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 Bellator Unlikely on Spike in 2012

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PostSubject: Bellator Unlikely on Spike in 2012   Fri Sep 23, 2011 1:50 pm

http://www.mmafighting.com/2011/09/23/dana-whites-recent-declaration-likely-means-no-bellator-on-spik/

Dana White's Recent Declaration Likely Means No Bellator on Spike in 2012
By Mike Chiappetta

Lost in the shuffle of a big event weekend, we may have gotten our answer about whether or not Bellator would move from MTV2 to Spike in 2012. And suffice it to say, it's not looking good.

During a Wednesday interview with MMA Fighting, UFC president Dana White briefly spoke about what should be the dying days of the UFC-Spike relationship. While their deal for new programming expires at the end of 2011, Spike retains use of the UFC library for an additional year. That one-year spillover clause also precludes the cable network from televising a competing MMA product. For that to happen and for both sides to be free and clear of each other, the UFC would have to buy out the remaining 2012 rights. But according to White, that's not going to happen.

"UFC programming will be on Spike in 2012," White said. "It will continue there."

As long as those rights stay in place, the UFC will have no concerns about a competing promotion quickly replacing it on Spike.

But those rights can also work as a double-edged sword. Once UFC's live programming is exclusive to FOX-owned networks, Spike could attempt to counterprogram new UFC content with shows from its own UFC library.

That exact scenario isn't unprecedented. Just a few months ago in June as negotiations between the two sides stalled out and Comcast seemed to be the frontrunner for future UFC television rights, Spike scheduled a Nate Marquardt marathon on the same night the UFC scheduled a live Versus card highlighted by a Marquardt vs. Rick Story main event. As it turned out, Marquardt was a late scratch due to the sudden "Nategate" hormone replacement therapy issue that popped up, and Story fought Charlie Brenneman instead.

Surprisingly, a 9 pm Spike rebroadcast of UFC Fight Night 22: Marquardt vs. Palhares (an event that had occurred nine months earlier) out-rated the live event, drawing 793,000 viewers compared to 744,000 for the Versus show.

Those numbers show that potential confusion among casual MMA viewers is a real concern. While White seemed adamant that the UFC would not buy back the '12 library rights, it is still possible that FOX will insist upon a deal to ensure they are the exclusive home of UFC content. The two sides recently inked a 7-year deal worth around $700 million, and FOX may not be willing to risk confusion while establishing their channels as UFC headquarters for TV viewers.

Meanwhile, Spike continues to expand its relationship with Bellator, recently announcing it will stream live undercard fights throughout the 12-week Bellator season that began on September 10.

That development seemed to irk White, who called it "not honorable."

"If you really look at what I call the spirit of the deal, it's the wrong thing to do," he said.

So the waiting game continues. With three months left in the year, there is no urgency on either side to negotiate, and there is still time for UFC executives to change their minds and buy back library rights, thereby ending their obligation but also opening up the Spike airwaves to Bellator. Or, they can let the deal run its course, and make them wait. In that case, Bellator will stay on MTV2 one more year and likely move to Spike in 2013.

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