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Bellator: Dynamite ratings disappoint with average viewership of just 800,000

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Bellator's first Dynamite show under-performed in the ratings department.

Bellator MMA

Bellator MMA treated its Dynamite show as its biggest one to date. It featured Lenne Hardt as a ring announcer, indoor fireworks, a four-man one-night tournament, GLORY kickboxing matches, and Tito Ortiz in the main event. Unfortunately, this big "tentpole" event didn't produce the ratings magic it had hoped, and actually ended up being the worst performing "tentpole" show of the Scott Coker era. Jason Floyd of The MMA Report has the details:

According to Nielsen sources, Bellator 142's preliminary live average viewership landed at 800,000 total viewers and the show peaked at 930,000 viewers in the 9:15-9:30 p.m. ET quarter hour.

For reference, here are the ratings averages for the previous major cards under Coker:

(November 2014) Bellator 131: Ortiz vs. Bonnar - 1.2 million
(February 2015) Bellator 134: Newton vs. McGeary - 872,000 
(June 2015)Bellator 138: Kimbo vs. Shamrock - 1.6 million

Bellator 134 was injury-ravaged and ended up losing its original main event of Douglas Lima vs. Paul Daley, as well as Bobby Lashley vs. James Thompson.

Just off the top of my head, here are some reasons it didn't click with the television audience:

  • Went up against college football. I personally skipped the entire prelims to indulge in watching amateur athletes toss the pigskin around, but the main card went directly against the big Ole Miss-Alabama game on ESPN, which Floyd notes drew in 7.6 million viewers. Stanford-USC was on ABC in another big game, and since football is king in the US, Bellator was bound to lose out by going with a Saturday night show during college football season.
  • The main event wasn't compelling and the card lacked proven draws. Tito Ortiz can draw when Tito Ortiz sells a fight effectively. Interest in the Stephan Bonnar fight was sparked through outrageous stuff like an in-cage promo brawl and Justin McCully unmasked. Liam McGeary is a man of few words and has noted in the past he's not big on trash-talking. Basically, as a main event, this was DOA from a marketing perspective. There was no freakshow interest like Kimbo vs. Shamrock, and no real rivalry heat -- whether manufactured or not -- like Ortiz vs. Bonnar. As for the rest of the card, Phil Davis' tournament final with Francis Carmont had the lowest viewership average, which basically tells you the interest level in Davis despite his UFC background.
  • The Dynamite concept doesn't appeal to casual fans. Sorry to say it, but just because longtime, hardcore fans liked PRIDE and the UFC tournaments of the 1990s doesn't mean that it translates to any sort of appeal for casuals. Our site traffic for this event was sub-par and basically below some Fight Pass shows, and it was only saved by the Fedor announcement. The selling point of this card was centered around GLORY kickboxing, whose ratings on Spike have been sagging for a sport that is the nichest of niches on US television, and a one-night tournament with zero established stars. Obviously the curiosity factor didn't work this go-round, and while I wouldn't give up on the Dynamite format, it certainly can't go up against football, and it needs to have top names make the format interesting, not the other way around.

On a positive note, Bellator did break attendance and gate records over the weekend.