It’s official. Bellator is moving to Spike TV in 2013. Bellator didn’t just do a broadcast deal with Spike TV though. Spike TV’s parent company, Viacom, went one step further and acquired a majority stake in the upstart promotion.
USA Today broke the news earlier today. Here’s Spike TV’s Kevin Kay explaining to Sergio Non why they decided to go the ownership route versus a broadcast deal like they had with the UFC.
“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,” Kay said. “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.”
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney believes this deal secures Bellator’s future.
“It puts all of those cornerstones of ownership in place for us,” he said. “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,” Rebney said. “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.”
While the news will undoubtedly get the UFC’s attention, Kay hopes it doesn’t land them in their crosshairs.
“We had a great relationship with UFC and we still do,” Kay said. “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.”
“They’re No. 1 in the space, there’s just no question about it,” Kay said. “Who’s more competitive than Dana White? I am, but that’s not a horse race we really want to run around here. I think we respect that organization tremendously.”
This is a big deal. There’s no doubt about that. Many people have questioned how long Bellator could survive with the investors they had, but this deal makes that all a moot point now. Viacom doesn’t guarantee Bellator will grow into a thriving promotion, but it gives them a much better chance than they had before.
Many questions remain unanswered though. Most notably, will they continue on with Bellator’s tournament format or switch to a more traditional matchmaking model like the UFC? Will we see a Bellator version of The Ultimate Fighter? And what about the talent? Will Bellator start targeting top name talent or stick with building their own stars?
There’s a lot of questions, but with the television deal not kicking in until 2013, Spike and Bellator have plenty of time to come up with the answers.
Image via Dave Mandel for Sherdog