Bellator Fighting Championships will be moving to Friday nights in September, leaving the previous slot as Thursday night's follow up to TNA Impact. Before the move in the fall, Bellator has a pair of Summer Series shows which kicked off earlier this week with an event headlined by "King" Mo Lawal taking on Seth Petruzelli.
The show served as a lead-in to the premier of the Spike TV/Bellator reality show Fight Master. The combination of a King Mo headlined show -- Bellator still views him as one of their top stars -- and curiosity in Fight Master no doubt had promotion and network execs expecting some big numbers.
As reported by Dave Meltzer at MMA Fighting, that wasn't what they got:
Bellator in its first season on Spike TV averaged 809,000 viewers, airing directly after TNA Impact on Thursday nights at 10 p.m.
On Wednesday night, it had its first show on Spike TV that didn't have a pro wrestling lead-in. The show headlined by "King" Mo Lawal against Seth Petruzelli did a 0.4 rating and 480,000 viewers from 8-10 p.m.
The debut of Fightmaster, Bellator's new reality show starring coaches Frank Shamrock, Randy Couture, Joe Warren and Greg Jackson, did 432,000 viewers from 10-11 p.m. Neither show cracked the top 100 in the 18-49 demographic for Wednesday.
Spike executives were quick to blame the NHL Finals game four on NBC, a great game that pulled in 6.5 million viewers. A fantastic number for the NHL but not a massive number for network TV. Still the case they're attempting to make is that at least a few thousand of those NHL fans would normally have been watching Bellator.
I might disagree and say that there's always some sort of competition -- this brings up memories of the UFC blaming numbers on The Avengers -- but Wednesday nights aren't Bellator's live home beyond this week and the stacked July 31 show.
The more concerning numbers should probably be for Fight Master. As Meltzer pointed out:
Fightmaster, which got generally strong reviews, only did a 0.4 in the target Male 18-49 age group and 0.3 in Males 18-34. Ultimate Fighter on Spike routinely did 1.5 or better in the Male 18-34 demographic, which was usually its prime audience.
Next week, when Fightmaster airs its second episode at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, the question as to where it is going to stand in the long-term may not be answered. If the Stanley Cup playoffs go seven games, the deciding game will be Wednesday.
I didn't care for the show, feeling it was poorly paced and conceptually a bit flawed, but they have to establish some good base to draw their ratings from. I don't imagine they're going to get a sudden major jump several weeks in.