Bellator MMA has called Viacom-owned Paramount Network (formerly Spike TV) its home for five years, but starting in September, they’ll have a second broadcast partner in the fold, and it’s a major player in the ever-expanding world of subscription streaming services.
In a special press conference on Tuesday, Bellator MMA announced a five-year, “nine-figure” (so at least $100 million) deal with DAZN (pronounced “Da-Zone”... I know), which will start with the September 29th event in San Jose, California, headlined by Gegard Mousasi vs. Rory MacDonald, plus Wanderlei Silva vs. Quinton Jackson IV. Bloody Elbow’s own Ram Gilboa had the scoop prior to the announcement.
“The exciting new partnership with DAZN is a game-changer for Bellator,” said Bellator President Scott Coker. “The investment will enable us to continue expanding our roster with free agents that make sense, so we can put on PPV-worthy fight cards that fans want to see. Plus, on DAZN’s worldwide platform, our fights will be seen live for the first time to new audiences around the globe.”
The other big news concerning this agreement is the merciful end to the varying degree of tape-delays that have been commonplace for Bellator viewers in North America. Viacom delays to the West Coast for US-based shows, as well as several hours for European-based events. With DAZN, that won’t be the case anymore, as Paramount Network shows will also be simulcast on DAZN. If you don’t have Paramount Network at all, then you can still watch seemingly every Bellator card through DAZN.
From the official press release (bold emphases mine):
The nine-figure deal will feature seven exclusive stacked fight cards per year on DAZN and another 15 that are simulcast across Paramount Network and DAZN. All fights will stream in any country where DAZN is available. As part of the platform’s global expansion, DAZN will launch in the U.S. and Italy in 2018, with the service already live in Canada, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Japan.
In addition to Bellator MMA, DAZN will also air season two of the World Boxing Super Series tournaments, as well as 32 live Matchroom Boxing cards from both the US and the UK as part of Eddie Hearn’s 8-year, $1 billion DAZN deal. DAZN is looking to snap up other major live sports down the line, but the deals for MLB, NFL, and NBA are currently not up for grabs. Obviously they see themselves as a hub for combat sports, and this is a good start. It’s also an extra source of income for Bellator MMA, who’ve had a television ratings downturn over the past two years, but are now expanding their reach to live streaming.
Subscription costs for DAZN US will be revealed in the summer. In Canada, it’s $20 CAD month, or approximately $15, and their package includes the UEFA Champions League and Europa League (Starting 2018-19), as well as the NFL, Motorsports, and NCAA Basketball. The UFC also had a multi-year contract to air live and original programming on DAZN in Japan, but it appears that’s no longer the case. Last year’s Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor PPV was shown on DAZN in Austria, Germany, and Japan at no additional cost.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this announcement is that whether combat sports fans like it or not, the shift away from traditional television packages and towards over-the-top streaming services — to which DAZN considers itself the “Netflix of sport” — means that consumer viewership habits are going to change drastically. Starting in 2019, more than half of all live UFC cards will be on ESPN+ or Fight Pass, likewise for Bellator MMA on DAZN.