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Join Date: Apr 2010
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Viacom buys Bellator, plans 2013 start on Spike
MTV Networks' Spike TV channel is getting out of the Ultimate Fighting Championship's business, but the broadcaster has increased its ties to mixed martial arts.
Viacom, parent of MTV Networks, bought a majority stake in Bellator Fighting Championships and will start airing the promotion's bouts on Spike in 2013, the companies told USA TODAY this week. They've had ongoing talks for about a year as they finished up various deals, and over the past month finally reached the point where they could announce the news, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney said.
Selling to Viacom's entertainment conglomerate guarantees a stable future for Bellator, said Rebney, who will remain in charge of the MMA organization.
"It puts all of those cornerstones of ownership in place for us," he said. "Which is something that's been so seriously lacking in the MMA space with so many different companies, including Strikeforce and the IFL and Affliction and all the different failures that have occurred. … It alleviates those issues."
Bellator is the No. 2 promotion in mixed martial arts behind market leader Zuffa, owner of UFC and Strikeforce.
The experience and cachet of Spike in broadcasting mixed martial arts over the last six years makes it the ideal partner for Bellator, Rebney said. Spike became the first channel to embrace the sport when it started airing Zuffa's programming in 2005, including The Ultimate Fighter reality show and live UFC Fight Night events.
Although Spike's agreement to carry new material from UFC ends in December, the channel still has rights to the promotion's library through 2012. As a result, fights from Bellator won't air on Spike until 2013, said Kevin Kay, Spike TV president. In addition to continuing Bellator's current practice of having two seasons annually, Spike expects to run additional programs such as highlight shows and related content, both on TV and online.
MTV2 has been airing Bellator's main cards since March. MTV Networks increased its Bellator programming in September by streaming preliminary fights on Spike TV's website.
As early as last year, executives for Viacom saw little hope for reaching another deal with UFC.
"We had a great relationship with UFC and we still do," Kay said. "We helped each other to build each other's brand. Like all good things, you know that at some point it's going to come to an end."
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