Bellator’s strategy to run its heavyweight tournament semifinals on two nights over the same weekend yielded somewhat mixed ratings results.
The Friday night Bellator 207 semifinal, featuring Ryan Bader’s win over Matt Mitrione from the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn., did 416,000 viewers on Paramount Network. The number, while very low by pre-2018 standards, was the best rating the company has done in nearly four months.
The last Bellator television show on Paramount to beat that mark was the June 29 event headlined by Ilima-lei MacFarlane’s win over Alejandra Lara, which did 466,000 viewers.
By comparison, Bader’s opening-round tournament fight with Muhammed Lawal averaged 453,000 viewers on Paramount and 152,000 for a simulcast on CMT. Mitrione’s first-round win over Roy Nelson averaged 476,000 viewers on Paramount.
All of those numbers were topped on Saturday for Fedor Emelianenko’s semifinal win over Chael Sonnen at Bellator 208, which did 521,000 viewers. That was the best Bellator number since the April 28 show where Emelianenko beat Frank Mir, which drew 581,000 viewers on Paramount and another 169,000 viewers on CMT for a simulcast.
Sonnen’s quarterfinal win over Quinton Jackson did 770,000 viewers on Paramount and 161,000 on CMT on a show that went head-to-head with a UFC pay-per-view.
Saturday was a hugely competitive night in sports, with college football, baseball playoffs, and the Terrence Crawford vs. Jose Benavidez boxing match on ESPN.
The latter may have hurt Bellator the most. The Crawford vs. Benavidez card averaged 2,245,000 viewers and peaked at 2,708,000 viewers for the main event. It was the most-watched boxing show on cable television since the July 2, 2017, fight with Manny Pacquiao vs. Jeff Horn.
There was also college football on ABC, ESPN, ESPN 2, and FOX Sports 1, with ABC’s coverage of Wisconsin vs. Michigan doing 6,038,000 viewers. The Boston Red Sox vs. Houston Astros baseball playoff game on TBS did 5,821,000 viewers.
Bellator’s 2018 season average on Paramount is now at 448,000 viewers. Its most recent major show, on Sept. 29, headlined by Rory MacDonald vs. Gegard Mousasi and Rampage Jackson vs. Wanderlei Silva, was a DAZN exclusive. Bellator’s overall television ratings have declined 34 percent since 2017 levels.
In recent months, Bellator’s audience has become a higher percentage of DVR viewership than before, which would be expected to the case most notably with the Saturday show and all the competition. DVR viewership of the two nights is unavailable at press time.