As the rollercoaster ride that is Bellator Fighting Championships' fifth-season presses on, promotion chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney is already looking towards the future. Despite producing electrifying cards on a weekly basis, Bellator has felt the burden of the ratings beast, dancing from records highs to record lows, sometimes just seven days apart. The flippancy of the figures have caused some to question the promotion's chosen time slot.
Working in collaboration with broadcast partner MTV2, Bellator airs events on a Saturday night primetime schedule. The weekend model would suggest success in theory, however the reality is farther from the truth. Often facing direct competition from the UFC, Strikeforce, or college football, Bellator's struggles to gain a consistent audience have become well-documented, creating situations where a replay at a later time slot draws a larger audience than the live broadcast.
The dilemma is one that promotion officials are well-aware of, and as the incentive for change grows, Rebney's team has begun to research alternatives.
"We've had some consistent amount of investigation and due diligence into what's the best time, the best day," Rebney said to MMA Junkie. "Where can we reach the largest number of consumers with the Bellator product we've been putting out there?
"In season six when we kick off in the first quarter of 2012, it remains to be seen. We're not dead set on any specific [time slot] when we determine what's best."
Thus is the inherent problem for a fledgling promotion trying to carve out its niche in mixed martial arts. As the UFC moves to network mega-giant Fox next year, the dearth of MMA programming in the seven day broadcast schedule will shrink even further. Yet Rebney has remained steadfast with his belief that Bellator will find it's place in the sport.
"We try to consistently evolve," he explained. "We consistently try to move the bar forward and move the bar up."