by Steven Marrocco – MMAWeekly.com
Bellator Fighting Championships has finalized a broadcast deal with Fox Sports Net, NBC, and Telemundo, for its second and third seasons of tournament action, the promotion announced Tuesday.
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney said the deal was four months in the making and he was thrilled with its result.
“It was the best possible alliance for our brand right now,” he said.
The news comes as a departure from expectations the promotion would migrate from ESPN Deportes, its previous Spanish-language broadcast home, to a slot on the more widely seen ESPN or ESPN 2.
In Deportes’ place, a two-hour, English-only telecast will air live Thursdays in primetime on Fox Sports Net and its regional affiliates.
For those who miss the two-hour live telecast, a half-hour recap show featuring fights from each week’s live broadcast will air late Saturday night following “Poker After Dark” on NBC.
Spanish-language channel Telemundo, which has often bolstered its Telenovela-centered schedule with boxing events, will air a one-hour Bellator special from midnight to 1 a.m.
Bellator’s first season drew respectable ratings on Deportes, building from an initial .48 rating to several shows “north of 1.0,” said Rebney.
Deportes, however, is seen in five million homes to Telemundo’s reach of 62 million. FSN and NBC are seen in a combined 194 million homes.
The promotion’s second 12-week tournament kicks off April 8, 2010, and focuses on grooming the next challengers to season one champions Joe Soto, Eddie Alvarez, Lyman Good, and Hector Lombard.
The promotion’s third season kicks off Aug. 12 and will feature light heavyweight and heavyweight championship tournaments to round out the title roster.
As in season one, superfights featuring non-tournament fighters will dot the upcoming seasons, including appearances from season one champions.
Due to the season two tournaments focusing on unearthing challengers rather than crowning champions, Rebney said the pay structure for season two would be slightly lower than seasons one and three (who could win up to $175,000), though season two winners would still take home six figures.
The event locations for seasons one and two are yet to be announced, though Rebney said two of the promotion’s previous venues, Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn., and the Hard Rock Hotel in Seminole, Fla., were possible choices for the launch of the second season, adding the promotion would likely use each of its venues twice per 12-week season.
It is unknown whether an anticipated women’s tournament will take place on the second or third season.
Of the first season, Rebney said feedback from Latino viewers indicated a misunderstanding of the sport and its reality, something the promotion will address in its Telemundo offerings.
NBC got its MMA feet wet last April with “Strikeforce on NBC,” a 52-week series which drew a peak rating of 1.1 in the same time slot Bellator is slated to take.
FSN has been a longtime broadcast home for MMA, having hosted the UFC, Pride, Affliction, and the International Fight League.