Bellator's debut on Spike TV was resoundingly successful; their viewership on the network increased nearly 400 percent from their last season opener.
Spike TV president Kevin Kay was pleased.
"It is the most watched Bellator event in the history of Bellator. MMA fans clearly came home to Spike last night," Kay told the media at a conference call at which Bleacher Report was present.
"We started the night in the first 15 minutes with 1.2 million viewers. The [Pat] Curran-[Patricio] Pitbull [Freire] fight, 1.1 million watched the Curran-Pitbull fight in the first half hour. Overall, we were up 394 percent increase over last season’s show premiere, and 938,000 viewers watched the entire broadcast."
Such numbers are impressive for Bellator, which had heretofore always been the Luigi to the UFC's Mario. That is to say, there was no illusion as to which promotion was the better and bigger one. In fact, most casual fans likely didn't even know that Bellator existed.
The promotion had been stuck on ESPN Deportes, Fox Sports Net, and then MTV2. Being constantly shuffled from niche network to niche network hindered Bellator's ability to establish a consistent fanbase, as their ratings over the past few years demonstrated.
With Spike, Bellator finally has a home where it can undergo stable growth. It's unlikely that Bellator will ever be forced off the network seeing as Viacom, which owns Spike TV, also owns a controlling stake in Bellator. Thus, Bellator and Spike are a match made in corporate heaven.
Kay is just happy and looking forward to more Bellator shows, specifically next week's Bellator 86.
"We said this from the beginning, wherever we start we’re gonna build from so I couldn’t be more excited about next week with Mo [Lawal] and Ben [Askren] and Karl [Amoussou] and what you’ve just heard," he said. "This is gonna be another tremendous card. Clearly, Bellator has some tremendous momentum on Spike."
When asked about any more specifics on the future of Bellator and Spike, Kay was mum yet optimistic.
"We’re just happy with [the ratings]. That’s a great start. Those are really good numbers…Clearly, like I said, it’s 400 percent higher than what we were doing on MTV."
Bellator will have a chance to make lightning strike twice on January 24th when Bellator 86—headlined by a welterweight title fight between champ Ben Askren and challenger Karl Amoussou—airs on Spike TV at 10 p.m. ET.