Bellator announces UK TV deal for Bellator 131

November 7, 2014

Bellator announced on Thursday that it has landed a television deal with U.K. broadcast network, Viacom-owned 5*.  It will air next week’s card, Bellator 131, which will feature Tito Ortiz facing Stephan Bonnar.

Via Bellator press release:

The highly-anticipated “Bellator 131: Tito vs. Bonnar” fight card will air in the U.K. on Sunday, November 16 at 9pm on Viacom’s 5*. This marks the first time a Bellator event will air on the popular British broadcast network.

“We are very pleased to have one of the UK’s most popular free-to-air networks airing one of the biggest fights of the year,” Bellator President Scott Coker said. “With Tito Ortiz, Stephan Bonnar, Michael Chandler, Will Brooks, King Mo and Melvin Manhoef all featured on this card, our friends in the UK are in for an unforgettable, action-packed night. We look forward to making Bellator an MMA fixture for our fans in the UK.”

“Bellator 131: Tito vs. Bonnar”  will feature one of the biggest grudge matches in the sport as MMA icons Tito “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Ortiz and “The American Psycho” Stephan Bonnar battle at light heavyweight, while San Diego’s own Michael Chandler faces Will Brooks for the Bellator Lightweight Title.  The event takes place at the San Diego’s Valley View Casino Center and will broadcast LIVE in the U.S. on Saturday, November 15 at 9:00pm.

Payout Perspective:

The UK channel’s demo targets youth so Bellator hopes that next Saturday’s event will grab some of that demo in hopes of returning consumers.  Clearly, the Viacom connection helped with this deal. No word on future telecasts airing on the network although one might assume that if it does well next Saturday, there will be more Bellator in the UK.

Dana White talks about UFC business at Sports Media Tech Conference

November 6, 2014

On Thursday morning, UFC president Dana White was a featured guest at the NeuLion Sports Media & Technology Conference.  The conference which centered on the future of sports media technology had White as one of its key speakers to talk about the company.

Notably, White addressed the issue of low PPV numbers.  He acknowledged the PPV decline this year but indicated that when “big events happen, the pay-per-view numbers will come back.”  And while the UFC generates a healthy amount of its revenue from PPV, White stressed that it is “much more” than a PPV company.  He stressed the UFC’s broadcast deal with Fox, TUF and the growth of the brand in global markets.  White stated that while the company hears the “negative stuff” in the U.S., its global strategy is doing well.

After the session, White gave an interview with SMT Live.  In the interview, he talks about the globalization of the sport and brought up Connor McGregor, GSP and Michael Bisping as examples of fighters with huge backing based upon their country of origin.

White talked about Fight Pass and gave the number that 65-70% of its business outside of the U.S. is related to its digital network.

When discussing its television deals around the world he mentioned Fox, Globo (Brazil), BT Sport (UK), Abu Dhabi Media (Middle East), TV3 (Ireland) and Fox (Australia/New Zealand).  White stated that there were more but did not name them.

Other points:

He mentioned the expansion of  UFC Gyms.  According to White, there are over 100 UFC Gyms with over 100,000 members.

He talked about the UFC relationship with EA and spoke about how the video game educates the users about MMA.

White also spoke about the variety of fight statistics that are out there now and how it has added to the sport of MMA.

Payout Perspective:

The tie-in to this media and tech conference is that NeuLion works with the UFC on Fight Pass.   The message from White is that the UFC’s strategy is much more than PPV revenue.  Specifically, the UFC is doing well overseas despite the porous news in the U.S.  The message Thursday was that the UFC business growth is based on its overseas expansion and television deals.  As for addressing the PPV numbers, there was not much White could say other than the tacit admission that there have not been big events on PPV this year that would garner huge buy rates.

TUF 20 Episode 7: 494,000

November 6, 2014

MMA Payout has learned from a Nielsen source that the seventh episode of TUF 20 scored an average viewership of 494,000.  It was the second lowest of this season and the fourth straight week with a decline in viewership.

In the episode’s fight of the night, Rose Namajunas defeated Alex Chambers via RNC in round 1.  Also featured on the episode were Kron Gracie and two members of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team: Sydney Leroux and Megan Rapinoe.

TUF 20 Episode 7

Payout Perspective:

Not a bad episode of TUF but the ratings are slipping away. The NBA did make its return to ESPN to compete for viewership, but the decline has been steady since Episode 4. Based on Television By Numbers, the highest rated show on cable was America Horror Story on FX which did 4.2 million viewers and aired at the same time as TUF 20.

CSAC issues penalties for Bellator 127 fighters

November 5, 2014

MMA Mania reports that the California State Athletic Commission has handed out fines and suspensions for the four fighters that failed post-fight drug tests at Bellator 127.  The event took place in Temecula, California.

The punishments are as follows:

Rob Emerson (use of Modafinil):  9 month suspension and $2,500 fine

Fernando Gonzalez (marijuana):  1 month suspension and $265 fine

Keith Berry (elevated testosterone levels, marijuana): 10 month suspension and $2,500 fine

Nick Moghaddam (elevated testosterone levels, marijuana): 10 month suspension and $1,500 fine

Gonzalez had his TKO victory over Karo Parisyan overturned and ruled a no-contest.  Similarly, Berry’s win was ruled a no-contest as well.  Emerson and Moghaddam lost their bouts and the result remains the same.

It appears that each fighter will accept the penalties and there will be no appeal of the decision.

Payout Perspective:

The fines and suspensions appear reasonable if they are based on the fighters’ actual pay for the event.  Certainly, the suspensions and the fallout from Bellator are equally devastating than the monetary fine.  Scott Coker issued a strongly worded press release about PED use so we shall see if any of these fighters suffer additional penalties.

New poll asks sports execs about relevancy of sports

November 5, 2014

A new sports poll posted in the Sports Business Journal (subscription required) last week lists boxing and mixed martial arts as sports that some senior-level sports industry executives in pro and college sports thought may slip into irrelevance. The poll, which was a part of bigger feature on horse racing in last week’s issue named the sport of sailing as the most dangerous to become obscure.

The poll that was given this past September to 2,000 senior-level sports executive had boxing as the second most dangerous sport to fall into irrelevance followed by horse racing and then MMA.

The poll, which was part of a story on the Breeder’s Cup horse racing event last week gauged the pulse of sports executives as to their opinions. Turnkey Sports & Entertainment conducted the survey in conjunction with the Sports Business Journal.

The question that was posed to the executives was, “Which of the following sports is in most danger of slipping into irrelevance?”

Sailing was on the top of the list with 43% of those polled picking the sport which most visible event is The America’s Cup. Next, was boxing with 34% followed by horse racing, 15% and then MMA 6%. Two percent of those polled gave no response or were not sure.

Payout Perspective:

The poll appears to be solely based on the opinions of senior sports industry executives and does not base it on any findings or numbers which would have them conclude which sports has fallen into irrelevancy. But, the survey reveals the perceptions of those within the sports industry. Its likely that the poll was meant to evaluate the opinions as it relates to horse racing as the feature story this survey accompanied was how the Breeder’s Cup adds enhancements to bring more of an audience to its event. As for the listing of boxing and MMA, one might infer that boxing appears so high on the list due to the lack of notable fights and the lack of the sport on network television. Obviously, those that follow the sport of boxing know that with the battle between HBO-Showtime and the influx of PPVs for boxing fans, the sport continues on. For MMA, why it appears on the list although not as high, might be due to the fact that there are not as many big events.  Similar to boxing, most MMA followers know that there are a lot of MMA events for fans to watch, its just that there are not enough big events due to injury, scheduling or other factors.

TUF 20 Episode 6 Live + 3 gains 225K viewers

November 4, 2014

MMA Payout has learned from a Nielsen source that the Live +3 rating for last week’s TUF 20 Episode 6 drew an additional 225,000 viewers which drew the average viewership up to 725,000 viewers from the initial 500,000 average.  As previously pointed out, last week’s episode went up against Game 7 of the World Series on Fox.

TUF 20 Episode 6 DVR

Payout Perspective:

The average bump in DVR viewership is at 295,000 viewers through 6 episodes. The average Live +3 rating is at 816,000 viewers. While it was the lowest watched episode if you include DVR gains, it was up against Game 7 of the World Series.

The Wrestling Post: 11.04.14

November 4, 2014

Welcome to another edition of The Wrestling Post.  In this edition, we take a look at Total Divas ratings, a deal for Ring of Honor and WWE halts UK rollout of WWEN.

WWE Network halts UK launch

The WWE Network pulled the plug on its intended November 3rd launch in the United Kingdom because of WWE negotiations with TV operator SKY.  According to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer, the WWE and SKY were still in negotiations on the possibility of having the Network as a TV station as opposed to its “over the top” network offering.  At this point, the roll out of the Network is postponed indefinitely.

Payout Take:  The delay is an obvious disappointment for those in the UK although it was pointed out that many of the hardcore WWE fans in the UK likely have the network through their own ingenuity.  Still, pulling the plug from the launch is bad for short term PR.  One must think that the WWE had a deal with SKY which would have been more lucrative in the long term for it to make such a drastic change in schedule.

Triple HHH joins non-profit

Paul Levesque (aka Triple HHH) has joined the board of The Sports Legacy Institute Board of Directors.  The Institute is a non-profit dedicated to concussion education and research.  The organization was founded by former college football player and WWE wrestler Christopher Nowinski.  One might recall Nowinski from the PBS documentary, “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis.”  The WWE has donated heavily to the organization as it gave SLI $1.2 milloin to fund research that could lead to potential new treatments for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).


Payout Take:  The election of Triple H comes after a recent filing by one of its former wrestlers, Billy Jack Haynes, citing that the WWE knew of the dangers of head injuries but did nothing to warn its wrestlers.  The WWE has denied the allegations set out by Haynes in the lawsuit.  As a publicly traded company, the WWE’s image is much more important and the election of Triple H to this non-profit is similar to those made by the NFL when it was sued by its former players regarding concussions.

Ring of Honor Wrestling (ROH) and Figures Toy Company announced a licensing agreement to develop market and manufacture a line of collectible figures and accessories based on the wrestlers and world of Ring of Honor Wrestling according to an ROH press release.  ROH is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.

Payout Take: An interesting deal for the company as most, if not all, of its wrestlers is independent contractors (in the real sense and not the WWE-sense) as they take dates from other organizations.  Still, it appears that Sinclair believes that it has gained enough traction with the product to roll out action figures in time for the holiday season.  These probably will not get wide release and will only be in markets where ROH run shows.

Total Divas Season 3 (mid-season)

Last week’s Total Divas on the E! Network registered the second highest rating for Season 3 with an average viewership of 1,130,000.  Despite lower ratings, it will return with the second half of its third season in January 2015.

Through 10 episodes of the third season, it averages just over 1 million viewers.

Total Divas Season 3

Episode 1:  1,200,000

Episode 2:   974,000

Episode 3:  1,180,000

Episode 4:  999,000

Episode 5:  1,050,000

Episode 6:  888,000

Episode 7:  975,000

Episode 8:  826,000

Episode 9:  860,000

Episode10:  1,130,000

Payout Take:  Although there has been a decrease in viewership for this season, it has gone without the Kardashian lead-in most of the season.  It also has gone up against two WWE PPVs this season.  This season seems to have moved toward more storylines which have seeped into WWE programming.

Total Divas S3 halfway

More future crossover promotion for Bellator-Monster Energy?

November 3, 2014

MMA Junkie reports that Bellator MMA and Monster Energy may be doing more combo events together in the future.

A couple weeks ago, Bellator held fights outside a Monster Energy motorcross event at Sam Boyd Stadium.  According to a recent report, the two companies could plan more collaborations in the future.

Bellator head, Scott Coker is “on board” with another collaboration with Monster Energy.  According to the Junkie article, Coker indicated it could “commit more resources to more cross-promotional opportunities.”

Payout Perspective:

The term “sideshow” came up in the article and it comes to mind when thinking about holding a Bellator event at a motorcross event.  Notably, the fights were not televised and no known fighters participated.  Even if it is spun in terms of a “festival” atmosphere with thousands of people gravitating to a motorcross event and seeing an MMA fight, what does this do for the Bellator brand?  While collaborating with a sponsor is understandable, holding fights as a compliment to another event does not seem like the end game for Bellator.

British Judo announces UFC as title sponsor for 2015 British Open

November 3, 2014

British Judo announced that the UFC has signed on as title sponsors of the 2015 British Open Judo Championships.  The sponsorship reflects a part of a new partnership between the two organizations.

The Championships will take place at Wembley Arena on July 12th.  The UFC will secure ads on the British Judo website and social media.  The belief is that the partnership will aid both organizations.

British Judo Chief Executive, Andrew Scoular stated in a news item announcing the partnership on the British Judo website, “By partnering with such a leading martial arts brand as UFC, we will receive significant added exposure for British Judo as a core martial art and the partnership will be instrumental in raising the profile of the sport of judo, ultimately leading to increased participation for young people.”

In the same news item, Garry Cook, UFC Chief Global Brand Officer said: “The 2015 British Open Judo Championships will be a fantastic event and an important stage on which athletes can perform and promote their sport. Judo is a key component of mixed martial arts, and we are excited at the prospect of bringing together UFC fans, Judo supporters and practitioners of both sports.”

Judo has found success in its membership after the rise of Ronda Rousey.  Rousey earned an Olympic medal in Judo at the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008.

(H/t:  MMA Junkie)

Payout Perspective:

We have seen Judo, USA Wrestling and Tae Kwon Do all secure sponsorship spots with the UFC at recent events.  The interest level of these disciplines, as well as jiu jitsu, can be directly attributed to the popularity of mixed martial arts and the UFC.  This latest move reflects the UFC reaching out to Judo for more visibility.  We may see the UFC reach out to other MMA disciplines in the future.

Jones eyes Reebok sponsorship

November 2, 2014

Last week, MMA Fighting reported that Jon Jones was in talks with Reebok about a potential sponsorship.  Looking to replace Nike, Jones would be the third UFC fighter sponsored by the sports apparel company.

Although the report indicated that Jones’ team was in talks with other sponsors, Reebok appeared to be one of the frontrunners to sign the UFC Light Heavyweight champion.  Jones lost his Nike sponsorship as a result of his media day melee with Daniel Cormier in August.  However, it appears that the Beaverton, Oregon company may be leaving the MMA space altogether as former Nike endorser, Anderson Silva, revealed that he no longer was with Nike.  Junior dos Santos was the only other Nike sponsor.  No word whether JDS’s deal is also done with Nike. Silva is in talks with Adidas as a replacement.

Reebok currently sponsors UFC fighters Anthony Pettis and Johny Hendricks.

Payout Perspective:

The Reebok signing may make sense especially if it becomes the official uniform of the UFC.  Jones has sported multiple mainstream sponsors including Nike and Gatorade.  Losing Nike may have been inevitable.  Despite the fight with Cormier, Jones is still a marketable fighter that will find a replacement for Nike in the near future.

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