TUF 17 debut hits 1.5 million viewer average

January 24, 2013

MMA Fighting reports that the debut of The Ultimate Fighter 17 scored an average of 1.51 million viewers.  Its the highest rating for the TUF franchise since moving to FX.

The two hour Tuesday debut on FX featured coaches Chael Sonnen and Jon Jones.

Payout Perspective:

This season featured a different production look and it will be interesting to see how it will be received.  The rating is a huge improvement from its Friday time slot.  We will see if it can continue with the ratings.

UFC on FX 7: 1,857,000 viewer average

January 23, 2013

MMA Fighting reports that UFC on FX 7 earned a record 1,857,000 million viewer average on Saturday night.  Additionally, the prelims on Fuel TV received a record 255,000 viewer average.

The 1.857 million average on FX was the highest average for a live MMA broadcast on the FX network.

Via MMA Fighting:

In the key demos, Saturday’s show did a 1.71 in Males 18-34 and 1.86 in Males 18-49….Also, for the first time in the history of FX, it won the entire night in Males 18-34, Males 18-49 and total viewers 18-49, beating not only every cable station but also the major networks. The FX broadcast did a 1.23 in persons 18-49, the most desired demographic by advertisers, which even beat two of the UFC on FOX shows last year. In comparison on Saturday night, FOX did a 0.9, CBS and ABC both did 0.8’s and NBC did a 0.5 in the same demo.

Payout Perspective:

Whether it was the Belfort-Bisping matchup and Michael Bisping’s quest to earn a shot at Anderson Silva, or whether it was the lack of competition on Saturday night, Saturday’s fights were a ratings success.  HBO did run a boxing card Saturday night but it was card for only the hardcore boxing fans.  I am pleasantly surprised with the ratings considering the lack of known fighters on the card. For whatever reason, overseas cards do not do too well. But, Saturday bucked a trend.

Fuel TV to become Fox Sports 2

January 22, 2013

The Sports Business Journal* reports that Fox is restructuring its channels as it plans to unveil two new sports networks later in 2013.  In addition, FX will no longer carry sports programming.

The news of a Fox Sports 1 was known for a while but it was not until Fox filed a trademark application for Fox Sports 2 this past November that a second network would be planned.  Fuel TV will be repackaged into the second Fox network while the Speed Channel will land on Fox Sports 1.

Similar to ESPN and ESPN2, the Fox Sports channels will share content with the larger events occurring on Fox Sports 1.  In comparison, the Speed Channel is distributed to 81 million homes while Fuel TV is available in 37 million homes.

The decision to include a second channel is based on the realization that it had acquired enough content for two channels.  Soccer and Fox’s FIFA World Cup rights in 2018 and 2022 seem to be the main driver.

*SBJ requires a subscription

Payout Perspective:

For all of the praises of sustained positive ratings for Fuel TV, the article points to the inability to grow Fuel as a reason to repackage the network. In 2012, Fuel TV  and Fox Soccer were two of the three lowest rated Nielsen-rated cable networks in prime time. Its Fox’s hope that converting Fuel to a network with broader programming will help drive distribution.

We will see what this means for the UFC.  It recently switch airing its televised prelims to FX from Fuel TV.  It appears that the restructuring will mean that prelims would land on one of the two new Fox Sports networks.  There has been no word on whether TUF would move to the Fox Sports network or remain on FX as it can be categorized as reality television.

The restructure could help the UFC in the long run but may hurt them in the short term.  Eliminating FX from the mix of networks to show the UFC hurts its opportunity to showcase its product to a broader audience.  Elimination of UFC Prelims and other live events (i.e., UFC on FX) would hurt its chances of appealing to a broader audience that may eventually purchase its PPVs. But, if the new Fox Sports networks are a success and can grow in distribution, the UFC can be an anchor in providing content for Fox.  

Alvarez lawyers request preliminary injunction to appear at UFC 159

January 20, 2013

Eddie Alvarez’s attorneys will seek a preliminary injunction to allow the free agent lightweight to sign a Zuffa contract to fight at UFC 159 on April 27, 2013. The Order to Show Cause hearing is set for January 25th.

According to Court papers filed in the US District Court for the District of New Jersey by Alvarez’s attorney, Zuffa will not promote or contract with Alvarez until it has Court permission.  It has to do so within 90 days of the event.  Thus, the deadline is January 27th (the hearing is set for Friday the 25th since the 27th is Sunday).

The hearing is to show cause as to “why Bellator should not be restrained from interfering with Alvarez’s prospective contract with Zuffa and why Alvarez should not be permitted  to contract with Zuffa, so that he may participate in Zuffa’s April 27, 2013 event.

As in all preliminary injunctions, the threshold Alvarez’s attorneys must prove for the Court to grant the preliminary junction is:
1) the likelihood of success on the merits;
2) that Alvarez will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is denied;
3) that granting the preliminary relief will not result in even greater harm to the nonmoving party (Bellator); and
4) that the public interest favors such relief.

If granted, Alvarez’s attorneys would post a bond pending the outcome of the litigation.

Payout Perspective:

Elements 1 through 3 are questionable especially element 1 which we believe Bellator will base much of its substantive argument.  Bellator briefing opposing the preliminary injunction should be filed this week.  It will be interesting to see what the state court will do here considering the general notion that preliminary injunctions are usually granted. Alvarez’s attorneys emphasize the uniqueness and short duration of a fighter’s career to stress the need that Alvarez should be allowed to participate in the April card.

In the pleadings, Alvarez’s attorneys hypothesize that the Court should grant the preliminary injunction notwithstanding the fact that the Court may decide in favor of Bellator on the merits. Thus creating the scenario that Alvarez fights on the April card for the UFC but then Bellator will have the rights (although limited) to re-sign Alvarez.  The attorneys for Alvarez also point to a $500 bond indicated in the Bellator contract.  Usually, posting bond is much more and this would be a nominal amount.  If the Court grants the injunction, Alvarez’s attorneys would need to post bond pending the outcome of litigation.  A $500 bond would be worth the amount he could make at UFC 159 based on the proposed contract Zuffa has already offered Alvarez.

MMA Payout will continue to monitor this week.

Payout Perspective: Bellator MMA Makes Spike TV Debut

January 20, 2013

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective! This week we’ll be taking a look at the Spike TV network debut of Bellator, which was headlined by the Bellator Lightweight title bout between champ Michael Chandler and tournament winner Rick Hawn. The co-main event featured a Featherweight title bout between Champ Pat Curran and tournament winner Patricio “Pitbull” Freire.

The event took place from the Bren Events Center in Irvine, California and featured a LW title fight between Chandler vs. Hawn, FW title fight between Curran vs Pitbull, and the beginning of the LHW tournament featuring Babalu vs Zayats, Petruzeli vs Noe and Newton vs Djambazov. The prelims portion was streamed on SpikeTV.com.

(Courtesy of MMAFighting.com)

 

Fighter Disclosed Payouts

No fighter pay has been disclosed at this time.

 

Attendance and Gate

Bellator 85 held at the Bren Events Center in Irvine, California unofficially drew 4,570 in attendance for a $138,446 gate. Of those in attendance,  2,570 were paid and about 2,000 were comps. The average paid ticket price was around $54 per ticket. These numbers have not been made official yet by the CSAC, so we will release those as soon as we get them.

At this stage, Bellator is clearly meant to be a TV product, and the most important thing for them is to get fans to come out to their events to provide a great event atmosphere for Spike TV.  We also must take into account that the events are being held on Thursday nights, so booking smallish venues and filling them up should be the goal here for Bellator to provide a good TV product.  Of course, as Bellator grows, expect attendance and gate numbers to grow as well, but for now expectattendance numbers between 1K-5K with a gate between $100K to $200K.

Ratings

Bellator 85 on Spike TV Thursday night averaged 938,000 viewers (0.7 rating) and peaked at 1.219 million viewers. The key demo rating of M18-34 was 0.7.  This was the largest audience ever to watch a Bellator event, breaking the record of 325,000 viewers on MTV2 for Bellator 44 on May 14, 2011 by nearly tripling it. Bellator benefited greatly from their lead-in, TNA Wrestling, who drew 1.6M viewers and heavily promoted Bellator’s debut during the show. On the other hand, Bellator was going up against the Lance Armstrong confession on Oprah which pulled 3.2M viewers and against Lakers vs Heat, which did 3.55M viewers on ESPN (Dave Meltzer of MMAFighting).

For comparisons, UFC on FX averaged 1.2M average viewers per event last year (8 live events on the higher rated FX in 2012). Fuel TV only averages 100-200K viewers per event and is in far less homes, so a fair comparison wouldn’t apply though it shows what type of an impact the TV platform has in terms of overall viewership and sponsors. The last five Ultimate Fight Night events the UFC ran on Spike TV averaged 1.73M viewers between 2010-2011.

The very well done “King Mo: Unrivaled” special which aired after Bellator from 12:00am – 1:00 am drew 376K viewers per Loretta Hunt of Sports Illustrated. Good auxiliary programming from Bellator/Spike TV here.

Rating Notes:  Bellator averaged 1.1M viewers for first 45 minutes of the broadcast (10:00- 10:45PM)… Compared to the Bellator 7 premiere on MTV2 – Bellator’s debut on Spike TV was up +195% in M18-49, +200% in P18-49, and +394% overall.

Spike TV Rating Breakdown (Quarterly for first hour):

– Bellator 85 on Spike TV (10:00 pm-10:15 pm): 1.219 million viewers
– Bellator 85 on Spike TV (10:15 pm-10:30 pm): 1.025 million viewers
– Bellator 85 on Spike TV (10:30 pm-10:45 pm): 1.033 million viewers
– Bellator 85 on Spike TV (10:45 pm-11:00 pm): 871,000 viewers
– The rest of the event hovered around 800-900K viewers until Petruzelli vs Noe, which dipped below 800K around midnight.

– Overall: Average of 938,000 viewers watched the fight live or via DVR playback within the same day. (Nielsen)

***

Bellator 85 on Spike TV Fight Rating Breakdown:

– Curran vs Pitbull averaged 1.1M viewers
– Sobral vs Zayats: averaged 956,000  viewers
– Chandler vs Hawn averaged 936,000 viewers
– Petruzelli vs Noe averaged 739,000 viewers

***

MMAJunkie breaks down the history of Bellator’s ratings on MTV2:

– Bellator 85 rating (Season 8, Bellator 85 on Spike TV): 938,000 viewers

– Bellator 74-84 ratings (Season 7 average on MTV2): 162,000 viewers
– Bellator 71-73 ratings (Summer Series average on MTV2): 180,000 viewers
– Bellator 60-70 ratings (Season 6 average on MTV2): 155,000 viewers
– Bellator 49-59 ratings (Season 5 average on MTV2): 186,000 viewers
– Bellator 46-48 ratings (Summer Series average on MTV2): 229,000 viewers
– Bellator 35-45 ratings (Season 4 average on MTV2): 204,000 viewers

Bellator’s 50 events on MTV2 averaged 180,000 viewers per event.

 

Storylines

– The Rebranding of Bellator Fighting Championships

In order to prepare for the big debut on Spike TV, Bellator changed its name from “Bellator Fighting Championships” to “Bellator MMA – Championship Tournaments” and modified the logo.  Interesting to point out “Fighting Championships” was previously shared with the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships) before the change. The reason for the change is clear. They want to separate themselves from the UFC and stress what is different about them, which is the tournament format, where you earn your title fights. It’s something the UFC has been a bit lax with this past year giving title shots to the most marketable fight they could make rather than the #1 contender in the division.

Bellator MMA (new brand):

 

Bellator Fighting Championships (Old Brand):

 

– Promotion of Bellator’s Debut on Spike TV

The other key aspect of making the transition from MTV2 to Spike TV was to let the Spike TV audience as well as the MMA audience know about it.  Below are some of the promo materials that were used to promote the move for this past Thursday night.  The first event has to be considered a success and fell in line where Spike TV executives had hoped.  Bellator now has to try and maintain the momentum in hopes the Bellator fan base will continue to grow throughout the season.

Spike TV Season 8 Debut Promos:

 

Spike TV Season Debut 8 Poster:

 

– Spike TV Using Cross Promotion Between TNA and Bellator

An interesting technique that Spike TV is using for Bellator is cross-promotion of brands, which was extremely successful in Japan  as MMA fighters, kick-boxers, and pro wrestlers would appear on each others shows and also on the networks highest rated shows to boost ratings and create awareness with casual viewers. Spike TV is also said to be signing a TV deal with Glory, which promotes kick-boxing events.  The combination of airing pro-wrestling, MMA, and kick-boxing and cross-promoting between the brands is a formula Spike is expected to apply this year and one with a great deal of potential.

 

– Sponsors

One area where Bellator will benefit greatly from is the list of quality sponsors that Spike TV already works with and signing them on to Bellator.  This was apparent for their debut on Thursday night, where the following sponsors were spotted in the Bellator cage:

– Dave and Busters
– Miller Lite
– Movie 43 (New Movie Release)
– Monster Sound

As for the entire season, Mike Chiappetta of MMAFighting notes the following sponsors have signed on (in addition to the previous list):

– DirecTV, US Navy, Paramount, and Jos. A Bank… which is a pretty strong group.

– Bellator also just announced that it has also signed an extension with Everlast for another year.
Ex-MMAPayout contributor Robert Joyner brings up an interesting point regarding the move to Spike TV. “Sponsors are seeing their audience triple, but I’m hearing a lot don’t want to move off old MTV pay”. Obviously, its going to take some time, but Bellator and their stable of fighters will have to slowly monetize the move, which means getting more sponsorship dollars for bringing in many more eyeballs to their brand placements on the cage and on the fighters.

– Loretta Hunt of Sports Illustrated pointed out an interesting tweet, where the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets sent out a tweet to promote the Bellator debut on Spike TV, which created some unexpected synergy.

 

UFC on FX 7 attendance, gate and bonuses

January 19, 2013

MMA Junkie reports the attendance, gate and bonuses for UFC on FX 7.  The attendance for the event in San Paulo, Brazil was a sellout with 9,116 fans.

Bonuses were announced and each fighter received $50,000 for their efforts:

KO of the Night: Vitor Belfort
Submission of the Night:  Ildemar Alcantra
Fight of the Night:  CB Dolloway v. Danial Sarafian

The main event saw an upset as Vitor Belfort pleased the crowd with a second round TKO of Michael Bisping.  The loss derails Bisping’s chance for a title shot against Anderson Silva.

Payout Perspective:

With the loss of Michael Bisping, what does the UFC do next for Anderson Silva? Vitor Belfort again?  Chris Weidman?

As for the event, it was another good showing by the Brazilian fans.  San Paulo should definitely see another event in its city.

Bellator 85: 938,000 viewer average

January 18, 2013

MMA Junkie reports that Bellator’s debut on Spike TV came through with an average of 938,000 viewers. The viewership was described as “fantastic” by Spike TV president Kevin Kay.

The viewership numbers bested all previous showings of the MMA organization on MTV2. Bellator 85 was the centerpiece of the new Thursday night lineup which included TNA Wrestling then Bellator MMA and a documentary on King Mo Lawal ended the night.

Bellator 85: 938,000 viewers

The best Bellator did on MTV2 was an average of 325,000.

Payout Perspective:

Nothing like a faux pro wrestling marriage and a heel turn to get an audience for Bellator’s debut episode on Spike TV. That’s what transpired with TNA Wrestling serving as the lead in to Bellator.

MMA Payout’s Adam Swift called the ratings on Thursday morning:

Bellator was smart by showing the card in reverse as it started off the night with a championship bout featuring Pat Curran and Patricio Friere. No need to hype the fight, just show it to maintain the viewers that were just tuning in to see what Bellator was all about. Another improvement in its move to Spike was watching Bellator in HD which makes the viewing experience much easier. Overall a success Thursday night. We will see if Bellator can continue with the momentum going into next week.

Hendricks gets on menu of Wild Wings

January 17, 2013

MMA Payout has learned that UFC welterweight Johny Hendricks has signed a sponsorship deal with the Ontario, Canada based restaurant franchise, Wild Wings.  Hendricks has an item named after him called, “The Bigg Rigg Bundle.”

Via Hendricks’ twitter account:

The tweet is an image on the Wild Wings menu.  The “Bigg Rigg Bundle” is a wing sampler that includes a 60 oz pitcher of MGD and 21 wings with a trio of flavors for $39.99.  Hendricks’ image is on the menu next to the menu entry.

Payout Perspective:

The Ontario-based restaurant chain has sponsored many UFC fighters and now adds Hendricks to the list.  This deal helps people get to know Hendricks’ face as his image appears on the menus next to the “Bigg Rigg Bundle.”  With the deal, his personal brand should go up.  Its interesting that the Canadian-based company has “Bigg Rigg,” a threat to the welterweight title, in its menus in a country where Georges St. Pierre is very popular.  

Bellator 360 ratings down to 350K average

January 16, 2013

MMA Junkie reports that Bellator’s original show, “Bellator 360” scored an average of 350,000 viewers for its two hour block of programming on Thursday.

The first episode on January 10th aired at 10 p.m. ET and received an average of 397,000 viewers. The second episode aired at 11 p.m. ET and received just 303,000 viewers.

January 3rd 487,000 viewer average
January 10th 350,000 viewer average

Payout Perspective:

In only its second episode, we see a big decrease from its debut.  The first hour took a look at welterweights and the second hour looked at featherweights.  Not sure if Bellator should be worried about the dip considering its live product has not been on the network yet.  Still, the ratings are much higher than it did on MTV2.

Rampage upset he cannot wear Reebok in Octagon

January 15, 2013

Going into his last contracted fight, Quentin Jackson is upset with the UFC for not letting him wear the logo of his newest sponsor, Reebok.  The latest complaint seals the deal that next Saturday’s fight will be his last in the UFC.

Jackson aired his grievances during a conference call which promoted UFC on Fox 6 next week.  The issue appears to be the fact that Reebok has not paid the UFC sponsorship fee.  Jackson claims the sponsorship fee instituted by the UFC since 2009 may be illegal.

Despite not wearing the logo to the Octagon, Reebok indicated it will stand behind Jackson.

(H/t:  MMA Junkie)

Payout Perspective:

Since NBA star John Wall left Reebok (and his signature shoes) for Adidas, did the sportswear company try to compensate by signing Jackson?  We joke here.  But it appears that this issue could be easily rectified by Reebok paying the sponsor fee.  The UFC indicated it is open to speaking with Reebok about sponsorship opportunities.  Its not known whether Reebok refused to pay the fee or if it even knew of such sponsor fee.

The underlying issue here is the ongoing tension between Rampage and the UFC.  Not allowing Rampage to wear his sponsor logo is another sign to him that he is being disrespected by the company.  In this last fight, it appears that Rampage will not leave on good terms.

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