Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney is confident his promotion can succeed in Latin America. | Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
Bellator MMA announced Tuesday that it has signed a multi-year broadcast deal with Fox Sports Latin America, and the Viacom-owned promotion’s chairman and CEO believes it could serve as the first step toward a larger partnership in international distribution. “This is the No. 1 sports network in all of Latin America -- far and away the biggest reach and most established player through South and Central America and Mexico,” Bjorn Rebney told Sherdog.com on Tuesday. “My goal from the very start was to always align with the No. 1 distribution platform in the U.S., which was always Spike TV and remains Spike to this day. To be able to go down to Latin America, which is the second largest MMA market in the world, and align us in a long term deal with the No. 1 sports network in all of Latin America is perfect. We could not be happier.”
The multi-year deal now sees Fox Sports Latin America receive Bellator’s archived content, including best-of shows and events from prior seasons, as well as select live events, such as Bellator’s upcoming Nov. 2 pay-per-view.
Bellator is currently obligated to honor a pan-regional agreement with Turner Broadcasting and a Brazilian deal with Esporte Interativo through 2014, Rebney said. In 2015, however, Fox Sports Latin America will have total exclusivity of all Bellator content in the region.
“It doesn’t just involve the 25 live events per year we’re going to do [domestically], but it involves live events we’ll be doing down in South America, in key markets in Mexico and Brazil and other countries in the region. It also includes shoulder programming and unique Latin America-specific content that we’ll be producing with Fox Sports,” said Rebney. “In all the conversations we’ve had with our partners at Fox, everything they’re doing is aiming at 2015 to start live events on the ground and then continue to do that in 2016 and beyond.”
Bellator’s deal comes a little more than two years after the Ultimate Fighting Championship signed a seven-year domestic broadcast deal with Fox Networks, though Bellator had previously aired live shows on the old Fox Sports Net during its second season in 2010. The organization then moved on to MTV2 and eventually Spike. Rebney said that maintaining his relationships over the last three years at Fox eventually led him to discuss an international broadcast deal.
“About five months ago, one of the executives at Fox that I kept a great relationship with said they felt like Bellator would be an unbelievable fit for Fox Sports International in Latin America and potentially a series of other countries around the world,” said Rebney. “[He asked if I] would have a problem with [Fox Sports] having this domestic alliance with the UFC and if I would talk with them, and I said, ‘You’re the No. 1 sports network in the world. Of course not. I’d be happy to [talk].
“They may have an association with the UFC that is U.S. specific, but [Fox Sports is] the biggest and the most successful, and they reach the most consumers, so let’s try to find a way to make this work. My anticipation is that this is probably the first step in a much larger alliance, because Fox Sports has got a huge footprint in the Middle East and Africa, and they’re ever expanding their footprint in western Europe. They have an enormous international sports presence.”