The second Bellator show on Spike TV Thursday night dropped 13 percent from week one in total audience with the actual rating remaining flat at a 0.7 and the audience at 812,000 total viewers.
The drop doesn't really answer any long-term questions about the product other than week one didn't blow people away to the point that the show has immediate momentum and showing upward mobility, but that wouldn't be expected. MMA has been around long enough, and the general pattern of a weekly MMA show is that it declines after the debut week, so the drop was expected. The big picture question is where the show is in a few weeks, and where it levels off at by the end of the season. If it stays at this level, it would be considered a success, although not a major hit. A continued decline would be a different story.
Next week will be a major test because the show has none of Bellator's signature stars on it. The show will feature four first-round matches in a lightweight tournament with the main event being David Rickels vs. Lloyd Woodard, and Patricky "Pitbull" Freire also being pushed in the advertising. That's nowhere near the star power level of week one, which had two title matches, and this past Thursday's show with the debut of King Mo Lawal and a welterweight championship fight with Ben Askren vs. Karl Amoussou.
The lead-in, Impact Wrestling, held its above-usual level number Thursday night, doing 1.57 million viewers. While on the surface, a Bellator decline with a similar strength lead-in would look bad, the Jan. 17 show featured a mock wedding and ended the show at 1.82 million viewers. The final quarter hour of Impact was down nine percent from the prior week.
But that also isn't a good sign. If Bellator's numbers are going to be heavily based on what its wrestling lead-in does, it's more a sign that their audience is largely about the ability to keep pro wrestling fans watching as opposed to Bellator's numbers being based on interest level and popularity of its own product. A sign of that is the key demo, Males 18-49, doing a 0.62. Normally an MMA show will do a better rating within that demo than its overall household rating, while a pro wrestling show will do a higher number in the overall rating than in the Male 18-49 demo. Another sign is that the numbers declined, albeit slowly, as the show went on last week.
Additionally, the competition on Thursday wasn't nearly as tough. The NBA game on Jan. 17 featured the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, meaning it had two of the NBA's biggest stars, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, and did 3.55 million viewers. In addition, Lance Armstrong did his confession last Thursday, part of which aired against Bellator, and a replay aired against the rest of Bellator. This week, the Los Angeles Clippers vs. Phoenix Suns game did 1.41 million viewers in the same time slot.
An immediate replay of Thursday's show did 319,000 viewers from midnight to 2 a.m., which is a solid number for Spike TV in that slot.