Bellator 120 re-air on SpikeTV: 890K viewers

July 22, 2014

MMA Payout has learned from a Nielsen source that Friday night’s replay of Bellator 120, the company’s first PPV from May scored an average viewership of 890,000 viewers.  The 3 hour event starting at 9pm ET/PT peaked at 1,334,000 viewers at 11:39pm.

The peak occurred at the beginning of the King Mo-Rampage fight.  Bellator 120 averaged 1 million viewers for 47 minutes of the telecast according to the Nielsen source.  It also was second in terms of viewership on cable in the Male 18-49 demo during the time period.

Bellator-PPV-Poster-Alvarez-Injury

Payout Perspective:

The re-air of May’s PPV which reportedly drew 100,000 buys showed that people that did not buy the initial PPV wanted to see it or for those that saw the fights, wanted to see it again.  Regardless, it’s a good number for what essentially was a rerun.  The PPV re-air is a good way to condition viewers to tune back in on Friday night’s for Bellator’s Summer Series with a live event happening this Friday.

Lawal, Lashley and Kongo added to 9/5 Bellator card

July 16, 2014

MMA Junkie reports that King Mo Lawal, Cheick Kongo and Bobby Lashley have been added to Bellator 123 which takes place on September 5th in Connecticut.  Lashley is a pro wrestler with TNA Wrestling and is currently its Heavyweight champion.

In addition to his pro wrestling experience, Lashley has competed in MMA.  The move attempts to bulk up an already stacked card which is headlined by Pat Curran defending his Featherweight title against Patricio Freire.

Bellator 123

The current card via Bellator press release:

MAIN CARD:

Bellator Featherweight Title Fight: Pat Curran (20-5) vs. Patricio Pitbull (21-2)

Bellator Heavyweight Feature Fight: Cheick Kongo (21-9) vs. Lavar Johnson (18-9)

Bellator Light Heavyweight Feature Fight: King Mo (12-4) vs. Tom DeBlass (9-2)

Bellator Heavyweight Feature Fight: Bobby Lashley (10-2) vs. Josh Burns (8-7)

The Bellator card will go head to head with a UFC Fight Night card that has been bulked up due to the cancellation of UFC 176.  The card, which takes place at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut is headlined by Gegard Mousasi taking on Ronaldo Souza.

Payout Perspective:

September 5th will be a big night for MMA fans as it’s the first time the two organizations go head-to-head on television and in the same state.  The signing of Lashley is somewhat surprising but it does add name recognition for the crossover pro wrestling fans.  With TNA Wrestling taping most of its shows through August already, it’s unlikely that Bellator can take advantage of the crossover on its weekly TNA shows (which draw over 1M viewers) unless it edits in info about Lashley in voiceovers.  Lawal and Kongo also make sense as Lawal can sell his fights and the ratings reflect that Kongo (for some reason) produces good ratings for Bellator.

Bellator 120 to air on Spike TV

June 25, 2014

Bellator MMA officially announced that it will replay its inaugural PPV from May on Friday, July 18th according to a press release.

Via Bellator press release:

Spike TV will telecast an encore presentation of one of MMA’s most memorable events of 2014, “BELLATOR MMA: RAMPAGE vs KING MO” on Friday, July 18 at 9:00pm ET/PT.

For the first time on free television, fans that missed Bellator’s first-ever pay-per-view event can witness the highly-anticipated grudge match between Rampage Jackson and King Mo plus epic upset victories for Will Brooks and Tito Ortiz.

Fans can also decide for themselves whether the judges had it right in the controversial decision victories that went to Rampage and Brooks. Also featured will be the Russian heavyweight clash between Alexander Volkov and Blagoi Ivanov and an exciting and entertaining performance from rising star Michael Page.

Payout Perspective:

Commercials for the replay aired during the Glory prelim on Spike TV Saturday night.  The replay gives those that passed on the PPV a chance to see it and it sells the product in time for the following week’s event on July 25th.

Bellator nixes tournament format

June 19, 2014

During the press conference on Wednesday announcing the appointment of Scott Coker as Bellator’s president, Spike TV President Kevin Kay made the  initial comment that Bellator would be moving away from the tournament structure to a more “traditional format.”

Coker also reiterated the move as he described evolving the league from tournament to a more traditional format.  Coker did state that future tournaments would be determined on a case by case basis.

Audio via MMA Fighting.

Payout Perspective:

It’s clear now that the announcement last week by Bjorn Rebney which would grant any past tournament winner “tournament immunity,” was a pre-cursor to what Viacom wanted to see happen (i.e., elimination of tournaments to grant  matchmaker freedom).  Enter Scott Coker.  We might conclude now that Rebney and Viacom did not agree with the future direction of Bellator.  Also, Viacom likely saw Coker as the better executive that could steer the company in the direction it wants.  It will be interesting to see what Coker does with the fighters that have won tournaments and how he will set up fights especially for its next PPV.

Rebney out as Bellator head, Coker to step in

June 18, 2014

Bjorn Rebney and Tim Danaher have left Bellator as Scott Coker is slated to replace Rebney as the head of the promotion.  Viacom announced that Rebney and former president and CEO Danaher are done with the promotion effective immediately.

UPDATE 06/18/14: Viacom and Bellator have made it official: Scott Coker is your new president of Bellator MMA.

Josh Gross had the initial report first:

MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani added on to the report:

After the announcement, Rebney issued a statement via Jason Floyd:

Via MMA Fighting:

“I would like to thank Bjorn and Tim on behalf of Spike and Viacom for their dedication and hard work building Bellator from the ground up,” Spike TV president Kevin Kay stated. “They worked tirelessly in getting Bellator to where it is today. They were great partners to work with and we wish them all the best,” said Kevin Kay, Spike TV.

With Rebney and Danaher’s departure, Scott Coker is said to replace Rebney as the head of the promotion via MMA Fighting.  As we all know, Coker was the head of Strikeforce since 1985 when it began as a kickboxing promotion.

The move was discussed earlier in the week according to MMA Fighting and it was a matter of waiting out Coker’s non-compete with Zuffa, which purchased Strikeforce, for him to be hired.

Payout Perspective:

An interesting move by Viacom although there was much speculation about this shakeup for a while.  Rebney did a lot for the company and its first PPV did much better than expected garnering over 100,000 PPV buys despite losing the main event.  Rebney, the original founder, has received his share of criticism throughout his tenure for the organization.  We shall see what the appointment of Coker means for the company and whether it means a shift in direction for the company.

Bellator makes rule change

June 12, 2014

Bellator announced that it will now allow former Bellator Tournament winners the opportunity to fight in a world title fight without the need to fight in its tournament according to a company release this morning.

Via Bellator press release:

“Just like we’ve done since day one, any fighter who wins The Toughest Tournament in Sports will still be guaranteed a World Title fight,” [Bjorn] Rebney said. “The addition I’m making here, that I’m really excited about, is if you’ve won a tournament, you’ll join an elite group of athletes who we can grant a world title fight to at any time.”

“For example, if you win a tournament, fight for the World Title and lose, you forever remain in that elite group of fighters who can be awarded another shot at the title. We will place some fighters back into tournaments, while others may lose a world title fight, win some non-tournament fights and be awarded another shot at the title. We won’t be implementing any hard and fast rule as to when a fighter will go back into a tournament and when he’ll fight non-tournament fights and potentially be granted another title shot.  What’s great about this addition is that it allows us to stay true to our core format, where title shots can only be earned through a tournament win, while also providing us tremendous flexibility to make the great fights fans want to see.  And, we can do all this while keeping our fighters busy and battling in meaningful fights on a re-occurring basis. This is another step in our constant evolution and most importantly it’s a win for the fighters and the fans.”

The current pool of fighters eligible to be chosen to fight for the world title includes:

Bantamweight: Eduardo Dantas*, Joe Warren*, Marcos Galvao, Rafael Silva

Featherweight: Pat Curran*, Patricio Pitbull, Daniel Straus, Shahbulat Shamhalaev, “Frodo” Khasbulaev, Daniel Weichel, Joe Warren.

Lightweight: Eddie Alvarez*, Will Brooks*, Michael Chandler, Pat Curran, Rick Hawn, Dave Jansen, David Rickels

Welterweight: Douglas Lima*, Karl Amoussou, Andrey Koreshkov, Rick Hawn

Middleweight: Alexander Shlemenko*, Brennan Ward, Doug Marshall

Light Heavyweight: Emanuel Newton*, Rampage Jackson, King Mo, Christian M’Pumbu, Atilla Vegh,

Heavyweight: Vitaly Minakov*, Alexander Volkov, Cheick Kongo

* Denotes Current Bellator Champion or Interim Champion

bellator-logo

The MMA Report clarified with Bellator that if a fighter moves between weight classes, the fighter would still have to go through a tournament in that weight class to secure a title shot.

Rebney told MMA Fighting that the reason for the change is to “stay true to who we [Bellator] are, but it also give us much more flexibility to make compelling world title fights.”

Payout Perspective:

There was obvious need for such an amendment to the rules if Bellator wants to put on more fan friendly fights.  Certainly, Bellator fans (and non-fans) would have pointed to match-making issues if the organization were to set up fights outside of the tournament structure.  I would assume that one of the reasons for this change is for future PPVs.  It will be interesting to see how Bellator uses this new clause.

Bellator PPV exceeds 100K PPV buys

May 28, 2014

MMA Fighting reports that Bellator 120’s PPV has surpassed 100,000 buys. Despite losing its main event, Bellator exceeded most expectations with the amount of buys.

Greg Savage of Sherdog first reported the buy rate.  The initial buy rate floated out there was 65,000 buys according to Dave Meltzer on his Wrestling Observer podcast with Bryan Alvarez on Tuesday. According to the Sherdog article, the buy rate will be available in Viacom’s SEC filings later this year.

Bjorn Rebney told MMA Fighting:

I won’t be discussing specific PPV buy rates, but what I can say is that with one of our main events falling out just seven days before our first PPV, a six figure plus buy rate is a good starting point.  But, it’s just that, a starting point.  My focus is to continue working with our partners at Spike to create the type of big event experience that we created on the 17th.

Payout Perspective:

The news of a 100K plus PPV buy rate after Eddie Alvarez had to pull out is a great achievement by Bellator.  It is really good considering it competed with HBO Boxing that night with Juan Manuel Marquez-Mike Alvarado.

What propelled the 100K plus buys?  Rampage Jackson-King Mo?  Tito Ortiz?  Whatever it was, the buy rate means that Bellator will definitely plan additional PPVs in the future.  Certainly, Rampage-Tito, Alvarez-Chandler or Brooks would be good choices to headline the next Bellator PPV.

The UFC is the standard for MMA PPV with few others attempting it.  As MMA Fighting notes, only Affliction’s PPV in July 2008 (Fedor v. Sylvia – 100K buys) has put on a PPV with a buy rate hitting 100K.  WEC also had a PPV (Aldo v. Faber) in April 2010 which did 175K PPV buys.  However, the UFC owned WEC at the time.

Bellator 120 prelims on Spike TV average 712K

May 20, 2014

MMA Payout has learned that the prelims leading up to the Bellator PPV received an average rating of 712,000 viewers.  In addition, MMA Payout has received the numbers for Bellator shoulder programming which aired on Saturday before the PPV.

“Unrivaled: Michael Chandler,” which aired in the 7pm slot on Saturday on Spike received an average of 607,000 viewers.  Following the Chandler program, Spike ran “Rampage vs. King Mo: Winner Takes All,” which aired at 7:30pm.  The hype program for their fight received 511,000 viewers.

The prelims which were split into two one hour programs for ratings purposes featured Cheick Kongo in the last bout of the prelims.  The first hour received an average of 648,000 while the second hour received an average viewership of 776,000 viewers with the peak occurring at 9:48pm at 962,000 viewers with the Kongo-Eric Smith fight.

Payout Perspective:

We see from the viewership that Bellator programming received a healthy dose of viewers leading up to its PPV.  But was the conversion from free programming to PPV successful?  Notably, the Chandler program featured him talking about Eddie Alvarez as it was filmed prior to Alvarez needing to pull out due to injury.  Yet, Spike still aired the program.  It also did better than Rampage-King Mo despite the hype for their fight.  This could be due to the fact that Cops was the lead-in for the Chandler program.

Having Cheick Kongo in the final fight before the PPV made sense as recent trends from the organization’s 10th season reflected the fact that ratings increased when he was on.  Bellator’s night of programming went up against NBA and NHL Playoffs so the ratings are good if you are to factor that in.

Alvarez contract states Chandler rematch next despite Brooks win

May 19, 2014

The MMA Report reports that Eddie Alvarez’s contract has him specifically fighting Michael Chandler.  The apparent clause in the contract would leave Bellator without the opportunity for Alvarez to fight interim champion Will Brooks.

You will recall that Bellator and Alvarez were embroiled in a contentious legal battle which was finally settled.  Although terms of the settlement were not revealed to the public, it appears that Alvarez specifically had set his sights on Michael Chandler.

In the post-Bellator 120 press conference, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney stated that Alvarez’s next fight will be on PPV although the issue of Alvarez’s next opponent may be a factor prior to what platform the fight will be shown.

Payout Perspective:

Here we go again with contract issues.  It’s hard to comment on a contract without first seeing it but from what we know from The MMA Report’s report it seems like Alvarez and his camp believed that Michael Chandler was the only opponent for Alvarez.  One would think to ensure that Alvarez fought the champion of the division, his contract would not specifically name an individual, but just that he would face the champion in the lightweight division.  With the Will Brooks upset, Alvarez now is contractually obligated to face Chandler in what would be an entertaining, yet meaningless fight for Bellator’s lightweight division.  Of course, Bellator could persuade Alvarez to take on Brooks and unify the titles.  Alvarez, in one last shot at the company, could decline the offer and take on Chandler.

The Chandler fight still seems like the one that would draw more PPV buys (assuming it’s on PPV), but the Brooks fight would make more sense since there are now two titleholders at 155 and Bellator would probably want to unify the titles as soon as possible.  In the end, Alvarez’s advisers will probably go with the fight that provides the most money for Alvarez.

UPDATE 5/20/14:  In accompanying this post, you should also read Will Brooks recent twitter timeline and John Nash’s piece on Bellator contracts on BE.  I would suspect that Alvarez’s negotiated settlement of his lawsuit included that his contract with Bellator not have a “Champions” clause which may cause him to continue to stay with the company.

Bellator announces sponsors for PPV

May 16, 2014

Despite Eddie Alvarez being out of Bellator’s first PPV, it touts its sponsors which will be seen during Saturday night’s event.  The list includes sponsor Dave & Busters which will be showing the event in all of its locations across the country.

The list of blue chip sponsors touted by Bellator include:

•           Miller Lite

•           Dave & Busters

•           Ubisoft® – Watch Dogs™ Video Game

•           Monster Energy

•           Everlast

•           AutoZone

•           Victory Motorcycles

•           Bamboo Nutra

•           Attack Poker

Via Bellator press release:

“We’re thrilled to have some of the biggest and best brands in the world integrated into this must see Pay-Per-View Saturday night. With one of the biggest most talked about cards of 2014, our sponsors support for Rampage vs. King Mo this Saturday on Pay-Per-View has been spectacular,” Bellator Chairman & CEO Bjorn Rebney said.

“We are excited to be a part of this big event,” said Tony Key, senior vice president of sales and marketing, Ubisoft. “It should be a great night for fans, because they’ll see a preview of one of the most highly anticipated video games of the year, Watch Dogs, and check out some of the best MMA fights of the year.”

“Victory Motorcycles and Bellator are a perfect match, both brands deliver exhilaration. Whether in the cage or on the road, only one-thing matters to both companies, performance.  We could not be more excited to be part of the promotions inaugural Pay-Per-View,” said Reid Wilson, Victory Motorcycles Marketing Director.

“Bjorn and the great folks at Bellator have really outdone themselves putting this PPV card together! With so many stellar fighters under one roof, we can’t wait to see some epic battles and unforgettable action come Saturday night,” said Bamboo Nutra Executive Vice President Leighton Dean.

Payout Perspective:

Dave & Busters’ plan to show the event should help with viewership despite taking away from PPV buys.  Obviously, this move is a way for more people to see the Bellator product and the company seems not worried about PPV buys otherwise D&B would not show the card in its locations.  Whatever you may think about the PPV, Bellator has built a list of sponsors which is comparable to the UFC’s roster.

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