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« | Home | »

Bjorn Rebney: It’s MTV’s call to shift Bellator’s TV time slot to not conflict with UFC

By Zach Arnold | April 7, 2011

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I slept on this overnight after hearing the initial comments in order to get a better read on what is being said here. Earlier in the week, we laid out the various issues Bellator is facing with MTV2 both on the positive & negative sides of the equation. A big negative is that their time slot is not consistent, which happens to be a big reason they left Fox Sports Net (due to the shifting time slots and pre-emptions). However, FSN is a far bigger platform/chain of networks than MTV2. MTV2 isn’t on the roster of some cable providers and for many it’s either not available in HD or it’s on a pay tier. So, access is always going to be an issue.

Our buddy Jack Encarnacao asked Bjorn Rebney about the moving time slot on MTV2 and whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing.

“Well, yeah, I mean it… *sighs* That was… *sighs* I thought, and I still believe to this day, I think it’s a good philosophy and it’s a good way to be able to orchestrate because the UFC, as well all know, anybody who has been watching this game over the years knows that the UFC counter-programs and that’s not an unusual position for an organization in any sport or any entertainment industry to take. When somebody else was doing an event and, you know, the UFC existing under the MTV Networks banner was able to counter-program them, they did, and they did it really effectively. We’re under the same banner corporately that they are. MTV Networks owns Spike and MTV Networks owns MTV2 so it’s a conscious decision of our partners to move our programming up and to be able to say, ‘Hey, you can watch Bellator on MTV2 and then you can turn over when the Bellator show is over and watch the UFC on Spike.’ So, it works for us now. What’s going to happen in the coming year and years, you know, that’ll have to be dictated in terms of looking at the schedule and determining what we’re going to do. You know, I like the flexibility of not having, as an MMA fan, having to making a choice whether you’re going to watch one or the other but given the option to watch both.”

There are one of two reads you can interpret from this answer:

  1. MTV is doing it in order to protect Bellator from losing viewers if the promotion had to run head-to-head against UFC.
  2. UFC is Viacom’s golden goose for MMA and they are not going to piss off Zuffa, an organization that plays hardball, in order to treat Bellator as an equal in the MMA field.

You can pick which read you want to. As Mr. Rebney pointed out previously, having Bellator on a media platform that understands what the sport of MMA is and knows how to produce MMA programming is a big plus. However, Bellator is now under the same media umbrella as UFC and that will put them in a box in a lot of ways. The only way that ceiling is lifted is if Bellator’s numbers dramatically grow or if UFC leaves the Viacom umbrella and signs a deal with another big media partner.

Jack also asked the Bellator CEO a very interesting question about the Strikeforce asset sale to UFC. He framed it this way: “Is that a success or failure story to you?” The answer given was revealing.

“Well, it depends on what your business goals were. I mean, it would not be, if you’re looking at it and fast-forwarding in Bellator’s future, it would not be a success in our business model. But, you know, you got to ask yourself, what did the ownership of Strikeforce want? What was Scott Coker looking for? What did he want to accomplish? Quite obviously, it was an exit strategy. And, you know, he was able to accomplish that. And I guess congratulations are, you know, due to Scott for having accomplished that successfully. It’s not our model but, you know, ultimately the impact that it has on the game and the impact that it has on our sport… I look at it as a fan, I’ve said this many times. I think that the more competition you have out there, the more people you have out there regularly programming and producing, you know, high-level world-class Mixed Martial Arts events, the more world-class wrestlers, the more world-class judokas, the more world-class Jiu-Jitsu players, the more world-class guys are going to gravitate toward this game and ultimately more quickly what I believe is the greatest sport in the world is going to get better, stronger, faster, more exciting. So, from a fan’s perspective, I look at that transition and I think, hey, that’s probably not overall great for our game because the elimination of competition eliminates a number of options that fighters have to pursue this full-time. But, you know, hey, you have to ask the folks at Strikeforce, that’s obviously what they were looking for and they got it and it limits the scope of the field now.”

He knows what we all have known, which is that what has happened in the American pro-wrestling scene with one major player (WWE) is happening to the American MMA scene with UFC. The more failures and sales there are, the less inclined people are going to be to put up any sort of cash to get involved in the business. When that happens, salaries go down and there are fewer job slots open. When there’s less money, fewer people are interested in getting involved in making it a full-time career and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The danger that Zuffa needs to avoid is the fate that WWE has now, which is a fan base that has atrophied and been demoralized. That demoralized wrestling fan base has a substitute, not a replacement, to turn to in watching UFC. Where will MMA fans go when they get burnt out or get bored with the product?

Topics: Bellator, MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 25 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

25 Responses to “Bjorn Rebney: It’s MTV’s call to shift Bellator’s TV time slot to not conflict with UFC”

  1. Simon says:

    I see your point comparing how stale WWE got to where UFC could end up, but I don’t think thats the case at all. WWE got stale because there was a progression with the fans. Fans would go from being young, naive, and into everything they would throw at them. Then most would grow a little older and they would go one of two routes. One path would lead them into thinking WWE was still “real” and they totally bought into the product the WWE was still selling. The other path was where a lot of newer MMA fans have ended up, (thus leading to them being newer mma fans). They realized WWE was fake, that turned them off completly. Now you have a whole section of disillusioned fans who are no longer buying what they were selling, and they might still look for that same kind of product, that sports entertainment mentality, and move off to either boxing, kickboxing, or as we see all the time, MMA. But just because a few sections of the WWE fan base grew up and wanted something different, doesn’t mean its something that will happen with the MMA fanbase.

    I can’t speak for anyone but myself and a few friends of mine, but I don’t see that mass exodus happening in MMA. I watch it because I belive in that competitive spirit. There is an honor in fighting that you can’t find in too many other sports. Honor is a big part of martial arts and I would think and hope a lot of fans understood this, that just because Chuck Liddell is no longer able to knock heads all over the place, doesn’t mean its the same thing as Hulk Hogan turning bad guy, which probably didn’t do much for helping to keep fanbase intact. In MMA (my hope is), fans should know better, that just because Chuck isn’t killing opponents anymore, doesn’t mean someone else in MMA won’t rise up and fill those shoes. Not possible in WWE.

    There will never be another Hulk Hogan. Never see another Rock. The fanbase would never stand for WWE allowing some undeserving wanna-be to rise up and subvert any of those legends of WWE. Will there be new stars? Yes, but where in WWE you could never pass off someone else as the “new Rock”. In MMA, there will always be that question “Who is the next Anderson Silva?”. And there will always be a rebuttal.

    Hope that came out right. There was a point I was trying to make somewhere in there.

    • chris says:

      I get ya, the mistakes that the WWF made are moreso what caused their exodus’ of fans, moreso than their fanbase growing up and away. If Zuffa makes repeated false steps, or garners real bad press worldwide for a prolonged period, those types of things will do MMA in.

      Regardless of what happens outside the cage, on the web, in the press or on tv, once the cage closes it’s a shoot. The theatrics, the glitz, the hype, the buildup or none at all, it’s a shoot fight once the bell rings, that’s the ultimate difference in the end vs. pro wrestling. It’s a sporting event, a fight and that’s always going to be the constant. Wrestling has moved away, and reinvented itself so many times it has alienated their fans to many times to count and now I can’t even call it “wrestling”.

  2. chris says:

    The whole shifting Bellator time slot doesn’t seem like an issue to me.
    Im a pre-tuf diehard fan. I’ll watch almost any event that’s live if I can. Most internet MMA fans, pre-tuf were that way and still are, treating each show on tv as something special and as an event, not a three times a week thing you casually watch like a baseball game after dinner.

    My point being, I’ll watch Bellator live at 7 or 8pm(or dvr it for after) and then go to what is, the more importantly attraction for the night (SF or UFC). Kinda like a fluffer getting you ready to go on set.
    But here’s where I don’t get the time shift complaint….

    NOTHING IS ON BUT BELLATOR ON SATURDAY NIGHTS ON MTV2!(and probably Bam for an hour, which is more of a reason for crap ratings when you have no lead-in or build upto your live broadcast on your network)If you miss the live airing at 7, the repeat is on right after or an hour later. The whole MTV2 deal I think is more reliable as a mma fan because atleast I know it’s gonna be on, last season with MSG there were nights I would hope to dvr the repeat and would be getting college ballgames, or the first airing wouldn’t be until 1 am in NY. The varying aspect from region to region stunted Bellator’s fanbase and growth. I watched the finals on a stream because MSG wasn’t airing whatever event I wanted to watch at the end of the season until 2am.
    Atleast with MTV2, and their “pre-teen” fan base, 7pm?8?9pm? you know that the shows going to air live, and a replay is going to run at 10 or 11. That seems like a reliable/convenient solution to me.

    I know first run ratings are an important press release bragging right, and many times you’ll see releases stating not the first, but the combined airings totals as how many viewers watched the show. In that line of thinking regardless if someone sees the show at 7 or 9pm, they’re still watching, and chances are after a month of being on this floating schedule people who give a whooping funt know that at sometime on Saturday night Bellators on mtv2 wherever it may be.It’s either on at 9 when there’s no UFC, or it’s on before the UFC. Simple as that.

    On a good note, since Fios doesn’t allow my dvr to program for a manual overrun, I missed the last 3 rounds of the Alverez snoozer, after Strikeforce was done, I had the dvr set to record to ending of the shows repeat airing, and I got to watch the end of Curran/Alverez after the main show(SF) of the night was over.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      Depends on what percentage of viewers “watched” both the first run and repeat showings.

      I put “watched” in quotations because a lot of time people will just keep their TV on the same channel and aren’t even watching whats on.

  3. 45 Huddle says:

    Competition helps out Pro Wrestling. It does not help out MMA.

    Because Pro Wrestling is scripted, a great story line for fans is who is going to jump to the other company. It also helps keep stories fresh by recycling talent from other companies. The greatest thing that ever happened to the WWE was WCW…. And vise versa.

    With MMA, the best is to have one organization so all the fighters can compete against each other. To 95% of fans, the UFC has been the only MMA company for 5+ years. And the sport has not suffered because of it. Only on the online hardcore fanbase world has there been multiple MMA companies competing against each other.

    Salaries aren’t going to go down for the big stars. And for somebody with an amateur wrestling background or a kickboxing background or a BJJ background, there is no big money for their sport. So their desire to continue competing will keep talent continue to penetrate the sport for years to come.

    Now, the Pro Wrestling fans who came over to MMA to continue the drama of organizations feuds are going to be left high and dry. The WWE is Pro Wrestling. The UFC is MMA. Those “fans” are left with nothing. You can already see it online with some websites getting less traffic for comments. Those fans have nothing left. Which I don’t think is bad for MMA. They need more sports fans, not these Pro Wrestling reject fans. I used to love Pro Wrestling, but I watch MMA as a sport. They are very different. Even some of the MMA journalists blur that line far too much and can’t understand the difference.

  4. mr. roadblock says:

    I disagree about the talent being driven away by less competition.

    There’s only 1 NFL, NBA and MLB. Money and opportunity attracts the talent.

    WWE and UFC aren’t analogous in this regard because WWE is scripted. WWE has gone downhill because the presentation of it’s stories and ideas more than anything else. That and ‘reality’ wrestling of the late 90’s may have been a fad.

    Guys like Undertaker and HHH hang around at the top of the cards forever. Things like politics, who is friends with who, etc affect people’s earning potential and career trajectory. That’s the main thing keeping talent away.

    Sure there are shady characters and politics in MMA, but if you can knock someone out and not get knocked out you’ll rise up the ranks in MMA.

  5. David M says:

    Am I the only person who thinks BJ Penn decided to pull out because he wanted to make sure his PPV cut is substantial and Carlos Condit is as unknown to the casual fan as Alexander Otsuka?

  6. Black Dog says:

    Well, some good points being made here. Nice to see. I think the MTV2 thing is good for both; a set time slot is essential to build up a viewing audience. It works well for both companies, as I think MTV is looking for anything that will sell, and will bring people to the channel.

    As for pro wrestling: HHH did not “ruin” it, Vince McMahon did by turning it into a dog and pony show. Sure, entertaining and at times compelling, but it will always have a place. Gene Simmons once said KISS stays around because they’ll always have another generation of 12 year olds to cater to…I admit, I was one of those kids back in the day.

    WWE will still have a spot, and they will have diehard fans who will roll up for the house shows and pay big money for the PPVs. MMA is a huge bite out of their audience, because people want to see real fighting, pure and simple. UFC has the best share of the good fighters, and not just the personalities, either; they’ve damaged WWE, but McMahon will find a way to reinvent the brand. He has always changed with the times, sometimes a little late, but he does it. He’s a businessman and a promoter, first and foremost. He will do what it takes.

    I can’t stand any American pro wrestling, apart from occasional ROH stuff; there’s no point in seeing old guys like HHH, Undertaker, Flair and Hogan fighting the same battles again and again. No point anymore.

    In any case, time will tell if Bellator can make it work with MTV2; we’ll need six months to see if it does, but then again, will the network wait that long? I have to wonder.

    • The Gaijin says:

      Totally unrelated to wrestling itself, as I’ve stated before, I don’t know much about it…but interestingly the WWE had a recent statement about branching out and “leasing” their production capabilities/expertise for live events (sports, concerts, etc.).

      From what I have seen, they certainly do know how to produce live events (on tv/ppv and in the arena). Maybe they’ll consult on production for the UFC and we can improve on the thrash-rock + gladiator intros and update some of the dated production. Not that I have a big issue with UFC production, their actual in-fight presentation is amazing and their Primetime/Countdown shows are great…but they’re kinda sticking with the same stale things these days.

  7. 45 Huddle says:

    Zach,

    You going to discuss the bad TUF ratings?

    If Lesnar is bringing in 1.2 Million for a 2nd show. How bad will it get when the small guys are fighting next season?

    Time to end the show. I watched the first episode and quickly took it off my DVR. I’ll be back for the semi finals.

    The show was at least good for producing prospects for a while. It seems like that has even gone away.

    Time to find something new and fresh for the UFC. Hopefully something without the immature stuff that made TUF famous….

    • The Gaijin says:

      The format is just old and stale. It’s like Marge Simpson’s Chanel dress from the outlet mall – you can only tweak and re-tailor the same dress so many times – and after the first few alterations and face-lifts people are going to recognize it’s still the same old dress.

      Like you said, at least they used to bring in interesting prospects and personalities. Now (a) the quality of fighters they’re bringing in are really going downhill and (b) the “personalities” of the fighters are just derivatives and amplifications of the originals that people liked. It’s just like the Real World, Big Brother and all those other stupid shows, the casting folks and the participants themselves saw “what worked” before and are trying way too hard to recreate it…but viewers are either tired of the xerox’d versions or seeing through the try-hardness.

      And I echo what you said, let’s find something that doesn’t reinforce the negative stereotypes of fighters, like meatheaded drunkeness and behaviour, homophobic or racist viewpoints and the body fluid-related “pranks”. Leave that to Jackass.

    • Chris says:

      None.

      the BW/FW season will have the best talent in a long time.

      The ratings are low for a few reasons.

      the time slot change is major, second Brock coaching isnt something anyone wants to see. Him coaching against a guy who is nice and barely speaks English is another.

      So Brock isnt fighting, isnt going against a rival that he hates, he is a rookie pretending to coach, shifting time slot, thats why they are getting low ratings.

      And no getting rid of TUF would be the stupidest move. TUF keeps the UFC brand on tv every week and produces new young fighters.

      Dont see how an mma fan doesnt watch it. Maybe I’m just a hardcore mma fan who enjoys watching prospects but thats me.

  8. The Gaijin says:

    http://mmaweekly.com/strikeforce-targeting-july-for-possible-pay-per-view-lawal-vs-gracie-rumored

    Interesting.

    One assumes this would be on Showtime PPV, so maybe they aren’t going to get totally screwed over on this whole deal (depending how successful the PPV numbers are). I would also imagine that they will keep Fedor off of this card since they’d have to co-promote with M-1? I wonder if his contract stipulates that he has to be on any PPV events they run…Hendo vs. Fedor?

    So let’s spitball:
    Mo Lawal vs. Roger Gracie
    Diaz/Daley vs. [Condit?]
    Fedor vs. Hendo
    Barnett vs. Rogers
    Overeem vs. Werdum

    • 45 Huddle says:

      From a Zuffa business perspective it makes sense.

      1) If it fails, it’s a built in excuse to fold up Strikeforce.

      2) It uses Strikeforce talent without using up one of the Showtime slots. So they can get farther into fighters contracts and have more cards to test the talent to see which ones are worth keeping and at what price.

      3) This will be much like the WEC PPV in that it will have the UFC Hype Machine behind it which should help it with PPV Buys. Plus they know how to sell tickets and put on PPV events so the cost of running the event would be substantially lower then if Coker did it for the first time.

      In terms of a fans perspective…

      It’s bad. No reason to have more then 1 PPV per month from Zuffa. I don’t care what they call the PPV (UFC, SF, WEC, etc…), there is no reason for more then one per month. So far in 2011, Zuffa was doing pretty good about it. For the first 6 months, they had 7 PPV’s, and the 2nd one in February’s card was so weak it was an easy skip for most fans (and the PPV Buyrate showed it).

      The 2nd half of the year not so much. Now we are looking at 2 PPV’s in both July and August. That’s unacceptable.

      • The Gaijin says:

        If Strikeforce does go to PPV it will be 5 PPVs in a 3-month span. Some of those ppv buyrates are going to suffer, but from a Zuffa perspective, so long as all of them are profitable and don’t erode thir big buyrate shows they probably don’t care…I’m sure they’ve done their forecasts and analyzed the marginal return on this many ppvs.

        I do wonder how they’ll convince a lot of people to pay for SF when they’re used to getting even their biggest events “free” (nominal subscription fee aside). It will probably get a 275-300k type buy, just a bump over the WEC numbers.

        Good point about the Fedor title shot, totally blanked on that part…I wonder if they could convince Randy to fight him in July? Though I think they’d want to reserve that one for a UFC ppv, and where they know they’ve got Fedor/M-1 in line. I know he’s a pain to deal with, but he’s still shown he can draw interest from that fanbase, so I think he’ll probably be on the show all things considered.

      • cutch says:

        It’s a Showtime PPV though is it not? they will be the ones producing it and doing 360’s instead of a countdown show.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      As for the PPV, it’s likely going to feature 2 title fights. But I don’t think Fedor gets a title shot. I think they keep him away from any sort of titles just so they can be rid of him.

  9. The Gaijin says:

    In other hilarity – “Strikeforce” has denied CBS Sports media credentials for its show tomorrow. Ya’know the same CBS that owns Showtime, the network SF will be shown on.

    LOL. The brave new world.

    • The Gaijin says:

      And before I get the defensive forces all over me…YES it is most definitely within their rights to do so, I don’t have a problem with it if that’s what they want, but you have to admit it’s pretty hilarious CBS Sports cannot get credentialled for a show on a network within their own family.

      At this rate, Hunt and Gross will be covering Iowa semi-pro mma by next year. But it does go to show you, you either fall in line and report what’s “acceptable” or you don’t get credentials. Cuban’s done it to bloggers and so do other pro sports, so c’est la vie.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        Correct. It does happen in major professional sports a lot. It seems to happen more with MMA, but there are also a lot more 3rd rate “journalists” covering the sport.

        Loretta Hunt & the Sherdog guys should be banned. They aren’t very good. Hunt especially is a complete hack. Completely unprofessional and is one of the worst.

        As for Josh Gross….. Nobody disagrees with him more then I do. I haven’t taken an official poll to verify it, but I’m certain I am one of his biggest detractors. But the guy at least does his work like a professional and should be there.

        • edub says:

          Yes.

          I was an apologist for Hunt on this site and others for a while. I felt she would get unfavorably ridiculed. However, after the article where she tried to say Carano vs. Cyborg was a bigger event in MMA than UFC 100 I had to take a step back and examine everything. I do agree with a lot she says, so I have to take my own opinion of her with a grain of salt. But personally I don’t get all the fuss from people who think she’s a great writer. Roadblock (at least I think it was him) pointed out a while back how horrible or writing was, and after I realized it I can’t really get past it. I really don’t understand how she got a job with CBS sports. There seems to me to be a lot better, and more qualified people out there for it.

          I have to go back to feeling bad for her now though, because her days at CBS are probably numbered now. Or at least you’d think they’d be.

        • edub says:

          “I do agree with a lot she says, so I have to take my own opinion of her with a grain of salt.”

          Supposed to say disagree.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          All it takes is a semi-credible journalist who can output the same sort of content and has credentials, and Hunt is gone.

          I bought her Randy Couture book. Horribly written. And I’m not a picky person on writing styles as I’m not the best writer myself. But even I was reading it shaking my head on how bad it was.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          The funniest thing is that Kid Nate is over at BE saying how Zuffa is hurting Strikeforce and their fighters by doing this. Yet everybody who is at the event is saying there is more press there this time then ever before.

          They must be doing something right.

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