It starts with the fights being on MTV2. It makes no sense to put your fights on a channel that doesn’t broadcast in high-def. I don’t care if you have to put your fights on Telemundo or the Oprah Winfrey Network, just make sure they are in HD. Maybe you broadcast next season in Black and White.
So, no HD is strike one. The second and third strikes happened this past Saturday night when Bellator ran late, meaning that anybody who set their DVR for the scheduled two-hour broadcast missed a great fight between Michael Chandler and Patricky “Pitbull” Freire.
I was lucky and got home earlier than expected and tuned in at 8:05 just as Chandler and Freire were entering the cage. That’s five minutes after the show was scheduled to end. How does that happen? As Chandler and Freire beat the hell out of each other for three rounds, I couldn’t help but think of all the people that missed this toe-to-toe battle because their DVR only taped the first two hours.
I realize that all four fights on the card went into the third round, but that only adds up to one hour of airtime. Since the card took two hours and twenty minutes to complete, what happened to those other 80 minutes? One of the main rules of broadcasting is “Get out on time”. The Academy Awards and The Super Bowl get the benefit of the doubt, but a Bellator card in the middle of May doesn’t.
I’ve hosted “Clinch Gear Radio” for 8 months, and prior to that I hosted local and national sports talk radio shows for 13 years. In that time, guess how many calls I have taken on Bellator? If you guessed zero you are right. Nothing drives me crazier than people (or in this case a promotion) thinking they are something they are not. Bellator is not the UFC. They are not even Strikeforce or what was formerly WEC—they are a nice little promotion that should do everything they can to make people want to tune in.
Here (free) is my three step plan:
1) Get off MTV2. I don’t know who signed off on this deal, but he needs to be fired. If it was Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney he needs to find a guy in the office to blame and then fire him. The first sign of a good boss is getting the hell away from a disaster and this deal with MTV2 is a disaster.
2) Stop running your fights on Saturday night. Saturday night is for the big boys and you’re not one of them. The WEC was smart running fights on Thursday or Sunday nights. People are out living their lives on Saturdays, and while they may stay home to watch GSP, they are not going to stay home to watch Brett Cooper vs. Alexander Shlemenko.
3) Hire somebody that understands how to back-time a broadcast. This is a very simple process where you calculate how many commercials you have and how much content you have to make sure you GET OUT ON TIME!
I remember a couple of years ago when American Idol ran long during the final show and didn’t announce the winner until 11:03 PM. People were furious the next day when they found out their DVR had two hours of that garbage show without the payoff of knowing who won. It was a big deal to a lot of people and I can remember the next morning it was the lead story on the Today Show.
I watched the Today Show this morning, and shockingly there was no mention of Bellator’s screw up. Still, that doesn’t excuse the fact it was a slap in the face to anybody who bothered looking for MTV2, and it was more of a slap in the face to Chandler and “Pitbull” who fought their asses off. I know Rebney keeps saying Bellator isn’t for sale, but as a fan of guys on the Bellator roster like Chandler, Hector Lombard, Eddie Alvarez and Joe Warren I hope he changes his mind.
If Bob Meyrowitz had the same mindset as Rebney, the UFC would only be shown on the Internet. With the merger of WEC and UFC there is a huge opening for a second promotion. It doesn’t have to try to compete with the UFC. It can be similar to Triple A (AAA) baseball where you have a mix of young guys on the way up and established fighters trying to get back to “The Show.”
I would also go to FX and do whatever I could to be part of their Sunday night lineup. The core demographic for FX matches up with the average MMA fan, and they broadcast in HD.
Bellator (and Rebney) have done some good things—I like their roster and every fight I saw in the lightweight tournament was good. Pat yourself on the back for that, then hang up a “For Sale” sign and hope the guys at Zuffa come calling.
Who knows, maybe there have been meetings all day in the Bellator offices talking about this exact topic, but I doubt it. One thing I have learned in this sport, there is no shame in tapping out. Tap out Bjorn, and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. Bellator still has a chance, but that chance is slim to none with you at the wheel.