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One month away from finding out if Bellator will sink or swim on PPV

By Zach Arnold | April 14, 2014

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Can a fight promotion that has given away all of their previous events on basic cable figure out the formula to convince fight fans to pay an unknown amount of money to watch fights on PPV?

We’re about to find out where Bellator stands in terms of fan loyalty in a month’s time.

We know the current situation with Viacom & Bellator. Viacom is making money off of Bellator programming. They’re drawing pretty decent ratings, too. However, there is a limited budget for each show. The talk that Viacom would unleash their resources to finance Bellator simply hasn’t panned out… yet.

If Bellator fails to attract many customers on PPV for Eddie Alvarez vs. Michael Chandler III, it won’t be a surprise. In many respects, expectations are justifiably low. And if Bellator bombs on TV, Viacom will not immediately kill the promotion or sell it to the highest bidder. So what is at stake with the May PPV? If the PPV beats expectations, it will give Viacom reason to turn on the spigot of cash to upgrade the current fight cards Bellator is booking.

What will the magic over/under PPV buyrate number be? My opinion is that 50,000 is the magic number, plus or minus 5,000 buys. If the PPV hits 60,000 or more buys, then I think there’s reason for Bellator to celebrate their future prospects. If the PPV draws under 50,000 buys, I think Viacom will attempt one more PPV but with a different model — perhaps a co-promotion with GLORY or TNA. This is not an option that is off the table.

I’ve noticed this week that the ad campaign for the Bellator PPV is starting to ratchet up on Spike. To what extent the ad campaign will be outside of the Spike TV platform, that I am unsure of. Viacom is trying to offer some steak (Chandler/Alvarez III) with the sizzle (Rampage fighting on native turf near Memphis). It is kind of odd that the promotion will run in Mississippi rather than Tennessee where there is no state income tax. Tito Ortiz will face Alexander Shlemenko. Rampage Jackson has King Mo. For the casual fan, they know about three fights on the card. The question is how many casual fans are there aware of a PPV upcoming.

If Bellator succeeds on PPV, Viacom will open up the checkbook and that is something the company needs given a lot of the bad press they’ve received for their fighter contracts. We know about Eddie Alvarez’s dispute with the company. We’ve seen the stories online about fighters claiming they had to sell a certain amount of tickets in order to get paid. It’s the kind of press that can hurt recruitment of talent. But all of that can be whitewashed the minute Bellator makes money on PPV. PPV isn’t an immediate life or death corporate situation for Bellator but it could sure change their momentum in a hurry if Viacom decides to make a deeper financial commitment.

Topics: Bellator, Media, MMA, Zach Arnold | 7 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

7 Responses to “One month away from finding out if Bellator will sink or swim on PPV”

  1. rst says:

    I finally checked out Bellator this week to see what Karo has made of himself. Its kinda bootsy. But Its kind of completely watchable in that 90’s UFC style. They’re shlubs like you and me.

    I’m thinking UFC is obviously got the prime guys, but for undercard/second string fistimicuffs, bellator is probably cooler. Thats their Modus Operandi.

  2. Diaz's cashed bowl says:

    I would think that Bellator would need a Roy Jones Jr vs Rampage/Nick diaz boxing match type match or some big wrestler debut to actually be successful on PPV.

    The card is not stacked with many Bellator stars. I guess having fought recently most of them are not available.

    $35 is not bad for three fights worth watching for the name value. And with Eddie vs Mike as the main there’s no worries about falling asleep like with Kongo last week.

    I do like Tito and Rampage fighting not fighting each other. Seems like $1,000,000 would cover every ones salary for the night, so hopefully they will do 60,000 or better.

  3. Zack says:

    I’ll tune in to see Shlemenko body shot TKO Tito.

  4. 45 Huddle says:

    You really think they would be willing to pour more money into a promotion that can’t even do 100,000 on PPV? I just don’t see that happening.

    Just look at the quality of the tournaments this year. It is a serious downgrade from past seasons, and those seasons were never great.

  5. 45 Huddle says:

    The last episode of Bellator MMA got 572,000 viewers. Things are not good in Viacom land.

    Are you telling me 50,000 PPV Buys is going to save anything? Nope.

    • Jonathan says:

      50k PPV buys is less than what ECW was getting back in the day, and even though they had a better product than the other big two, they still went under and were bought out.

  6. 45 Huddle says:

    Vince McMahon once again proves he is playing 3 level chess while Lorenzo Fertitta is still playing with his sippy cup.

    WrestleMania got 400,000 PPV buys for the United States alone. Combine that with the 600,000+ on the WWE Network, and they broke 1 Million potential viewers for the US.

    WrestleMania did 662,000 US Buys last year.

    So wait…. The WWE gave away stuff for cheaper and is ina position to make MORE money long term from it? Say it so!

    Fertitta just doesn’t understand the new era of entertainment.


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