When Spike TV began its contract with Bellator in January, it continuously billed itself as the home of mixed martial arts.
That, though, is difficult to tell from the shockingly poor performance of the debut of its heavily promoted reality show, "Fight Master," on Wednesday. Bellator's live fight card, featuring a light heavyweight bout headlined by Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal, also tanked.
Bellator's summer series, Bellator 96, kicked off in Thackerville, Okla., with Lawal scoring a devastating one-punch knockout of Seth Petruzelli. But the fight card attracted an average of just 480,000 viewers, several hundred thousand less than Spike was getting during the recently completed season. Bellator 95, which featured Pat Curran defending the featherweight title against Shakhbulat Shamkhalaev, averaged 901,000 viewers on April 4.
Worse from Spike's standpoint, Wednesday's live card was beaten head-to-head by the UFC's March show on Fuel, which did an average of 485,000 viewers. Spike is in 97.9 million homes and Fuel is in 36.8 million. The UFC fight card on June 8 from Brazil that was on Fuel averaged 313,000 viewers.
The 'Fight Master' reality show, featuring coaches Randy Couture, Greg Jackson, Frank Shamrock and Joe Warren did even worse. Fight Master averaged 432,000 viewers for its debut. It reached 109,000 with viewers 18-34, and just 67,000 with men 18-34, which is the primary MMA demographic.
Compared to Season 14 of 'The Ultimate Fighter,' the final season of the UFC's reality series that aired on Spike, Fight Master was a major loser. It was down 92 percent in men 18-34, 91 percent with adults 18-34 and down 87 percent with adults 18-49.
Fight Master received wide critical acclaim, but the public, at least for the debut, didn't buy the hype.