Bellator 200 was one of the most anticipated cards in the promotion’s history. Michael “Venom” Page returned after sitting out more than a year, reality star Aaron Chalmers made his Bellator debut after going 3-0 in BAMMA, and Gegard Mousasi headlined the card as one of Bellator’s most experienced fighters. However, nobody outside of the arena was able to watch these events as they happened live.
It’s been awhile that fight fans have been subjected to Bellator tape delays, but this is probably the most egregious example. It’s hard enough for the promotion to compete with the UFC without even taking this into account, and Paramount isn’t helping Bellator at all with that. For a large number of sports fans, part of the appeal is watching the drama unfold as it happens.
Exciting knockouts and belts changing hands are events that people want to see immediately. Not hours later, after the result has already been posted online by the fans in the arena or the journalists covering the event.
In Bellator’s defense, there are ways around spoilers. Staying off of social media is usually the most reliable, but even if someone stays on Twitter, there’s a good reason why the platform offers the ability to mute certain words and hashtags. Still, viewers shouldn’t have to do this. Bellator 200 isn’t a minor card that doesn’t carry enough importance to be broadcast live. It was a hyped up event in a big city to mark the 200th event in the promotion’s history.
As Twitter user @BestFightPicks said, “Imagine if UFC 200 was tape delayed.”
All of the fault doesn’t lie with Bellator. The tape delays are a feature of their deal with Viacom, who owns Paramount. However, they still have to do better if they want to be competitive as one of the top two promotions in the world. Viacom is their broadcaster now, but does it always have to be that way? FOX Sports 1 won’t have MMA after the UFC leaves for ESPN.
A move to FOX would greatly increase the production value of Bellator, remove the tape delays, and allow FOX to continue showing MMA. NBC was also named in the early rumors for the UFC’s move. If they actually are in the market for MMA, Bellator would definitely be the promotion to go for.
Regardless, whether Bellator ends up following this hypothetical path of changing networks or not, getting rid of these delays should be one of the promotion’s main goals to grow. There’s plenty of people willing to watch Bellator events. But right now, those people have no way of doing that without waiting for the event to air hours after it’s ended. It’s not a good system. It’s just a matter of when Bellator will fix it.
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