When people say that MMA is the "hurt business," they may fail to realize the depth to which that cliche is true. It's not just so for fighters (although perhaps most obviously) it's true of managers, promoters, and even networks. The audience for MMA is decent, but it's hardly enormous; there's money to be made in the sport, but not that much of it. As such, everyone from the top to the bottom is looking for a way to grab just a little more of the pot.
Perhaps nowhere is that more obvious than the ongoing feud between Bellator and the UFC and what, for many, the upcoming Bellator PPV has come to represent. For some it's an opportunity to watch high level MMA without a UFC brand on it, for others it's a test of how successful Bellator can be in the most difficult arena of MMA marketing, pay-per-view. It's that second group that Spike CEO Kevin Kay is looking to dissuade in a recent interview with MMAJunkie.
“We’re all going to look at the pay-per-view and say, ‘Was it a success or was it not a success? What can we learn from it? What can we do better next time?’” Kay told MMAjunkie. “But whether or not it’s a huge success – and I believe it will be successful because we’ve done a tremendous amount of promotion and we’ve got a great card – but if it doesn’t live up to everybody’s expectations, Bellator is not going anywhere. Bellator is on Spike. It’s doing fine. It’s doing great. We’re happy.”
That doesn't mean that Bellator's PPV efforts aren't important to the network. Kay made it clear that the long term goal remains: Having the ability to put on several pay-per-views a year.
“The business model for Bellator is not dependent on pay-per-view success,” he said. “The business model for Bellator is it’s on Spike 25 weeks a year. It’s got a great advertising base. It’s continuing to build ratings, and so I think it can be successful with or without pay-per-view.*** Would pay-per-view success be nice? Does it benefit everybody? Of course. That’s sort of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
“But we can take our time to get there, and we don’t have to take all the great fights that are on Spike and throw them onto pay-per-view every month because we’re not doing a pay-per-view every month. We’ll probably do one or two or maybe three year at most a year for the immediate future.”
Kay also talked about the WWE's departure from PPV and about Bellator's growth within the network, so be sure to check out the rest of the interview here.
Considering the major blow this PPV has already been dealt (it's hard to overstate just how heavy a blow the loss of Eddie Alvarez was to this card), it's good to hear that the network isn't putting a lot of stake in the result. It has to be said though, that even two or three PPVs a year feels like an ambitious plan considering that they've already scrapped this one once. And I have to assume that, had they had more notice on Alvarez's injury, they would have waited on it the second time around.
It doesn't yet feel like Bellator is truly ready to put on even one PPV, let alone stock several with any consistency or expectation of success. That may be an overly pessamistic view on my part, but no matter the message coming from Spike, Viacom, or Bellator itself, Bellator 120 will be first and foremost a measuring stick for the promotion, at least in my eyes.