One of the largest obstacles facing Bellator in attempting to become a top-tier mixed martial arts promotions, at least in terms of public opinion, is inconsistency. Bellator has aired on ESPN Deportes, Fox Sports Net, MTV 2 and currently Spike TV. While each move has been a positive one for the promotion in terms of exposure, there have been day of week and time changes along the way that have made it a chore to follow the promotion without a deep preexisting commitment to the sport.
While Spike remains Bellator's home, Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET will no longer be the assigned time slot.
...Spike's pro wrestling franchise, TNA Impact Wrestling, is moving from its current 8-10 p.m. start time on Thursday to 9-11 p.m., effective at the end of this month.
How that affects MMA? Well, in quite a few ways. The most obvious is that the musical chairs that has been Bellator's time slot will have yet another change. Bellator had been following Impact from 10 p.m. until midnight, or sometimes well past that, during its first season on Spike. The weekly show in the early part of 2013 garnered an average of more than 800,000 viewers, more than triple that of any other season in company history, due to the station upgrade.
The first thing is not only is Bellator's time slot changing, but it looks very likely its night will change as well. A 7-9 p.m. time slot would be difficult. For one, the company that was booking a lot of West Coast venues, and getting fans to an arena for live main card fights at 4 p.m. Pacific time, let alone prelim fights at 2 p.m., in a West Coast venue on a Thursday is going to be death at the box office. Plus, the unpredictability of MMA means that it will frequently run past two hours, which would delay the wrestling show, which runs live every other week.
Running from 11 p.m. to past 1 a.m. takes it out of prime time and in that time slot, there is very limited possibility of growing and creating new fans.
Meltzer does go on to point out that Bellator had already booked two Thursday dates, so they may have some shuffling to do. He also points out that Wednesday is likely the leading candidate for the new event nights. That would mean going head to head with The Ultimate Fighter, UFC Tonight as well as the live fights that the UFC will have on Fox Sports 1 on a semi-regular basis.
I just hope that they don't end up in another time slot that sees shows running until well after midnight. That's just too late for live fights on a weekday for old fellas like myself.