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Bellator MMA revamps TV deal and schedule

In a move that will increase revenue and will also hopefully boost ratings, Bellator MMA announced a restructuring of their TV product Tuesday at a press conference.

The company will pare back on their schedule to 22 events a year with 15 airing on Paramount Network and seven exclusively moving to DAZN, a streaming service geared towards sports fans that has not yet launched in the U.S. The 15 Paramount shows will also air on DAZN (pronounced Da Zone) and will include eight "tentpole" shows. 

The deal kicks off on September 29th with the much-discussed Gegard Mousasi vs. Rory MacDonald San Jose event that will also feature Rampage Jackson vs. Wanderlei Silva 4. That show will air exclusively on DAZN.

The promotion said the deal was a nine-figure, multi-year agreement. DAZN didn't announce a price point, but will offer a one-month free trial when they launch. They are already available in other countries including Canada where DAZN is available for $20/month or $150 for a year. 

For MMA fans in the U.S., the deal is an interesting one as it presents another paywall in order to watch previously free content. Paired with the UFC's recently announced deal with ESPN+ that kicks off in 2019, fans that want to watch everything will be paying more for MMA content starting this fall.

From a brand perspective, less shows for Bellator is a major plus. With a thin roster, it was hard for them to put on consistent quality fight cards with stakes on the now former Spike TV, especially in those months where they did multiple shows. Ratings have been down over the past year, especially for the non-tentpole events.

This move also seems to fit more into the new vision for Paramount Network and brings in an additional revenue stream for Viacom (owners of Paramount and Bellator) that didn't previously exist. Whether this means the end of a return to pay per view remains to be seen.

Additionally, it allows the promotion to find an audience in regions that have DAZN but don't otherwise have access to Bellator programming.