Viacom Buys Stake in Bellator; Promotion Headed to Spike by 2013

By Mike Whitman Oct 26, 2011
Media conglomerate Viacom, Inc. has purchased a majority stake in Bellator Fighting Championships and will eventually move the Chicago-based promotion’s televised cards to Spike TV.

Bellator will likely debut on the Viacom-owned channel in January 2013, Sherdog.com confirmed Wednesday with sources close to the situation. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Bellator Chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney is expected to continue working in his current capacity. USA Today first reported the news on Tuesday.

News of Bellator’s jump to Spike comes as no surprise. The company has been rumored to make the move since the UFC announced its 7-year partnership with Fox Networks -- and its imminent departure from Spike -- in August. Though the UFC will officially begin its deal with Fox in 2012, prerecorded UFC programming will likely remain on Spike through 2012, per contract terms.

One source asserted that Bellator programming could be featured even sooner, though that possibility is contingent upon the UFC buying back its library rights from Spike prior to the contract’s end. It appears instead that the world’s largest MMA promotion will allow its programming to run on Spike until the deal finishes at the end of 2012. In the event that circumstance becomes reality, Bellator legally may not appear on Spike until 2013.

Currently, Bellator airs weekly live events on MTV2, another Viacom subsidiary. Bellator signed a three-year deal with the network in late 2010, and Bellator programming began appearing on MTV2 in March of this year. Ratings have ranged from a low of 103,000 to a high of 277,000 average viewers.

Sherdog’s sources confirmed that no major changes are planned for Bellator this year, save for minor tweaks. When the promotion does move to Spike, live events will likely be bolstered by supplemental programming in an effort to make Bellator talent more recognizable and “build stars” within the organization.

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