As the impact of media rights in sport continues to take on heightened importance, the extension of the BBC’s deal with Bellator represents a significant step for the MMA promotion.
Maximising the charisma and skill of standout stars Michael ‘Venom’ Page and Leah McCourt, the promotion has continued to place a key focus on European growth in recent years.
Speaking to Insider Sport via GamblingTV, Head of Bellator Europe, David Green, reflected on the deal: “When we started this deal with the BBC it was a bit of a leap of faith for both parties, and it was about understanding what could be done and how it could be achieved, and more importantly how the public viewed us and took to us on the platform.”
“For me, the highlights were the three events we did in Europe at the end of the year; London at Wembley, Moscow, which was our first time in Russia and was fantastic, and then back to our old stomping ground in Dublin, which raised the roof for the last show of the year in the continent for us.”
With events being shown on the newly relaunched BBC Three channel and BBC iPlayer, Bellator will now benefit from coverage on a wider range of platforms. Green claimed: “That’s always been part of the attraction. One of the big reasons was not just the broadcast on BBC but also the amount of coverage the sport gets across the BBC platforms.
“When you look at all the things they offer, in terms of their websites. We had Michael Venom Page (MVP) on Radio 5 live over the weekend, we had the likes of Gary Lineker linking to it on match of the day – it just grows organically from the news that comes out of the shows, you get to get that cross-platform promotion that pretty much only the BBC can offer.”
In choosing to stream on a freeview channel over subscription, the organisation has broadened its viewership, and Green shared that it is extremely important to reach as many new audiences as possible.
In terms of Bellator’s key focus on European expansion over recent years, Green stated that the organisation is doing ‘huge’ shows, with one coming up this Friday in Dublin which sees Reigning Champion Gegard Mousasi face the Undefeated Austin Vanderford.
He explained: “This is a huge fight to bring to Europe. This is followed up by the Heavyweight World Title Fight with Cheick Kongo and Ryan Bader in May in Paris, which is brilliant to bring to a big fight there.
“We’re bringing not only shows to Europe, but big tempo shows which are really good for the fans.”
Finally, in May, Londoner MVP challenges for the Championship which could be ‘pivotal’ to increasing UK fandom, along with the coverage by the BBC.
“Any time we do a big show in the UK or Europe it increases the fanbase, and I think if you were there for the show in October when MVP fought, we had Skepta walk him on and it was a huge moment, packed arena, really loud atmosphere,” Green concluded
“Any time people come to that, they buy into the whole Bellator experience, and we can do that again with a huge World Title Fight in May.”