Spike and Bellator announced Monday that the prelims for the company's biggest endeavor in history on Saturday night from Madison Square Garden averaged 901,000 viewers.
Spike called it a "very strong start," although the number was actually combined viewership between Spike and CMT, which both aired the show simultaneously. A breakdown of the numbers from each channel was not available at press time.
Almost all the promotion was geared toward the show airing live on Spike. Without knowing the breakdown, it's hard to make a comparison since no other Bellator event aired on two English language major cable stations at the same time.
The 901,000 is almost exactly what UFC is averaging for pay-per-view prelims. UFC's 2017 average for its prelims this year is 902,000, but that's on one channel, not two. If those numbers were Spike’s exclusive numbers, that would have to be considered good.
The television main event, where Ryan Bader captured the Bellator lightheavyweight title in a split decision over Phil Davis averaged 1.1million viewers between the two channels.
Bellator went to great expense on the show, with three championship fights, plus the cost of doing television and pay-per-view in Madison Square Garden, the most expensive arena in the country to run in.
Spike noted that Bellator was the No. 1 trend on Twitter in the U.S. throughout the pay-per-view portion of the show. It was No. 1 worldwide for much of the show. They also noted that Bellator 180, the television version, reached No. 2 at one point during the telecast, and that 20 different items from the show trended on Twitter.
However, historically, there is no strong correlation between Twitter numbers and either television ratings or pay-per-view numbers.
The best predictor of pay-per-view numbers historically has been Google searches, which topped 200,000 on Saturday night, which made it the second-most searched for item in the U.S. on Saturday. However, the recent UFC pay-per-view shows have been doing closer to 500,000.
Bellator's previous pay-per-view, in 2014, did a little more than 100,000 buys. Scott Coker, when this show was first announced, said he was hoping for 200,000 buys from this show. No preliminary numbers are available at this point.