Bjorn Rebney (Pictured) admires the manner with which Spike TV pushed MMA. | Photo: Dave Mandel
The impact of the UFC’s seven-year distribution contract with the Fox Broadcasting Company will not be limited to that organization alone. It could also eventually mean a new television home for Bellator Fighting Championships. Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney was a keen observer as the terms of Thursday’s agreement fell into place.
“I’ll be interested to see how things mature with their deal with Fox. Spike [TV] did an amazing, amazing job of bringing mixed martial arts to the general market,” Rebney told Sherdog.com. “Spike was a primary catalyst of bringing MMA to general-market consumers. It’ll be very interesting for me as a fan of MMA to see if anyone can come close to that level of success over the next few years.”
It figures to be interesting for Rebney in his role running the largest MMA promotion outside of the Zuffa, LLC realm, as well. The UFC’s contract with Spike expires at the end of 2011, and while network officials immediately expressed interest in focusing on original programming like “Auction Hunters” and “Bar Rescue,” Bellator seems like a natural candidate to replace the live fight content void created by the UFC’s departure; Spike does retain the rights to re-broadcast select UFC programming through 2012.
Bellator is approximately nine months into a three-year contract with MTV networks, which is part of the media conglomerate Viacom.
“We’ve got a long time to go and a lot of really cool stuff that we’re going to build over the next two and a half years with this group,” Rebney said.
Could some of that content appear on Spike TV, which happens to be a member of the Viacom empire? That, Rebney said, is ultimately not for him to decide.
“The reality of our situation is that I’m busy promoting; I’m busy putting the production together for the TV show; I’m busy signing fighters and improving the quality of what we’re doing in house and on the screen. Obviously, I don’t make programming decisions for MTV networks,” he said. “I can tell you that where we are right now on MTV2, with 82 million homes and the ratings consistently climbing, has been and continues to be awesome for us.”
Rebney was effusive in praising Spike for its approach to MMA content over the past six years and said that some of those same network executives have been involved in the production of the Bellator events on MTV2.
“I don’t think there’s any denial from anyone you would ask that Spike has been the home and is the best known name in terms of a distribution platform for mixed martial arts that the world of television has ever seen,” he said. “The reality is that they have had a stranglehold on mixed martial arts, literally, since 2005. It’ll be interesting for all involved to see what Spike does in the future and where they focus their energies.”
Rebney promises a new-and-improved Bellator product for the upcoming welterweight tournament on Sept. 10, primarily in the areas of production and fighter presentation. Whether Spike is a part of that picture -- then or down the road -- remains to be seen.
“You’ll see a total revamp of a lot of the different pieces on the show,” Rebney said. “My job is to constantly evolve the show and make it better, make it more entertaining, more visually stimulating. I think we’re doing that.”