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Bellator boss unconcerned with ratings decline, insists brand continues to grow

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Rabi

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It's hard to ignore numbers.

Bellator Fighting Championships, which earlier this month kicked off its fourth season of tournament action, has seen sagging TV ratings in recent weeks despite success out of the gate in key viewership demographics with its new broadcasting partner MTV2.

Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney believes that early success will soon build traction with overall viewership for the promotion's live televised events.

Bellator on Saturday stages its first title fight of the season with arguably its biggest star, lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez, who meets Pat Curran at Bellator 39. The event takes place at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn., and airs live on MTV2.

There have been plenty of challenges so far. Rebney said the promotion's earlier start time, which was adopted to avoid a head-to-head challenge with three UFC events scheduled this month, may have actually hurt viewership numbers with a show of inconsistency. Added to the strain was the March Madness basketball tournament that may have drawn away casual fight fans.

Although Rebney did not mention it specifically, it couldn't have helped that the UFC upped the number of free fights available on its Facebook page this past Saturday for UFC Fight Night 24.

But as Rebney also noted, Bellator drew over half a million viewers over two airings of Bellator 36 when the supposed slide started.

"What we're doing in terms of building out this brand and this partnership with MTV2 and MTV networks, this is a marathon – this is not a sprint," he said.

So, the executive is not sweating week-to-week fluctuations.

"What I'm getting drawn up in is improving the quality of our production, increasing the quality of our fights, and trying to make this bigger and better," Rebney said. "The fights we've got coming up over the next four weeks are just blistering, so I'm looking forward to seeing what happens and what kind of impact that has both in terms of live event attendance and the ratings we do."

YouTube videos featuring Bellator highlights continue to be a counterpunch to the challenges in building an audience. The most recent win for the promotion on that front was this past Saturday's clip of Richard Hale's inverted triangle submission over Nik Fekete, which Rebney said is around 140,000 hits on the video channel.

"I love it as a vehicle," he said. "The bottom line is we all forget because we've been around this and talking about and thinking about Bellator for the last couple of years, but we're still a relatively new brand in terms of general market crossover.

"MTV2 helps change that dynamic very quickly. The more you can feed out there in terms of YouTube or you can get out there vis-a-vis social networking ... the better of you are. It's a vehicle and it's a tool that we'll continue to use. I think it's been instrumental in building the brand and it will help push more people to MTV2 live and free on Saturday night."

While the promotion could definitely use a good turnaround at Bellator 39, Rebney said the event is not a make-or-break situation.

"I'm just hoping this Saturday night comes close to being what the last three weeks have been, and I'm hopeful about next week, when we get to watch champions and superfights and other semifinal fights," Rebney said. "I don't know that it has that more significance to us as a company, but it has an enormous amount of significance to the gentlemen on this call and 16 other fighters who are getting ready for Saturday."

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Post #1   3/31/11 4:15:29PM   

Chael_Sonnen

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I expect great ratings for Saturdays event....stacked card

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Post #2   3/31/11 4:46:33PM   

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Posted by Chael_Sonnen

I expect great ratings for Saturdays event....stacked card



Agree, I expect Bellator 39 to have the highest ratings of any show this season since its such a quality card.

Post #3   3/31/11 8:10:28PM   

warglory

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I don't know what people were expecting for an indie organization on a teen-driven channel, dominated by female viewers. It's cool they have national exposure now, but I think a channel that is more willing to push the brand would be more reasonable.

Post #4   3/31/11 8:42:41PM   

kingsmasher

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Good I hope UFC buys them too then we could start seeing nice cards weekly year round...Could you imagine that...Good MMA weekly...wow...if UFC bought them I can definitely see a MMA channel in the future...

Post #5   3/31/11 11:19:47PM   

SpicyMeatball

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Posted by kingsmasher

Good I hope UFC buys them too then we could start seeing nice cards weekly year round...Could you imagine that...Good MMA weekly...wow...if UFC bought them I can definitely see a MMA channel in the future...



I actually like Bellator, quite a bit. Until a month ago, I had never watched a Bellator fight, so I was excited to see it Bellator land a TV deal, even if it was MTV 2.

After watching four shows, each one being the first round of a tournament, I am hooked. I think the show is very underrated, and it sucks that the ratings are so bad.

Bellator puts on decent shows every single week already, and I like having a company that the UFC doesn't own. Right now Bellator can't even sniff the UFC, but its nice having multiple shows to watch. We need these other, small shows, and so does the UFC. They need fighters to scout.

I can understand why the UFC bought Strikeforce, they need more fighters to fulfill Dana's plan of putting on more and more shows. And while there are Bellator fighters I'd like to see in the UFC, we need Bellator to exist. A smaller company that does their own thing, tournament wise.

I've been really impressed by what Bellator has had to offer so far on MTV 2, and I'm really looking forward to watching it again this Saturday, I've never seen Eddie Alvarez fight before.

Like I said, in my opinion the UFC is where its at. But while I'm waiting for that monthly PPV, and the occasional free show, the weekly Bellator shows help the wait.

Post #6   4/1/11 7:13:33AM   

quezocrema0032

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I agree with rebney nothing to worry about they survived the worst two weeks of the season. Everyone openly admits there light heavy weight tourney was the weakest of the bunch now they have their champs set to fight so expect a ratings increase.

Post #7   4/1/11 9:48:00AM