Viacom Buys Majority Stake In Bellator Fighting Championships

October 26, 2011

Late last night, Sergio Non of USA Today broke that news that media conglomerate giant Viacom had purchased a majority stake in Bellator Fighting Championships.

Viacom, parent of MTV Networks, bought a majority stake in Bellator Fighting Championships and will start airing the promotion’s bouts on Spike in 2013, the companies told USA TODAY this week. They’ve had ongoing talks for about a year as they finished up various deals, and over the past month finally reached the point where they could announce the news, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney said.

Selling to Viacom’s entertainment conglomerate guarantees a stable future for Bellator, said Rebney, who will remain in charge of Bellator.

“It puts all of those cornerstones of ownership in place for us,” he 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.”

 

SPIKE TV PRESS RELEASE:

Viacom has purchased a majority stake in Bellator Fighting Championships, USA Today reported Wednesday morning. The promotion’s fights will begin airing on Spike in 2013.

The buy, said Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney, provides a foundation for the promotion’s future.

“It puts all of those cornerstones of ownership in place for us”, Rebney told USA Today. He will stay onboard to head the fight promotion.

“We’ll have a platform to promote the brand that reaches 99 million fans.” said Rebney to Newsday. “The benefit of what we’ve done in terms of this partnership is going to be reflected in who we’re able to sign, and where we’re able to sign them from and what we’re able to provide the fighters.”

Spike carries rights to air the UFC library through 2012. For the time being, Spike will supplement MTV2’s current Bellator programming with highlight shows and related content, online and on TV. Additionally, Spike.com will continue to stream preliminary card fights.

Spike network president Kevin Kay was bullish on the purchase. “(We) started to have conversations with MTV2 about getting invested in a mixed martial arts promotion and become owners as opposed to renters,” Kay said to USA Today. “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.”

Bellator currently fields such talent as Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez, Middleweight Champion Hector Lombard, Welterweight Champion Ben Askren, Jay Hieron and Alexis Vila.

 

Payout Perspective:

Here are some notes and observations from the story:

– Bellator is now the #2 promotion in Mixed Martial Arts behind the UFC.

– Although Spike’s agreement ends this year with the UFC, they stil lhave rights to the UFC library in 2012, which will prevent Bellator from airing on Spike TV until 2013.

– Spike TV started talking about possibly investing in Bellator with MTV2 and Viacom’s mergers and acquisition group when TV negotiations fell through with the UFC.

– Having a strong #2 promotion may be a good thing for the UFC, as they have been dealing with an FTC investigation for the majority of the year.

Bjorn Rebney: Viacom is the majority shareholder of BellatorMMA now… Rebney will stay on as CEO.

Bjorn Rebney: BellatorMMA will keep their tournament format through 2012 and 2013 on Spike.

– Spike will supplement MTV2′s current Bellator programming with highlight shows and related content, online and on TV. Additionally, Spike.com will continue to stream preliminary fights.

10 Responses to “Viacom Buys Majority Stake In Bellator Fighting Championships”

  1. Diego on October 26th, 2011 7:04 AM

    Jose,

    Any word on the valuation?

    Does Viacom have a controlling stake? I can’t imagine they would take a minority stake after their experience with the UFC, but then they aren’t in the MMA business.

    Who was in charge of production before, and who will be in charge now?

    I’m sure details will start to come out.

  2. Machiel Van on October 26th, 2011 7:05 AM

    I don’t know, it seems like whenever media companies purchase stakes in MMA promotions bad things happen…

  3. Jose Mendoza on October 26th, 2011 10:13 AM

    Diego,

    We will definitely keep updating this story as we get more info.

  4. BrainSmasher on October 26th, 2011 2:57 PM

    Jason Cruz, remember when i said Spike should buy Bellator so they benefit from PPVs and the promotion they build? It looks like that is what has happened. It is very smart IMO. They have basically done what HBO and Showtime have done with boxing. They get a cut of the product their network built. There will be a time when Bellator could get big and want to take all their stars off of Free TV and on to PPV. Now the network may have pull to prevent it or at least make more money off the PPV. So its a win win.

    Im sure Viacom/Spike wasnt happy that they built a company, the UFC, into $50 million PPV events any would only send them bums for UFNs.

  5. Jose Mendoza on October 26th, 2011 4:36 PM

    Updated with Spike TV Press Release.

  6. mmaguru on October 26th, 2011 5:42 PM

    Interesting, but #2 by a huge distance. I expect 2012 to be the year of acquisition. My early prediction is that the UFC will also be involved in some form of acquisition, possibly a larger portion of the Zuffa being purchased by Flash Entertainment or some other company making a play for the company.

  7. Jose Mendoza on October 27th, 2011 1:30 AM

    mmaguru:

    “Interesting, but #2 by a huge distance” – It has always been this way, but now a media group is giving full support to a non-UFC MMA promotion, which is a first in a really long time. I expect Bellator to have a Strikeforce-like growth from this point on, similar to what happened when they signed with Showtime.

    Not only will Bellator have the backing of Viacom, but they will also be on a network (SPIKE) that has a reach of almost 100M homes and has shown dedication to shows they invest on (TNA). This will be incredibly interesting to see unfold, that’s for sure.

  8. Diego on October 27th, 2011 10:19 AM

    As these guys slug it out with the UFC on Fox, I expect to get a lot of free, high quality MMA.

  9. Jose Mendoza on October 28th, 2011 9:28 AM

    Diego,

    When there is competition, the consumer wins. Absolutely.

  10. BrainSmasher on October 30th, 2011 5:07 PM

    That is a myth in MMA. Remember that when you see Brock vs Overeem because SF quit competing. Just is i reliazed it when i got to see Chuck vs Wandy, Franklin vs Hendo, Hendo vs Anderson, Mir vs Nog, etc

    Comp is good when you are talking about an unlimited resource like a service or a product. Not when the service/product is limited(talent) the product of each company becomes watered down.

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