Bellator’s First Big Mistake: Pay-Per-View
For the last number of years Bellator MMA has been quietly chipping away at trying to create an opening for itself in the world of mixed martial arts promotions. In doing so, it has quite effectively established itself as the number 2 promotion on the MMA block.
A huge chunk of that success has been predicated on following in the footsteps of its larger competitor and making good benefit of the market awareness and promotion, which the UFC has created. Whether or not it’s been taking advantage of UFC cast-off fighters or sliding into to the UFC’s vacated network placement on SPIKE, the promotion has managed to take and make full value of whatever has fallen off of the UFC’s plate. Good for them.
From what they’ve been able to cannibalize from the UFC, combined with the talent that they developed on their own and as guided by the steady hand of the promotions president Bjorn Rebney, Bellator MMA has developed a slow and steady course of action for becoming a promotional rival to the UFC.
Of particular in their business plan and the thing that I credit the most for their success, has been an adherence to avoiding pay-per-views. In their place, the promotion has opted for a model which delivers high quality MMA to TV free of charge. It’s a formula that has not only worked for and provided success to Bellator, but also one that sets them aside from the UFC.
Sadly, Bellator is about to mess with their successful model.
This coming November 2nd, Bellator will take to the air-waves with their inaugural PPV and endeavour to monetize a market share, which they (obviously) feel they have built.
I think this is a big mistake.
Bellator has made built its name on providing quality fights (for free), while featuring fighters that most fans don’t know and would never pay to see. They have augmented their ostensibly marquee-less roster with the occasional UFC name, but nonetheless, it’s still not a line-up that will sell to your average, run-of-the-mill, MMA fan.
Even taking into consideration an existing fan base, of which I count myself as one, I don’t see the demand for Bellator PPV. Using myself as an example, I know I won’t be putting their November 2nd show on my cable bill and I won’t be going to a bar to watch it, either. Regrettably, if the card was on TV for free, as they always have been, then I would watch and gladly, so; as I’m sure a great many other MMA fans would have also done, including those that are not currently watching Bellator.
As Dana White put it (paraphrasing)… “They can’t give that **** away for free (to many MMA fans) and now they want to charge for it? It makes no sense.” Regarding that assessment and taking into consideration where the promotion’s ratings sit currently and the fact that the brand is not on a significant network, one has to wonder whether or not White is correct in his analysis. Personally, I think he is.
I think the mistake is compounded further by anchoring the top of their PPV card with two UFC castoffs, which is exactly what Ortiz and Jackson are. I believe it sends the wrong message to the MMA world, which is, that Bellator is nothing more than “UFC-Lite”.
I believe that if they were going to go down the PPV road, that it would have been wiser to have done so with a show which featured their own home-grown talent at the top of the card and not two older fighters who couldn’t remain relevant in the senior promotion.
Where Ortiz / Jackson would have made a “great” fight on SPIKE for free, it’s a pass when asked to shell out for it.
Bellator should stick to their original business model and fight it out with the UFC via free TV and continue to grow their fan base through that methodology, because fights like Ortiz / Jackson on PPV are not / is not going to get the job done.