http://adage.com/article/mediaworks/spike-fight-night-ufc-departure/231108/ Spike Looks for New MMA Fight Night After UFC Departure Network Says It Has the Marketing Experience to Make Bellator League a Ratings Winner for Advertisers By: Dan Hirschhorn Published: November 21, 2011 Spike TV played a big role in putting mixed martial arts on the map, regularly beaming Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts into homes and giving oxygen to a sport that not long ago was seen as too violent for mainstream. But now that UFC has switched partners -- to Fox and its cable siblings within News Corp.-- Viacom-owned Spike faces a new challenge: maintaining dominance in a mixed-martial-arts market it helped create without the biggest brand in the sport. Viacom wasted no time laying the groundwork for a repeat act, recently announcing that it went out and purchased an entire competitor league to UFC, Bellator, which is already airing fights on MTV2 and is set to come to the more widely distributed Spike in 2013. Viacom executives hope their controlling stake in Bellator will allow for more integrated cross-platform opportunities for advertisers. At minimum, it will avoid the escalating licensing fees it had to pay to UFC. "We know what type of exposure is needed, we know what type of marketing is needed, we know what advertisers want," said Jeff Lucas, head of sales for Viacom Media Networks Music and Entertainment Group. "We've already sold through the concept of [mixed martial arts]. ... And viewers have been conditioned to know that Spike is where you find MMA, whether it's UFC or Bellator." "We're getting more live fights, and we're getting more opportunities for clients to integrate," Spike President Kevin Kay said. "What we learned in the six years we had [UFC] was how to market it, promote it and sell it." What remains unanswered, and points to a potentially daunting challenge for Spike, is whether there's enough market space for Kay two major products in what remains largely a niche sport -- especially when UFC has a bigger spotlight on Fox's broadcast affiliates, one it basked in during its first-ever broadcast event Nov.12 nd y, gs to At the en of the day in order to drive rating you need t create an interest, a re ople eason for peo ," G or to watch, said Tag Garson, senio VP-prope erties and me edia at Wass ia serman Medi Group and a d E former ESPN program mming exec come import cutive. "Personalities bec nes tant, story lin become impo s e or w ortant. That's what Spike and Bellato will have to help grow to [incr xposure that Bellator has been rease] the ex s n ck r r "In addition to potential lac of viewer support for two major ands, I'm ske bra here's enoug talent to s eptical that th gh support two ajor s ma MMA brands," said a former sports ad-sales executive w who oke spo on condi ition of anon nymity to pr ess rotect busine relationshhips t hat in the industry. "It seems th it will cr ion reate confusi and there efore sinterest, which is what u dis ultimately ha boxing. Two appened to b o ands enter, one brand lea bra o aves." P in Spike TV President Kevi Kay e Viacom executives th ill or's hink fans wi take a liking to Bellato tournam ay, iffers ment-style pla which di C's o s ch ind from UFC method of matching two fighters against eac other behi the scene They're es. g c ary preparing a slate of complementa programm ding a reality show and a MMA- ming, includ y an n zine focused news-magaz show. ke mers And Spik programm have alr e nch ready made it clear they''re happy to take a piece of Fox's lun dcasting their own UFC reruns whene by broad r r ever Fox or its cable net r twork FX air live fights. ox C st When Fo took UFC to broadcas last weeke with a fig between two of its st end ght n aired tars, Spike a on e ed a maratho of fights featuring the same stars, and at one point grabbe a decent c chunk of v 900,000 viewers, hel bt lped no doub in part by Fox's promo fight. otion of the f dience didn't really know where to go so they ca to us bec "The aud w o, ame cause they th irst," hink of us fi ows p ere Mr. Kay said. "It sho we're a platform whe people ex xpect to see MMA." ng nd more on its FX and Fuel T Fox, which is plannin four live UFC events next year an several m TV s, networks did not imm omment to Ad Age. mediately co A ll e FC's ts er Spike stil retains the rights to UF library of past fight for anothe year. Exec cutives had hoped to sell those ri o h, ould allow S ights back to UFC, which under the terms of its contract, wo Spike to start ai or t iring Bellato fights next year instea of 2013. U ad aken the bait and execut UFC hasn't ta t, tives y privately say it's beca gue w ause the leag doesn't want to go he or ead-to-head with Bellato on TV bef fore it has to. "If they want to buy it back, we'r open to making it as e w re ible m," said. easy as possi for them Mr. Kay s UFC pres A t d sident Dana White told Ad Age that he's focused on compet arket-leading ting with ma g ke nd r. sports lik football an baseball, not Bellator And he sco ke ts offed at Spik complaint that UFC uy ast should bu back the library of pa fights. "They made that deal, that's the deal that they wanted," he said. "If they counter-program me with me, what do I care? And they want to buy [back the library]? That's a crock." Despite some behind-the-scenes sniping between Spike and UFC, the partnership clearly helped them both. "It was a terrific partnership for both brands," Mr. Garson said. "It gave Spike content that the male demographic was looking for, and it gave UFC a platform to reach a wider audience on a regular basis. ... With the relationship with Bellator they're obviously keeping a toe in the water. How that gets developed further remains to be seen. But mixed martial arts is becoming more mainstream every year, and you're seeing it on various outlets, not just on Spike. There is some competition for the content, and it won't necessarily just be Spike that's looking to have more mixed martial arts."