Bellator scores multitiered TV deal

After some months of gamely facing the media with a "tell you later" shrug, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney has circulated that his upstart promotion -- previously aired on ESPN Deportes and YouTube -- has scored a multiplatform deal with three networks.

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Beginning in April, Bellator's second "season" of tournament-style fighting will air live on Fox Sports Net; a predigested package of highlights will circulate during NBC's insomnia-curing Sunday morning programming block; Telemundo will carry footage for Spanish-speaking viewers.

All of this sounds important and impressive, and Bellator is one of the few promotions to crop up in the post-"The Ultimate Fighter" climate that doesn't prompt fans to shake their heads in embarrassment. But the idea of building a brand using the Fox Sports Net infrastructure as a crutch is suspect. FSN has never given birth to any cultural "event" programming -- unless you count Tom Arnold's inexplicable multiyear employment on "The Best Damn Sports Show Period" -- while prior broadcasts by UFC and Pride on the network frequently were disrupted and stuttered by ballgames. This is not a station that puts a lot of emphasis on a regular schedule, and that's a fairly crucial component to building an audience.

But Bellator has respect for its cash flow, doesn't distract itself with gimmick programming and doesn't appear to be treating its business model as a sprint. FSN may not be a ticket to sold-out arenas and public stock offerings, but it may be the right fit at the right time.