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.
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.
- 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.
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.
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) January 15, 2013