June 11, 2013
Loretta Hunt of CNNSI reports that Bellator MMA will be moving to Friday nights starting this fall. It will be the company’s second move on Spike TV since premiering in January. Its summer series will be seen Wednesday nights starting June 19th.
According to Spike TV President Kevin Kay, the move to Fridays was related to the NFL as football will begin showing a game a week on Thursdays starting this September. However, the decision to move nights (again) comes at what one might infer as a way to avoid direct competition with the UFC on Wednesdays. The UFC begins airing programming starting on the new Fox network, Fox Sports 1 on August 17th and will continue with shows on Wednesday nights starting on August 28th.
However, as one might recall from the UFC’s lackluster performance on Friday nights, Bellator moving to Fridays appears to be a risky move. The show will air from 9-11pm ET on Fridays.
The fall season of Bellator MMA will actually kick off on Saturday night September 7th as its coupled with the finale of Bellator’s Fight Master.
Confused with the Bellator schedule yet? It started on Thursdays on Spike TV. It is moving to Wednesdays after TNA Wrestling was moved an hour later on Thursdays and now will be seen on Fridays starting this fall. The reason is to avoid the NFL on Thursdays? But, isn’t it going to be seen this summer on Wednesdays? It’s been a public relations issue after another for Bellator these past couple months. This latest move may have been necessary. Ok, we understand the NFL on Thursday reason. So why not Wednesdays? This is to avoid head to head competition with the UFC with the anticipated UFC momentum of being on a new network and The Ultimate Fighter featuring Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate. Likely, the UFC ratings would be better than Bellator ratings on Wednesday and the UFC would capitalize on that in advertising and promoting its product. For Bellator, changing from Thursday, to Wednesday and now to Friday creates consumer confusion and negates some of its success in its first season with Spike TV.
June 6, 2013
Bellator MMA announced that it would be seen in the UK on Viacom-owned VIVA starting with its summer series Wednesday, June 19th.
Via Bellator MMA press release:
Bellator’s foray into the UK market increases their global reach to 116 countries and territories. Available in every one of the UK’s 26 million TV households, VIVA has one of the highest profiles amongst 16 to 34-year-olds of any UK channel, with 50% of its audience comprised of that hard-to-reach demographic and one in four of that age group in the UK – 3.7 million viewers – tuning in to the channel each month. Bellator is the first mixed martial arts franchise to be televised on the channel.
The move helps extend the Bellator audience and with VIVA’s reach to the 16-34 year old demographic, it gets it shot at its target demo. With the added market opportunity, Bellator should work on its presentation as it heads into its second season with Viacom/SpikeTV. Overall a good opportunity for Bellator to grab new fans.
June 4, 2013
MMA Junkie reports that Rampage Jackson has signed a multi-year contract to fight in Bellator and wrestle with TNA Wrestling. Although he originally set out to be a professional wrestler, Jackson became an MMA fighter. Jackson, 34, fought his last UFC bout in January.
Tuesday’s signing by Bellator-owned Viacom includes a reality series for the former UFC Light Heavyweight champion which will highlight him during the leadup for his Bellator debut.
Jackson ironically joins “King” Mo Lawal as the second fighter/pro-wrestler signed for the benefit of Spike TV.
A good signing for Bellator? Although Jackson may be past his prime, his style, trash-talk and popularity make him perfect to segue between sports and sports entertainment. A built in rivalry with Lawal can happen instantly in Bellator and TNA.
As a side note, you may recall, Jackson secured a sponsored with Reebok but was prohibited from wearing the sneaker brand at UFC on Fox 6. The UFC and Reebok were said to have been close to a major deal. Will Jackson be sponsored by Reebok when he moves to Bellator/TNA or will he not be able to because the UFC has a sponsorship with the brand?
May 14, 2013
Welcome to another edition of The Wrestling Post. This week we take a look at the WWE’s online move to Yahoo!, a pro wrestler gets in trouble on twitter and TNA moves one hour later while Bellator goes to Wednesday nights.
WWE moves content to Yahoo! Divas get own show on E!
Variety reports on Yahoo!’s partnership for showing exclusive WWE content online. Earlier this month engaged in a content agreement E! Television. Despite its time on YouTube, the WWE passed on being one of the new channels on YouTube’s fee based subscription service.
As if there wasn’t enough wrestling on Monday night, Yahoo! will air a 30 minute pregame show for Monday Night Raw among other original content. The deal includes Yahoo! having access to the WWE’s library. The Big Show and Stephanie McMahon made an appearance at the upfronts for Yahoo! WWE content should make its debut this summer on Yahoo!
In addition, the WWE Divas will have their own one hour reality show on the E! Network. Presumably, it will follow the women of the WWE backstage and through their “real” lives.
Payout Take: The new Yahoo! deal is an interesting switch from YouTube as the two parties decided not to renew its deal. WWE has opted to stick with an ad-based model (relying on ads for revenue) for its online content rather than join YouTube in a subscription-based model. As we know, the UFC and TNA Wrestling have pay channels in YouTube’s pilot program. Perhaps the WWE did not want to have fans to spend money on a subscription-based channel when it plans to have its own network to subscribe to soon. It could also be that the WWE saw more of advantage with ad revenue than subscriptions.
ROH disciplines its Champion for Offensive Tweet
The Wrestling Post does not usually cover independent wrestling organization Ring of Honor but its champion, Jay Briscoe, got into some hot water after making some controversial tweets about gay marriage. Briscoe, a native of Delaware, reacted via twitter to the recent passage of his state’s new law allowing gay marriage. Essentially, he’s not a fan of it.
In an effort to make things right, Ring of Honor made Briscoe apologize in the ring and he indicated that he would make a donation to an anti-bullying organization.
Payout Take: Even in the independent wrestling circuit, protecting the brand of the company and its image is necessary. The actions by Ring of Honor may not have happened on the independent circuit 10 years earlier. But, in an effort to be more inclusive and realizing that the world is much more accessible via the internet (i.e., people from all over the world can buy its DVDs, iPPVs, t-shirts, etc.) the organization made a decision to have its wrestler make a real apology.
TNA Moves to 9pm while Bellator moves to Wednesdays
In a move that will have more ramifications than just the wrestling show, Spike TV has decided to move TNA’s Impact Wrestling to 9pm/8pm Central on Thursday nights starting May 30th. The network announced that Bellator would move to Wednesdays starting with its Summer Series in July.
Payout Take: Maybe its a move for daylight savings time as many people will be outside enjoying the extra daylight and not inside watching TNA. We will see how this will impact ratings. For Bellator fans, how will moving to Wednesday nights affect its programming? There was not much proven correlation between TNA as its lead-in as Impact had a bigger audience that seemingly tailed off once Bellator came on. Yet, having a strong lead-in may mean more viewers checking out the Bellator product.
May 13, 2013
Eddie Alvarez produced via twitter a document he claims Bellator altered after he had agreed to the terms of the renegotiation period. Alvarez stated that Bellator changed the matching issue from “all terms” to “material terms.”
— Edward Alvarez (@Ealvarezfight) May 12, 2013
In the October 30, 2012 letter from Bellator to Alvarez sent via email and Certified Mail, the letter states in reference to matching terms with Zuffa: “Upon receipt of such an offer, you are thereafter obliged to produce to Bellator a true copy of the proposed agreement with Zuffa, LLC at which time Bellator shall have fourteen (14) business days from receipt of the full agreement to consider whether it will match the material terms of the offer.” (our emphasis in bold and italics). In a subsequent letter, the sentenced was changed from material to all.
Alvarez had noted this change during his interview with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour and on MMA Junkie Radio. He essentially cited this as an unethical business practice.
Bjorn Rebney responded to Alvarez’s claims in an article on MMA Fighting. The November 1, 2012 letter was produced which stated “all terms” instead of material terms was produced in the article. Rebney refuted Alvarez’s accusations stating that he was aware of the language and that Alvarez’s attorneys were aware as well. Rebney also responded to several issues regarding pay concerning Zach Makovsky, Cosmo Alexandre and whether or not Bellator attempted to sign Leonard Garcia.
The letter produced by Alvarez attempts to show that Bellator amended terms without his knowledge. Rebney indicated that this is not true and that Alvarez’s attorneys had the chance to review the letters. Did Alvarez’s lawyers not see the November 1st letter? Based on what the Court has opined in the Preliminary Injunction, will the “material” vs. “all” terms matter? If you recall, the Court indicated that it would apply a common sense approach to matching terms. Regardless of one might think, this lawsuit is going to start to heat up. Moreover, arising out of the lawsuit are PR issues which Rebney, Bellator and Viacom must address and determine how to put out the fires. By implicating other issues with fighters, we might see Makovsky, Alexandre and Garcia get pulled into this lawsuit as witnesses.
May 9, 2013
After tweeting his displeasure for his legal troubles, Eddie Alvarez made his appearance on The MMA Hour on Monday to give his side of the story in the Bellator battle. He also made an appearance on MMA Junkie radio Tuesday pleading his case.
Although he said he didn’t know too much about law when talking to Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour, Alvarez gave a legal update on his case. To be fair, Alvarez correctly stated that the case was in the discovery phase.
The MMA Hour interview came after tweeting about Bellator and how Bjorn Rebney was a “grunt” and that Viacom and Spike are “idiots.”
But the bulk of the interview on The MMA Hour dealt with the legal case and a rehashing of the contract matching issue which the Court denied in Alvarez’s motion for a preliminary injunction in January. A favorable ruling would have allowed Alvarez to negotiate a contract with the UFC and leave Bellator behind. However, the Court decided that the factual issue of whether or not Bellator matched the terms of the UFC contract would be determined at a later date. Alvarez stated on MMA Junkie radio that he didn’t expect the Court to grant the Preliminary Injunction.
On MMA Junkie Radio, Alvarez indicated that he talked with Bellator in New Mexico in an effort to settle the case but stated that he could not reveal the substance of the communications. Legally speaking, the settlement discussions are confidential and governed by certain evidentiary rules.
Alvarez claimed that Bellator changed words in his original contract which included an addendum which waived a renegotiation period and allowed an exclusive negotiating period with Zuffa. However, Alvarez claims that a term in the addendum was changed from “all terms” in to “material terms.” The documents do not appear to be in the legal filings in the case. Alvarez indicated he would post the documents on twitter which shows the different terms. However, as of the time of this writing, the documents have not been posted.
Alvarez stated his case well but the issues he argues doesn’t do anything other than the possibility of getting him into more legal troubles. The “matching” issue was already decided by the Court at the Preliminary Injunction in that there would be no decision on the matching issue. Its definitely the Court punting on a key issue in the matter but there is a legal basis for waiting to hear the information provided in the discovery process. However, in the Court PI opinion, it did cite that the Court “must apply a common-sense interpretation to the word “match.” This was in reference to the issue of whether Bellator had to match the Zuffa contract verbatim.
But, why go after Viacom? It may not know anything about MMA, but it is investing money into the sport. Without Fox and Viacom investing in MMA, it would not be as popular as it is today. Certainly, I do feel for Alvarez to a certain extent as he’s been put in a tough position. He no longer wants to work for his employer but his employer is pulling him back in. Perhaps he didn’t know that he’d be in this position when he signed his contract with Bellator or didn’t think that Bellator would put up such a fight.
Regardless of whether or not Alvarez is telling the truth, talking (and tweeting) is a risky move especially in contentious litigation. There is the potential for further claims and using tweets and Alvarez’s interviews as evidence in the future.
May 5, 2013
Eddie Alvarez will be appearing on The MMA Hour Monday to presumably talk about his legal fight with Bellator. The appearance comes after a weekend of tweets in which he went after Bellator, Spike and Viacom.
Alvarez’s official twitter handle, @Ealvarezfight, indicated that he was moving to train with the Blackzillians. It also stated he made money after selling real estate as to imply that money is no issue at this point.
Alvarez tweeted that there would be no settlement and “let the truth come out in the end.” (ed. note: famous last words).
He also wrote to his 9,000 plus followers that he placed blame for the lawsuit with Viacom and Spike rather than Bjorn Rebney.
In a civil lawsuit, most parties position their case toward a favorable settlement. Alvarez proclaiming that there would be no settlement is a bad move from a legal and PR standpoint. Regardless of what you think of what has happened to Alvarez, its not a good move to tweet, write or be interviewed about this lawsuit without gaining clearance from legal counsel. Just like cops say on tv shows, “anything that you may say (or write in this instance) can be used against you.” Even if Alvarez believes what he says is true, what he writes on twitter may be construed differently by Bellator attorneys.
Moreover, if the Court forces the parties into mediation or a settlement conference and the case settles, Alvarez did not speak the truth about going to trial. It just makes him look like he had no understanding about the legal process.
From an overarching perspective, the goal of MMA fighters is to make the most money out of your short career. The reason why the UFC likes the FOX relationship is that there is more money involved and the product is exposed to the mainstream. Alvarez has to look at the situation and determine what’s best for his fight career. Sit and fight a battle he may actually lose, or try to find a resolution as soon as possible. Trials are long and drawn out.
Unless Bellator is unwilling to enter into settlement talks, he should try to settle for a shorter fight deal with Bellator in order to be released from his contract. Alvarez is in the prime of his career and he does not want to end up muddied in a contract dispute. Although under separate circumstances, a similar contract issue sidelined Brandon Vera for some time and he has never been the same fighter since.
Hopefully Alvarez will cancel Monday’s appearance and/or give generalities of his legal situation rather than talk himself into more problems.
April 18, 2013
The United States District Court for the District Court of New Jersey has denied Bellator’s Motion to Dismiss the Counterclaims of Eddie Alvarez. The litigation between the two sides will continue.
Bellator had brought a Motion to Dismiss Alvarez’s Counterclaims for Tortious Interference with a Prospective Economic Advantage and Breach of Contract. Judge Jose Linares held that Alvarez’s claims survived the Motion to Dismiss standard in that his factual allegations raised a right to relief. This does not mean that Bellator could not eventually win, it just means it cannot win at this stage of the litigation.
With respect to the Tortious Interference claim, Bellator had argued that Alvarez could not prove it had done anything with malice. A prerequisite of the claim. It also argued that Alvarez’s claim must fail because the contract match was privileged.
Although Bellator supported its original arguments with case law, the Court noted that those cases occurred after the Motion to Dismiss stage. Thus, seeking support with the cases was of no relevance for this motion.
Bellator also argued that the contract offer should be privileged and cited a case which appeared to be on point. However, that case was a state law case which the federal court did not have to follow. Moreover, the case cited by Bellator related to correspondence in which counsel threatened litigation. The Court here distinguished that case as Alvarez claims Bellator, in bad faith, matched the offer made by Zufa.
The Court noted that it would not make a factual determination whether Bellator had a “legitimate business-justification” for proposing a purported match to Alvarez. Factual determinations such as these are not determined at the Motion to Dismiss stage.
With respect to the Breach of the Court held that despite Bellator’s assertions, Alvarez identified the contract for which it alleges Bellator breached. Furthermore, the Court determined that it “adequately alleged” that Bellator breached the duty of good faith and fair dealing in which it claims to have matched the Zuffa Offer in spite of “neither having the ability or the willingness to actually match the offer.”
The lawsuit continues. The threshold for prevailing on a Motion to Dismiss is tough if the claims made contain a sufficient enough of facts as Courts tend to want the case to prevail on the merits. Its interesting that the Opinion of the Court did not address the “malice” requirement in Alvarez’s Tortious Interference claim. Rather, it focused on the case law Bellator cited to distinguish it from the present case. Its likely that the two sides will exchange discovery and move on to the deposition phase.
April 13, 2013
Bellator has filed its Reply Brief in support of its Motion to Dismiss Eddie Alvarez’s counterclaims. Bellator’s motion should be decided sometime this month.
Bellator’s counsel has requested an oral argument although its not known at this point whether the Court will grant this request.
The Reply Brief attacks Alvarez’s position in bringing its two counterclaims against Bellator for tortious interference and breach of contract. Notably, Bellator frames its argument to the Court by suggesting that there is not a case in the whole United States that allows a tortious interference or breach of contract claim where a party has attempted to match a matching rights clause in a contract. Bellator goes so far as using an exclamation point to highlight the fact that there is not one case in the United States supporting Alvarez’s theory. “To emphasize, we have not found one case in the United States!” states Bellator in its brief. An exclamation is a no-no in legal briefing. Its the equivalent of typing in all caps.
The brief supports the argument that Bellator had a legal, contractual right to proffer a contract to Alvarez to match Zuffa’s offer. Thus, Alvarez’s claims for “interfering” with his opportunity to obtain a contract from Zuffa and breach of the Bellator contract should be dismissed.
Bellator’s argument is that its submission of a matching offer does not give rise to a cause of action for tortious interference since Bellator claims its matching offer was not done with malice, a requirement it argues is needed to prove such a claim.
Moreover, it states that the communications between Bellator and Alvarez’s counsel in regard to Bellator’s efforts to match the contract offered to Alvarez by Zuffa are confidential communications. As a result, the Court should not consider it and therefore the claims must be dismissed.
Also of note in Belltor’s Reply is the argument that Alvarez’s cannot bring his Breach of Contract claim because the purported matching contract offered by Bellator to Alvarez has yet to be breached. The main argument by Alvarez is that Bellator cannot match the PPV terms as well as the platform (Spike vs. Fox).
A very strong Reply Brief that seemed a bit too strong. Its rare to use an exclamation point in legal briefing. Its almost a faux pas to do so. The brief attempted to pick apart Alvarez’s opposition brief to the point of criticizing Alvarez’s attorneys. It appears that the issue will boil down to whether Bellator’s attempt to match Zuffa’s contract was proper. This might not be determined at this stage of the lawsuit. Of course, Alvarez’s attorneys have requested the Court an opportunity to amend its Counterclaims if they are found insufficient. Thus, we may not see the end of this lawsuit anytime soon.
April 11, 2013
Bellator’s inaugural season on Spike TV scored an average of 861,000 viewers according to a recent press release. Despite some issues during the season, it was an overall success.
Via Bellator press release:
Spike TV’s debut season of Bellator MMA was a ratings success for the network, delivering an average of 861,000 viewers, culminating with 952,000 viewers for its finale event this past Thursday, April 4. Emanating from venues all around the country, Bellator’s live events on Spike TV improved the timeslot (Thursdays from 10pm – 12:00am) in the hard-to-reach male demographic of Men 25-34 by 36% (compared to last year).
Bellator’s shift from MTV2 to Spike TV proved to be a ratings bonanza for the rising MMA league. The most recent season 8 on Spike TV delivered +388% more viewers than Season 7 on MTV 2 and +403% more viewers than Season 6. Also of note, the weekly encore presentation of the Bellator events drew an average of 336,000 on Thursday night (12:00-2:00am) – thus the weekly cume was an impressive 1,197,000 viewers.
Competitively, Bellator MMA consistently placed in the top 10 in cable among Men 18-34 and Men 18-49 in the timeslot. For the live finale last week, Bellator placed #6 with Men 18-49 with a 0.7 rating. Also, Bellator’s April 4 event was a hit on social media as it ranked #5 on cable for tweets during episode airtime, the highest during this season.
Kevin Kay told MMA Fighting that he thought the ratings would be between 600K to 700K. He also indicated that they were unsure how much TNA had an impact (sorry) on its ratings.
According to our count, Bellator MMA Live did a season average of 793,000 viewers so the 861,000 may include the replays and/or 3 day DVR totals. Despite an upset loss by the highly touted Mo Lawal, some suspect judging and minor production issues, the season was a success. It also developed an app which many seemed to like and created another platform for fans to connect. It now must work on introducing fans to the likes of Pat Curran and Michael Chandler to gain a following.