programming and Production, MTV2. “MMA is at the top of our audience’s wish list, and partnering with Bellator to bring live events and specials to MTV2 made complete sense since our viewers are so hungry to see more MMA on-air.”

“We are thrilled to partner with MTV2 which has such a strong audience of hard-to-reach young guys,” said Rebney.  “With a timeslot on a prominent nationally-distributed cable network aimed at young men, we now have the perfect platform to showcase our exciting, action-packed tournaments and fighters.”

Bellator which is Latin for “Warrior,” is based in Chicago, IL and was founded in 2008 by Rebney. The stable of fighters include some of the most exciting in the sport including Eddie Alvarez, Hector Lombard, Joe Warren, Ben Askren, Zoila Frausto and Roger Huerta, once featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Bellator events are held in venues all across the country.  Their fights have previously aired on Fox Sports Net, NBC, bi-lingual channel Mun2, ESPN Deportes, and the Score.

About Bellator Fighting Championships

Bellator Fighting Championships is a Mixed Martial Arts promotional company headquartered in Chicago.  Bellator’s Founder/Chairman & CEO, Bjorn Rebney, is an experienced fighting sports and entertainment professional with a deep commitment to the purity and integrity of the sport of MMA and its athletes.  Bellator Fighting Championships’ executive team is comprised of top industry professionals in the areas of live event production, television production, fighter relations, venue procurement, sponsorship creation/development, international licensing, marketing, advertising, publicity and commission relations.  For more information go to www.Bellator.com

About MTV2

MTV2 is a man’s best friend, available in nearly 80 million homes and with the highest concentration of males 12-24 and 12-34 on TV today. A vibrant mix of music, lifestyle and action sports programming, MTV2 has reflected the habits and behavior of young people since its launch in 1996. MTV2 is part of MTV Networks, a unit of Viacom, one of the world’s leading creators of programming and content across all media platforms.


Payout Perspective:

MMAPayout was notified this weekend (posted on Twitter yesterday) by sources close to the negotiations that the Bellator-FX, FSN, Fuel TV deal was far from a sure thing.  In fact, a real concern of airing Bellator on a network such as FX would be how they would draw fans considering the lack of star power the promotion has at the moment.  We were also able to confirm that FX, FSN, and Fuel TV are still interested in airing MMA content, and a promotion such as the UFC or Strikeforce would be better suited for the networks demands.  The talks between Bellator and Fox were said to be in the early, exploratory stages, with members of the group stating that it wouldn’t have been exclusive to the promotion if a deal was made, and was not opposed to showcasing other MMA promotions.  Fuel TV has made it known that they are interested in showing MMA content as soon as possible, while FSN was already airing Bellator and has aired other promotions like the UFC, Affliction, IFL, and PRIDE in the past.  FX would be the game changer for any promotion, but they are being very careful as to what or who they air on their network.

BloodyElbow’s Jonathan Snowden interviewed Bjorn Rebney this morning regarding the deal, and Rebney had no problem stating how happy he was and how MTV2 was their first choice compared to their other options, calling the partnership a “dream marriage” and a “perfect fit”. When asked about the promotion’s health and sustainability after the deal, Rebney went on to say that “It turns the corner for Bellator and puts us in a cash flow break even or positive position, and assures our life expectancy for many, many years…The reason the IFLs and the Elite XCs and the BoDogs and the Afflictions have gone out of business and into bankruptcy is because their business models were faulty. They were inherently flawed.”

Rebney ended the interview by stating the following:

Now this company is self sustaining. Now this company is in a position, based on this magical alliance with MTV2, where we no longer need any investment capital. We’re in a terrific place. But for people who haven’t ever built up a business, for people who haven’t ever had to search for investment capital, it’s a confusing part of our industry to understand. But we sat back years ago and built a comprehensive business model working with highly skilled people in this industry, put in every conceivable expense and every conceivable revenue line item and said ‘We need this amount of money to build this, and once we get to this point, we will be able to structure deals that bring in this amount of revenue. And once we have this amount of revenue we’ll be completely self sustainable, we won’t need any more capital, and we’ll be making money. And that’s where we are. Bellator Fighting Championship will be around for many years to come. This first three year, spectacular deal with MTV2 is just the beginning.

Though Bellator is currently trumpeting the MTV2 TV deal, experts within the industry see this deal as somewhat a similar deal Bellator already had with FSN, except that instead of worrying about preempted events, they now have to face new problems such as attracting a new fan base into a channel who is not known for sports programming and is notorious for not drawing many viewers, securing a good time-slot, and finding enough sponsors and partners to make the shows profitable.  Dave Meltzer commented on the deal over at F4WOnline, and stated that Pro Wrestling tried to air content on MTV2 and only drew 0.1 ratings.  He also stated that the announcement was a “major let down” since the network doesn’t draw viewers and that the new TV deal will not allow them to grow as a company and could be a death knell to the promotion, as it would severely limit them from becoming a major player in the MMA market.

Another big issue is becoming profitable off of this TV deal.  MTV is notorious for having low budget-reality TV programming, which does not require much up front in order to get great numbers, see “Jersey Shore” for example. MMA insiders believe that the licensing fees that MTV2 will pay Bellator won’t be much different than what they were already getting over on FSN, and may be able to cover their production costs. Not much revenue is currently being generated from the events themselves, when you consider sponsors, gates, attendance, fighter payroll, etc other than the site license fees they receive from the venues.  Rebney expects “news to flow regarding Bellator sponsorships, strategic alliances and fights now that the TV partner is official”.  He also expects MTV2 to strongly market and promote the live Bellator content.

In the end, Bellator needed to make a move from FSN, and this move definitely puts them on a channel that draws a good demo and will allow them to televise their events live.  They have improved their TV reach for casual fans in a good demo after the deal, and the promotion has consistently shown a resiliency after each season to improve their product.  Rebney’s objective is to now try and cash in on the new opportunity Bellator has for next year, hoping the mainstream entertainment channel provides the boost they need to continue on forward.

16 Responses to “Bellator Signs 3-Year MTV2 TV Deal”

  1. SCSI on December 14th, 2010 4:29 PM

    And another big problem is that MTV2 isn’t offered on DirecTV.

  2. Tweets that mention Payout Perspective: Bellator Signs 3-Year MTV2 TV Deal : MMAPayout.com: The Business of MMA -- Topsy.com on December 14th, 2010 4:42 PM

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by dilletaunt and MMA Supremacy, mma.ly. mma.ly said: Payout Perspective: Bellator Signs 3-Year MTV2 TV Deal http://bit.ly/iarQbd (MMA Payout) #fb […]

  3. Jose Mendoza on December 14th, 2010 4:47 PM

    SCSI:

    There were quite a few fans who were not too happy that their provider does not offer MTV 2 in HD, but to my knowledge, they do offer MTV2, though it may depend what package you have with DirecTV.

  4. Bellator Announces Three-Year Deal With MTV2 (Update II) on December 14th, 2010 6:06 PM

    […] expressed their concerns with this deal. This biggest one appears to be that no one watched MTV2. Here’s MMA Payout’s summary of the concerns. Though Bellator is currently trumpeting the MTV2 TV deal, experts within the industry see this […]

  5. jv on December 14th, 2010 6:17 PM

    Good write up as usual Jose.

    I believe up in Canada we have a Canadianized version of MTV2. It will be interesting to see if the Bellator fights end up there or get picked up by one of the sports channels. I am hoping it winds up on a sports channel.

  6. Stan on December 15th, 2010 6:09 AM

    SCSI,

    I have Direct TV and MTV 2

  7. Diego on December 15th, 2010 6:21 AM

    Great writeup Jose.

    I can’t ever remember watching anything on MTV2, so this will be a first for me. However, I can’t see myself sticking around for MTV2’s regular programing once the Bellator show finishes. Likewise, I can’t see a bunch of tweeners watching Bellator when it comes on MTV2. They will probably switch the channel to MTV.

    Anytime a CEO uses the word “magical” to describe a deal I shudder. I suspect that the MTV2 deal is for a lot less money than the FX deal, and it’s on channel that doesn’t exactly match the MMA fan base demo.

    I hope that this deal pays the bills, because Bellator can’t keep losing money forever and I have enjoyed their tournaments up to now, but I’m suspicious of Rebney’s claims to have “turned the corner”.

    I will say this, I’ve had to watch Bellator on the MSG channel (Madison Square Garden) which is where the show is carried in New York, and it has been brutal. The fights are often preempted with crap like replays of old NY Nicks games. On a personal level, I don’t give a damn what network my MMA is on, as long as it’s on at a regular time and doesn’t get bumped. I just hope this deal is taking care of Bellator, so they can take care of their fighters.

  8. Diego on December 15th, 2010 6:40 AM

    Let me throw this question out for debate:

    Is a three year deal too long?

    If, in my opinion, MTV2 is not the best vehicle for Bellator to gain rapid expansion, does this deal tie their hands for too long a period? Maybe in a year or two they could have jumped to a better network; I think Bellator would be perfect alongside ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights to round out ESPN’s fight programming.

    Pure speculation, but does that indicate a hint of panic on Rebney’s part after the FX deal fell through?

    Does anyone have any idea of the numbers behind this deal? I’m dying to know if Bellator really going to break even.

  9. Nick on December 15th, 2010 9:56 AM

    I don’t see a deal where you are trumpeting the great 12-34 demo as being magical. When they average around 100k viewers in prime time and are jacked about the 12-34 demo it doesn’t bode well. The UFC doesn’t make their profits off of the preteen crowd, nor does any sport that I’m aware of which makes it a little scary on the revenue front that he’s jacked to get to a bunch of young kids on a weekly basis.

  10. jv on December 15th, 2010 3:53 PM

    It sure won’t be the right crowd if they ever want to get onto PPV that is for sure.

    The next question for me is whether Bellator will keep producing the show and eating the cost or do they finally get to foist that onto the channel? Really there is no good answer here. Either they eat the cost or they lose control.

  11. jv on December 15th, 2010 4:15 PM

    Guess I just found the answer

    ” We will continue to produce our own program but the essence of the partnership that we have with MTV2 is highly integrated, so I’m leaving for New York tomorrow morning at 7 AM, I’m going to spend the next three days in New York all day working with the production people at MTV2 talking with them about everything from music to features on fighters to promotional sports and the like, so you know they’re heavily vested in the program and they’re heavily vested in insuring that it does great numbers and is entertaining and exciting but we’re going to stay absolutely pure sports. ”

    http://www.mmatorch.com/artman2/publish/Interviews_34/article_7854.shtml

  12. Diego on December 16th, 2010 10:48 AM

    jv, good point regarding PPV. I hadn’t thought of that, but then Bellator is years out from having the kind of star power that would sell a PPV.

  13. Jose Mendoza on December 16th, 2010 11:48 AM

    jv:

    Yes, that is a good read over at MMATorch and goes into a bit more detail on the deal. The other interesting tidbit I found in that interview is that the broadcasting team of Jimmy Smith and Sean Wheelock are not yet confirmed to return. Seems they are still negotiating how the broadcast will look like still.

  14. Stan on December 20th, 2010 6:18 AM

    Diego,

    That is an interesting question to ask about this situation. I would say it probably is a little too long, however it might be a necessary evil.

    No doubt Bellator is having some cash flow problems and who knows how long they could have lasted without some form of TV deal and TV execs aren’t into giving out charity. So yeah, in an ideal world Bellator might have liked a 1 or 2 year deal so they could renegotiate or move on if they gain some traction but feel they outgrew the current deal, but business isn’t done in an ideal world, have to give some to get some. The strength of the longer deal is they can shop that to sponsors and maybe get some more stable, long term partnerships going in that area.

    The MTV 2 deal is an OK one IMO, there are some negatives and positives. They do have a regular presence, which is important. If they put on quality
    shows an audience has a weekly place to find them at a regular time. Many of the negatives are pointed out by the write-up and the following posts.

    We always have to think what the alternatives are, sure it would be great for them to be on ESPN2 or a more high profile network, but we can discuss those options but have to realize that they were not likely viable options for Bellator.

  15. Diego on December 20th, 2010 9:41 AM

    I guess my concern is with whether Bellator has truly turned the corner and can now be profitable. If that’s the case, a 3 year deal makes sense, but if this MTV2 deal doesn’t put them in the black, then 3 more years even a little bit in the red will end them. Without the #s we can’t be sure and like so often in this sport we have to hope for the best.

  16. Stan on December 20th, 2010 9:46 AM

    Diego,

    True, but who knows if they could of even survived next season without a deal like this. Also, at some point in a business if you want to make it big or bigger you have to jump in with both feet, there’s no guarantees in business or anything in life. Maybe Rebney and others share the same concerns we have pointed out, but feel there’s the realistic potential for a quality upside. Maybe they feel they’re established enough to take a gamble for a big payoff instead of rambling around on their old deal which might have ended them in 2 or 3 more seasons anyway.

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