Bellator Ratings vs. The 10PM Field

Recently, it has become difficult to utter the word Bellator without also bringing up the term ratings.  Even on UFC Tonight, the man himself over at the UFC, Dana White, couldn’t seem to keep them apart either. Just last week he stated, “What kind of ratings does Spike TV pull every week? Our prelims on FX pull bigger numbers than their live main events do.”

Now, I am not here to diagnose Dana White’s quote based off a Saturday night live primetime show versus a Thursday night non-prime-time show, yet. I am actually here to diagnose Spike TV’s assertion that last weeks Bellator 89, which set season eight lows, was heavily impacted by the NBA on TNT’s ratings. Spike TV, unlike in previous weeks, made it a point to bring up that the NBA on TNT had a +52% gain vs. average over the prior month. Don’t get me wrong, it is tough to argue that math increase overall, but Spike TV’s assertion that the NBA’s increase hampered its Bellator 89 rating isn’t entirely accurate.

When I look at raw numbers, last weeks Bellator 89 pulled (including DVR numbers) 773k vs. NBA on TNT which pulled 3.39 million viewers. Again, tough to argue the size difference there, but it is when you go deeper into the whole puzzle that you realize this is a poor excuse for an arguably poor Bellator rating.

Let’s go back to Bellator’s debut on Spike TV. It was actually the same night the NBA on TNT scored its largest ratings of the 2013 ratings year. Bellator 85 scored (including DVR numbers) 985k, compared to NBA on TNT which scored a hefty 3.54 million viewers. Now, how come Spike TV didn’t bring that up when touting its successful Bellator 85 number? Why not bring up the fact that the debut night, you not only did well, but competed against a huge NBA on TNT number?

Better yet, why didn’t Spike TV bring up the little ratings dip that Bellator 86 did, (including DVR numbers) 877k, compared to the NBA on TNT which went down sharply to 2.46 that night? When comparing both weeks, it is obvious the NBA had a steeper decline and that should have been noted.

Let’s also not forget, the quiet Bellator 87, which was had a very low (including DVR numbers) 774k, while the NBA on TNT had its lowest number of the 2013 ratings season with a dysmal 1.61 million viewers. Seriously, how can you not bring that up?

Let’s take a step away from the NBA for a second and lets talk about some other 10PM cable competition including USA Networks successful show Suits and rival FX Networks show Archer. Both Suits and Archer had series victories in their debut week, which was the same week as Bellator 85. Suits did a 3.57 million viewers (beating the NBA on TNT) and Archer did a 1.66 million viewers (which was a series high in all demographics including male 18-49 + 18-34).

Point here is, Bellator 85, which at this point is Bellator’s season high, went up against top competition and performed exceedingly well for a show of its caliber  In future weeks, both Suits and Archer have kept very acceptable ratings, but they have both also showed steady declines week-by-week in overall viewership. While in the meantime, Bellator has seemingly maintained a 700-800k range.

Safe to say, I think by now you all know where I am going with this. How can Spike TV bring up the NBA on TNT during its lowest Bellator rating of the season when in reality the competition is so much more than the NBA. Not to mention, last week was Valentines day and the overall network viewership was down roughly 6% across the board. Plus, both Suits and Archer had their series lows in overall viewership last week also. These are clearly points that cannot be ignored.

Side note, if you think I forgot about Viacom’s other network MTV you are mistaken. How could anyway have forgotten the over-hyped debut of Ridiculousness, which landed at 1.745 million overall viewers. Seriously, at one point last week you couldn’t turn on MTV without seeing an ad for the show’s new season. There is no way that advertising machine behind Ridiculousness didn’t impact other shows in the same time-slot including Viacom’s own Bellator.

My overall point here is that if anything Spike TV should be touting last weeks number. They should be celebrating the fact that during a holiday night, which saw several top shows lose audiences, that they didn’t dip down to MTV2 type numbers like they were used to before. Don’t get me wrong, Bellator isn’t winning any arms race with the sub million viewer numbers, but Bellator keeps taking a punch from rival networks, and in some cases even its sister networks and keeps getting back up. They key for Bellator going forward will be can they maintain consistency on the chart below or will they just become another MMA Nielsen ratings casualty.