Five years ago today, Bellator Fighting Championships announced they would be moving their events to Friday nights after complaints from fans. Bjorn Rebney, now involved MMA Athletes Association announced last week, explained the rationale for the move. Jamie Penick’s detailed story and analysis is below…
Bellator Fighting Championships have had a lot of issues gaining traction on MTV2, not the least of which is their decision to run events on Saturday nights. The night is filled with head-to-head competition with the UFC more often than not, and with a shifting time slot to avoid some of those conflicting times, the viewership has been erratic.
Well, Bellator and MTV2 have heard the complaints from fans, and they’ve decided to move nights for Bellator.
To Friday night.
In an interview with USAToday.com, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney explained the move to Friday nights despite many of the same head-to-head issues as the UFC moves The Ultimate Fighter to that night on FX next year.
“We didn’t really dig into the analysis and try to assess who was one, who was two and who was three, or what we were trying to avoid the most,” Rebney said. “It just kind of came down to an analysis of, is there a night where all the factors made it to where we can maximize live-event attendance, where we can reach the largest audience from an television perspective, to give MMA fans an opportunity to really make a night for themselves with Bellator.”
“Those kinds of events, on a live-event platform, seem to play to a specific audience that wants to see live fights. When you track ratings on mixed-martial-arts programming, you typically see that when the guys are in the cage fighting, it does the biggest numbers.”
Penick’s Analysis: Look, Bellator has made a lot of good moves and positive strides as they’ve continued to develop as an MMA organization, but the move to Saturday nights on MTV2 was a mistake. Now, they’ve only slightly lessened the issue, as they’ve picked the second-worst day of the week to run MMA events. As it is, Friday night is not a great night for television programming, and they’re not avoiding competing with the UFC for viewers. Rebney may believe The Ultimate Fighter won’t be taking viewers from them, but it’s a brand new format for TUF and with live fights every week people will be tuning in. Now, while some of the stuff inside the house may not keep viewers, and they may flip channels until the fight of the week starts, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be flipping over to MTV2. Friday night is going to be a UFC night, and it’s not just with The Ultimate Fighter. Their first event on FX will be a Friday night fight card, and it stands to reason that may be the day they shift to for all FX events. Bellator is missing a big opportunity to really take a night of their own during the week, where there will no longer be major UFC programming to take the attention away. With TUF moving away from Wednesdays, Bellator easily could have taken that slot, or even gone back to Thursday nights, and either would have been preferable to Friday nights for exposure.