The Bellator brand will be exposed to a new audience Saturday night with the debut of “Bellator MMA: Recharged.” The program airs on CBS Sports Network at 8 p.m. ET and will feature replays of some of the most meaningful bouts in company history.

On the surface, it looks like foundational work for Bellator to make a leap to network television on CBS.

With no opportunity to host live events at the moments due to the coronavirus pandemic, Bellator opted to dig into its library for content. The ViacomCBS-owned promotion falls under the same umbrella as CBS Sports Network, and Bellator president Scott Coker said replaying fights on the platform has been in the works for a while. The timeline was merely moved up to fulfill needs stemming from the COVID-19 crisis.

“Honestly it was something that was already in the plans. We were just going to do it later,” Coker told MMA Junkie. “When we started thinking this might be a prolonged shelter-in-place situation, let’s get some content out there for the fans. We’ve got such a great library and so many great fights and are under-utilizing it, so we have some great stuff on social for the MMA and fans and Bellator fans to start enjoying, and the CBS relationship is all under Viacom now, and to get a four-hour block on the sport network, we’re happy about that. I think it’s going to be great for Bellator, and we’re going to show some great fights for the fans.”

The coronavirus pandemic has caused businesses to adapt to the circumstances. Coker thought Bellator had some nice momentum before the pandemic reached a critical level, and as a result all Bellator events have been postponed until at least July.

Although there’s constant work being done behind the scenes, Coker said the situation has slowed the wheels in some aspects. Live Bellator events currently air on Paramount and stream on DAZN, but Coker didn’t rule out flexing the assets of ViacomCBS to his advantage moving forward.

“There’s a tremendous amount of resources here, and there’s some great networks on the Viacom/CBS platform,” Coker said. “It’s really undecided at this point, but I do think there is some really good programming on great networks to look forward to for Bellator as we move forward. The virus stopped everything. It stopped our tournament; it stopped our live events. We’re kind of rebooting some of the old material so fans can look at it, but moving forward I feel really good about where this brand is heading. With all the resources around us, it’s not just me and Bellator – there’s a lot of moving parts in this company now that they’ve moved together. We’ve got to get out of this situation with this virus and get back to some type of normalcy, then we’ll start talking to the right people about where we’re going to do these shows at.”

If live Bellator programming does stretch beyond Paramount and DAZN in the future, hosting cards on CBS or Showtime would seem like natural fits, especially since both platforms have featured MMA before. Coker knows all about that, because he was responsible for the first wave of the sport on CBS with the now-defunct Strikeforce organization.

For Coker to bring another fight promotion to that level in a different era would be a major accomplishment, he said. Coker wouldn’t make any promises about the future but said his goal is to elevate the Bellator brand as much as possible, and getting fights on network television would naturally fit into that mold.

“That’s one of the meccas of sports,” Coker said. “To have a network like CBS embrace you, it’s a good day. What would it say about our sport? When we started MMA in 2006, it wasn’t on Showtime. It wasn’t on a major network at that time. It wasn’t on FOX. All these channels that have embraced it since.

“To have a company like CBS and Viacom be the ownership group of Bellator, I feel very good about where we’re headed. We have to keep signing all the free agents that we can and keep building this brand. I think this CBS Sports Network thing is a big piece of the puzzle, and I want to keep building this puzzle and going forward.”



Source link