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.
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.