Spike TV may have lost the rights to the UFC, but they are definitely committed to the mixed martial arts business.
Viacom, the parent company of Spike TV and other entities like MTV, BET and Comedy central, has purchased a controlling interest in Bellator Fighting Championships and will move the fight promotion to Spike TV in 2013.
The news was first reported by USA Today late Tuesday night.
According to the report, Viacom opted to not only remain in the MMA business after losing out on the bidding to retain the UFC beyond 2011, but to become players by owning a promotion and investing in its future.
Bjorn Rebney, the current CEO of Bellator, will remain in his role as the head of the promotion, but Viacom will now own the majority stake in the promotion moving forward.
The deal will see Viacom take over Bellator Fighting Championships, which is currently the No. 3 MMA promotion behind the UFC and Strikeforce, both of which are owned by Zuffa LLC.
The current plan is for Spike TV to become the new home for Bellator Fighting Championships, but that deal can’t begin until 2013.
Spike TV owns the rights to the current UFC library through the end of 2012. As part of their previous agreement with the promotion, they can’t broadcast another MMA promotion on their network until that deal ends. The UFC is moving to Fox and their subsidiaries starting in 2012.
Bellator currently airs on MTV2 and will continue on that network for the immediate future, but they’ve already begun to be imprinted on other areas of the Viacom family, like their preliminary fights airing on Spike TV’s website.
Viacom now commits to MMA on an even bigger level as owners of a promotion, with the long term goals existing around Bellator’s success.