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Airing Bellator 158 on tape doesn't seem to have hurt the number

Guilherme Cruz photo

There was a piece of conventional wisdom going into Saturday's Bellator 158 event from London's O2 Arena regarding the decision by Spike TV air the event in prime time instead of live in the afternoon.

As the world changes, sports fans, particularly hardcore fans who can get results instantly, feel that sporting events should be delivered live. But for television, maximizing viewers as opposed to serving only the hardcore fans, is the goal. But it's not an exact science what is the best cause of action.

Bellator 158, headlined by Douglas Lima winning a decision over England's Paul Daley, did 556,000 viewers, airing on a several-hour tape delay. While below Bellator's average, it is pretty much inconceivable the show would have done close to that number airing in the afternoon. Bellator's prior show on June 24, a much stronger marquee show featuring Rampage Jackson vs. Satoshi Ishii and a Michael Chandler lightweight title defense against Patricky "Pitbull" Freire did 601,000 viewers. The show before that, featuring Eduardo Dantas winning the bantamweight title from Marcos Galvao, did 482,000 viewers.

Based on those shows, it would be expected for a show headlined by Lima vs. Daley and featuring Matt Mitrione and Michael "Venom" Page to do in between those two numbers, and if anything, closer to the latter number. But even on tape, that's exactly where it finished, so airing on tape likely had a minimal if any effect on viewership.

All numbers listed were for the night of the show, and not including DVR numbers, since Saturday's DVR numbers aren't available at press time.

Bellator's number for the Saturday night taped show was slightly behind the 609,000 viewers that UFC had for its Wednesday night live show.

The Bellator show was the third most-watched sports event of the night, trailing Premier Boxing on FOX at 1,760,000 viewers and Major League Baseball on FS 1 with 687,000 viewers.

Bellator was heavily focused on promoting the show in the U.K., with its first live event there. Its debut on Ch. 5, a major station in the market that had aired UFC programming in the past. Ch. 5 did 418,000 viewers on average for the final three fights of the card for its first time on the station. The show peaked at 550,000 viewers.

The first hour of the show aired on Spike U.K., doing 108,000 viewers for a station with far smaller penetration, and peaking at 154,000 viewers. Even though only airing two fights, it was one of the best ratings Bellator has ever had on that station.

Bellator will return with a live show Friday night featuring bantamweights Darion Caldwell (9-0), a former NCAA wrestling champion, facing Joe Taimanglo (17-4).

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