It appears that Bellator's live events are going to end up on one of the worst nights in terms of television viewing in the fall. After a debut season on Thursdays where they did okay numbers, they were moved to Wednesdays for their Summer Series, which is just one event a month. There had been speculation that they'd stay there full-time in the fall so TNA could return to their old slot (and to avoid NFL games), but instead they're going to Fridays. Loretta Hunt at SI has the story:
To avoid the NFL crush, Bellator MMA will move from Thursday to Friday nights this fall, Spike TV president Kevin Kay exclusively told SI.com during a screening this week for Fight Master, its original MMA reality series debuting on June 19.
Following a rare Saturday night launch on Sept. 7 -- which will also double as Fight Master's live finale - Bellator's ninth season will settle into the 9-11 p.m. ET slot on Sept. 13.
Kay provided the reasoning behind the move, saying that the UFC was a big reason why Bellator couldn't stay on Wednesdays or move to Saturdays. Mondays, Thursdays, and Sundays were out because of the NFL and Tuesdays were out because of original Spike programming. He specifically mentioned the UFC in a quote:
"I don't want to see Bellator going head to head with the UFC. I don't think that makes any sense for fans. No matter who would win in that scenario, you don't want to not give the fans the choice to watch both."
He is referring to the UFC running periodic shows on Wednesdays on Fox Sports 1, and their regular Saturday shows. He also doesn't believe that Friday will be a death slot for Bellator:
"The Ultimate Fighter on Fridays was doing over a million viewers a week. I'll take that, and with live fights, I think we'll do even better. There's a lot of young men at home across [the] 18-49 [age demographic]. Gold Rush on Discovery does 4 million viewers on Friday nights. [The viewers] are there. You just have to give them the right thing and I think live fights on Friday, without competition, is going to be the best place for Bellator."
Bellator averaged 862,000 viewers over 11 events on Thursday nights on Spike according to the article. I'm not expecting it to do better on Fridays, so this is an odd statement from Kay. After a big start on Spike, it looks like they've been downgraded a bit in importance to the network. This could be the reason behind their recent rash of UFC signings as well.