Now that their yearlong stint airing on MTV2 is over, Bellator is focused on their move to Spike and Thursday nights. Starting on Jan. 17, Bellator will air on Thursday nights at 10 p.m. ET with a premiere featuring title bouts between Michael Chandler and Rick Hawn and Pat Curran vs. Patricio Freire.
Bellator CEO and Spike president Kevin Kay talked to Cagewriter with smiles on their faces as they discussed what this move can mean to the tournament-based promotion. Kay, who worked with the UFC from it's debut of "The Ultimate Fighter" Spike, said it's the night that makes the most sense for the show.
"TNA Impact is there. We launched "The Ultimate Fighter" after WWE. I wouldn't say wrestling fans are always MMA fans, but there is crossover. It's one of the best lead-ins we can give Bellator. I like 10 o'clock because research says that's when guys get control of the remote. For all those reasons, it felt like the right place."
Bellator and Viacom, the parent company of Spike and MTV2, have been partnered since 2011. However, because of Spike's previous deal with the UFC, Spike can't air live MMA on the network until 2013. Bellator has been on MTV2 as a placeholder. Rebney had hoped all along for Thursdays.
"In the back of my mind, I was always hoping we would settle on Thursdays -- that's really a Spike decision as to where we can generate the biggest audience -- but that was optimal. If we can trail Impact, one of the biggest shows on Spike, and they have a crowd so analogous to ours, and on a Thursday night which is a great night for television, we're going on every cylinder."
But nothing in television is perfect. Both Kay and Rebney acknowledge there could be problems.
"The only real challenge is if fights go long. Bellator 85, we have two championship fights. If they both go five [rounds], they could conceivably go past midnight. I don't have a problem going a little past midnight, but if we start talking about 12:30, we'll probably lose ratings there," Kay said.
And Rebney knows it might be a bit tough on international fans. He said international fans will get the chance to watch shows, but watching them live "may make it a tough day at work." Still, Thursday makes the most sense. Leading with impact, that will feature Mo Lawal, who also fights for Bellator, will open the door to new fans.
"The Thursday spot is everything we want it to be. As Mo gets deeper into Impact and we get to do more with Dixie [Carter, the president of TNA) and her company, there's a lot of synergy and fun stuff we can do," Rebney said.