Robert Joyner (the guy who used to run MMA Payout and a sharp knife in the spoon drawer of MMA blogging) points out that even though Bellator is putting on some great shows, it’s still got some question marks as far as long term viability goes:
Numbers coming out from the Massachusetts Athletic Commission after their Boston show pegged the audience at just over 1,000 paid. Their debut in Kansas City hit somewhere in the 2000-2500 range. While there are other revenue streams like the UB and Everlast sponsorships and International TV packages, the low gates are a troubling sign for the traction that Bellator are looking to get on its path towards financial viability. The gate numbers are a good quantifier of how well the Bellator product is getting over with the average MMA fan. While Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney touts the numbers they are doing on NBC and FSN, the all important metric of putting an ass in a seat every 18 inches seems to be an indicator that shows the company is lacking.
The attendance numbers are one of a few troubling items for Bellator that give me pause when looking at their long term prospects for success. Their TV revenues are negligible…the IFL made $40-50K per show on FSN and I can’t see Bellator making more than that. They have the NBC late night slot, which was a time buy when Strikeforce had it. If they are hustling selling ads, they may be making a small profit there. They also have deals with Univision and Mun2, but I have to question if those are time buys as well. The biggest problem they are facing is the high cost of TV they are looking at that will make profitability anytime soon a long shot. FSN most assuredly isn’t covering the cost of production, they didn’t with IFL (the IFL was smart in cutting a deal with HDNet for live coverage, with HDNet covering costs, so the IFL could then shop the taped stuff to FSN.) Bellator is having to cover satellite time, production trucks, logistics etc. on a week to week basis is something that will bury them in the long run if they aren’t able to find a better TV package.
One can only hope that the company has the pockets to stick through the tough times until they have enough positive TV numbers to get a deal that doesn’t suck financially. If they’re burning through cash at the moment, they’re keeping the fact close to their chest. Even MMA fans (who have a vulture-like ability to tell when promotions are weak) haven’t really started hounding them yet.