While Eddie Alverez is busy in Japan posing for pictures in the "White Cage," Bellator FC can finally begin planning it's next season of tournaments. As news today has broken that they have signed a multi-tiered TV contract with NBC, FSN, and Telemundo.
On the surface this is a one of the biggest TV deals in MMA history with over 120M households receiving NBC, 82M households having an FSN affiliate, and Telemundo being the second biggest Spanish speaking content provider on the planet.
However once you get below the surface things quickly lose their luster.
NBC will pick up another MMA entity, but again strictly in a graveyard, 30min. highlights package at 3AM EST. hulu.com will carry all of that content on-demand as it did with Strikeforce.
However Bellator will retain its youtube channel so we'll likely get most of that content anyway, meaning NBC doesn't really gain anything from having the content of a promotion like Bellator FC, and neither do we.
“Mixed martial arts has established its position by becoming one of the fastest-growing sports. Bellator and its real sport tournament format has proven it can deliver some of the finest and most intense action on broadcast television,” said Jerry Petry, Executive Vice President, NBC Universal Television.
That's fantastic, now why don't you put it on when people can see it? Not when the ghost of Billy Mays is haunting our television sets.
Moving on. Telemundo will be getting a one hour highlights package of the previous weeks card. Which is fine, until you remember that ESPN Deportes was showing the whole cards live. I'm sure the Latin community is thrilled with the fact Americans will now be getting live events, while they'll get repeats of a promotion that is supposed to be about them.
Why not just change your name to Warrior Fighting Championships and call it a day.
Then we come to the centerpiece of the deal. Fox Sports Net(FSN) which will showcase live cards in primetime in there entirety.
Great news right? Well...yes, and no.
While FSN does boast 68 million households, and is the second largest sports-only provider it's not without its holes.
You see, FSN is a consortium of 24 regional affiliates, each with their own programing tailored to its own market's tastes. However their all run independently and can under certain contract clauses supersede national content for regional content.
To clarify all NHL, NCAAB, and NBA content, or whatever they think will pull bigger numbers, will step in front of any one of Bellator's shows.
So April rolls around you waltz into your living room pop some corn, pull up to your lazy boy and tune in you've got better chances of watching Blues(30-33-11, 11th in West) vs. Coyotes(22-47-4, 15th in West) , than your do Bellator's second season opener.
Then there are affiliates like mine, Comcast SportsNet New England, that are owned entirely by Comcast and who knows if they will, or even can, show the event. Frankly I'm banking on dead air, unless a Celtics game is on.
At least we still have justin.tv though right?
While this deal definitely increases the potential number of eyeballs Bellator can potential lure in. It also saddles itself with a number of other needless headaches.
Maybe I'm just disappointed by the fact the folks at ESPN seemed so ready to finally give MMA its shot on the network that I'm taking it out on Bellator. But I feel they could have, and should have done better than this.