New York Times feature reviews UFC-Bellator-Spike relationship

February 18, 2013

The New York Times’ Sunday Business Section featured an article which addressed the current state of the MMA television business.  The article focuses more on Bellator as it becomes the new dance partner for Spike TV.

Entitled, “The Slugfest in the Executive Suite,” the print version, which is the Business Section’s front page story is a cartoon graphic of two male execs with taped hands and feet duking it out in what appears to be an Octagon.

Some takeaways from the read include the fact that Ari Emmanuel represented the UFC in its negotiations with Spike TV.  The UFC, according to the article, wanted a “50 percent fee increase” and “other demands” when it renegotiated with Spike TV.

Other factoids from the article:

-One of the “other demands” made by the UFC was a “50 percent equity stake in Spike” and control over what fights it could show on PPV.

-Viacom paid for a $50 million majority stake in Bellator.

-At the Atlantic City event on December 7, 2012, “[m]ost of the [Bellator] fighters received $3,000 each to show up and an additional $3,000 for winning,” stated the article.

-The article refers to the 18-34 demo as “superconsumers.”  As we know, its a valuable demo for advertisers.

Payout Perspective:

The article skews toward Bellator as it enters its new relationship with Spike TV.  Perhaps the UFC chose not to be interviewed for the article, but that seems odd considering it would want to get the its side of the negotiations out to the public.  The most interesting part of the piece what was demanded from the UFC to stay with the network.  Obviously, insiders know what occurred, but the perception from the article is that the UFC asked for too much.  A 50 percent rights fee increase and a 50 percent stake in Spike may have been too much for Viacom to stomach.  For the UFC, this might have been an overreach to negotiate with other networks and/or payback for its original investment in producing and funding TUF.

3 Responses to “New York Times feature reviews UFC-Bellator-Spike relationship”

  1. Chris on February 18th, 2013 12:48 PM

    Think the article was poorly written. Yes it focuses more on Bellator but they didnt disrespect teh UFC or anything.

    I just think the article itself was poorly written, I’ve read better stuff from bloggers online.

  2. edi on February 18th, 2013 3:57 PM

    What really need to know is the leverage that the big picture negotiation w/ Fox works
    Into the story. Did the UFC already have an offer from Fox?

  3. Brain Smasher on February 18th, 2013 8:25 PM

    To me it seems Spike is hell bent on staying a small time network. I mean when you step back and take a look at them they do not make very good business decisions. Outside of sports they have never created any original shows. Deciding to show reruns of popular drama’s like CSI. They had the world wide leader in Pro Wrestling in WWE and lost them at their peak and replaced them with a cheap knock off. They got lucky with the UFC and then lost them at their peak and replaced them with a cheap knock off. One has to really question Spikes commitment to be one of the big boys. They had a chance with WWE and UFC and a few other additions to the network to be a major player and pretty much lock down the 18-49 demo. Even though they tried to take credit for TUF. They were not responsible for that either. I believe it was Craig Poligian who come up with the Idea. Even still Spike didnt sign the UFC. The UFC has to pay to be on Spike. It wasnt until after TUF finale they worked out a deal. This is why i say Spike got lucky with the UFC. Because they didnt find it or create it or even welcome it and they got lucky Zuffa was willing to invest and pay to air on their network and they were lucky all the other networks were scared of MMA at the time.

    Its really amazing when you think of what Spike could have been and what they are now. Be it MMA or Pro Wrestling. They are second rate. I dont see Spike ever making the commitment to have that level of a commodity on their network. They dont want to spend. Since they have part ownership of Bellator they will not be able to get big and leave spike. So if Spike doesnt want to spend what it takes to be a major promotion like the WWE or UFC then they will just hold Bellator back. There has been no signs they want to change and make that commitment. Their investment in Bellator was just to allow them to be cheap and not lose Bellator imo.

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