Spike TV will become the new home for Bellator starting in 2013. According to a new USA Today report, Viacom — the parent company of MTV Networks — has purchased a majority stake in Bellator Fighting Championships, signaling the official end to their six-year relationship with the UFC.
CEO Bjorn Rebney will remain in charge of Bellator. Speaking about the Viacom deal with USA Today, he said: “It puts all of those cornerstones of ownership in place for us, which is something that’s been so seriously lacking in the MMA space with so many different companies, including Strikeforce and the IFL and Affliction and all the different failures that have occurred…It alleviates those issues…It’s a very, very good day for mixed martial arts as a whole, because now you have two groups in the space that have a very substantial presence that obviously isn’t going to go anywhere for a very, very long time.”
According to the terms of their current contract, Spike will broadcast new UFC content through this December, but the channel also reserves the rights to the promotion’s library of fights through 2012. As a result, Bellator events won’t air on Spike until 2013, which means Bellator has another year of main cards on MTV2 and prelims on the SpikeTV website. After that, Spike will broadcast two seasons of Bellator events per year, and expects to run additional Bellator-related content both on TV and online.
Spike TV president Kevin Kay sees the move as a positive change in the way the channel handles its MMA business: “We had a great relationship with UFC and we still do. We helped each other to build each other’s brand. Like all good things, you know that at some point it’s going to come to an end…As we realized that our relationship with UFC was likely to come to an end, our Viacom mergers and acquisitions folks, and us, started to have conversations with MTV2 about getting invested in a mixed martial arts promotion and become owners as opposed to renters. You’re building value in something that you own, and you own it for the long term. You’re not in a constant state of negotiation.”
And the increased exposure for Bellator isn’t lost on its fighters either. Said lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez: “They’ll have a ton of more money to negotiate with. As long as I keep doing well and do what I’m supposed to do, the future looks bright…I’m smiling ear-to-ear right now. I couldn’t be any happier. Endorsements are hard to come by when you’re on ESPN Deportes and these other smaller channels.”
For more details on the Viacom/Bellator purchase, visit USA Today.