How Long Can Bellator Burn?
May 30, 2010 5 Comments
Bellator Fighting Championships made their most recent stop on their second season tour with a visit to San Antonio. Attendance figures coming out of the show pegged the show at around 1,000 (capacity is 2,300) according to local sources. The low gate number is becoming something of a troubling trend, following in the wake of other poor performing shows during Bellator’s second season.
Numbers coming out from the Massachusetts Athletic Commission after their Boston show pegged the audience at just over 1,000 paid. Their debut in Kansas City hit somewhere in the 2000-2500 range. While there are other revenue streams like the UB and Everlast sponsorships and International TV packages, the low gates are a troubling sign for the traction that Bellator are looking to get on its path towards financial viability. The gate numbers are a good quantifier of how well the Bellator product is getting over with the average MMA fan. While Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney touts the numbers they are doing on NBC and FSN, the all important metric of putting an ass in a seat every 18 inches seems to be an indicator that shows the company is lacking.
The attendance numbers are one of a few troubling items for Bellator that give me pause when looking at their long term prospects for success. Their TV revenues are negligible…the IFL made $40-50K per show on FSN and I can’t see Bellator making more than that. They have the NBC late night slot, which was a time buy when Strikeforce had it. If they are hustling selling ads, they may be making a small profit there. They also have deals with Univision and Mun2, but I have to question if those are time buys as well. The biggest problem they are facing is the high cost of TV they are looking at that will make profitability anytime soon a long shot. FSN most assuredly isn’t covering the cost of production, they didn’t with IFL (the IFL was smart in cutting a deal with HDNet for live coverage, with HDNet covering costs, so the IFL could then shop the taped stuff to FSN.) Bellator is having to cover satellite time, production trucks, logistics etc. on a week to week basis is something that will bury them in the long run if they aren’t able to find a better TV package.
Much like any other start-up, Bellator is in a burn mode when it comes to the cash that was used to launch the promotion. Rebney has sought to mitigate the losses by retooling after the first season, cutting items like the fighter payouts for tourney bouts. I have to question how much burn the investors will endure before they pull the plug. As the company is currently constituted, it seems a question of not if but when.