Bellator has confirmed that it will be moving to Friday nights for live shows in the fall.
The promotion will run its second season on Spike in the 9-11 p.m. time slot starting on Sept. 13, moving from Thursday, to avoid the National Football League games on the NFL Network, according to Spike TV President Kevin Kay in a story at SportsIllustrated.com, which first broke the story about the new time slot. A Bellator source confirmed the story to MMAFighting.com.
The night is notable because Bellator had run on Friday nights on MTV 2 throughout 2012, and ratings were down 18 percent from its 2011 numbers, on Saturdays. The promotion moved off of Saturday because of frequent competition from UFC events, as well as major boxing shows, but the Friday numbers without a similar level of competition were still considerably lower.
Friday night has not been kind to MMA, with Ultimate Fighter in 2012 also doing record low numbers, causing the show to move to Tuesdays where numbers increased significantly. The lows weren't because of the shows competing with each other, as Bellator ran from 8-10 p.m. and Ultimate Fighter from 10-11 p.m., although there was some bleed-over since Bellator main events frequently ran past 10 p.m.
Kay said in the SI story the results of what happened on MTV 2 were not an indicator of what would happen on Spike, given Spike is a much higher rated channel, with a higher profile and reaches more homes.
But it's going to be tough, because Bellator is also moving away from its pro wrestling lead-in that it had on Thursday.
Spike's previous history, when it ran UFC and TNA together on Thursdays several years back, was that football hurt UFC numbers more than wrestling numbers, which is why Ultimate Fighter moved to Wednesdays while wrestling, which will feature Bellator fighter Quinton "Rampage" Jackson as a regular character, has remained on Thursdays against the NFL in the fall .
There was no easy answer for where to move Bellator once the decision was made to avoid the NFL. For the fall, that would eliminate Sunday, Monday and Thursday. Saturday would buck college football, several UFC shows and boxing. Spike has its own Tuesday night block of original programming they didn't want to break up.
So this left either Wednesday or Friday, and with UFC running Ultimate Fighter every Wednesday in the fall on Fox Sports 1, as well as several live events, this led to the move to Friday.
Bellator starts its Fight Master reality show, on Wednesdays, on June 19, but it will end before UFC starts its major Wednesday push with live shows on Aug. 28 and Sept. 4.
There will be a special live event on a Saturday, Sept. 7, a night that UFC has no event, which will be the Fight Master final which and a live show that kicks off the fall season before the move to Friday.