Interviews

Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney talks new Spike TV reality show

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Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney has seen his promotion grow from a small circuit televised on ESPN’s Spanish language affiliate to a hot property under the Viacom media umbrella, with events broadcast in 63 countries around the world, including a recent debut in Brazil where their initial telecast drew over 3 million viewers. In North America, Bellator is broadcast on MTV2 in the US and The Score in Canada, with a deal in place that will see the promotion broadcast on basic cable powerhouse Spike TV starting next year.

In addition to broadcasting the fight cards themselves, there is also a deal in place to debut an MMA-themed reality show on the network, no doubt looking to piggyback off the success UFC had with their own Spike TV reality show “The Ultimate Fighter”.  In attampt to produce the best show possible, Bellator has sought out the services of one of the kings of the genre, Bertram Van Munster. Van Munster is the Emmy award winning producer behind shows like “The Amazing Race” and Rebney is thrilled to have him guding Bellator through the reality TV waters.

Bertram is the best of the best I mean his track record, the success he’s had, the Emmy awards really speak to what he’s able to do with this kind of creativity. The formatting and the structure, that storytelling for character development and we just spent the necessary time to form that alliance and were able to get it done. You look at that space and you say to yourself ‘okay who would you want to be aligned with to do this kind of a show with?’ and that’s the first thing that comes to mind is Bertram.

With the ink on that deal still drying, it’s too early to tell whether Bellator’s reality TV offering will be a clone of the UFC’s product or something radically different. Rebney laughs at the suggestion that it could be more “Amazing Race” than “Ultimate Fighter”, but adds that he trusts Van Munster implicitly when it comes to the creative end. It has yet to be decided whether the show will feature young, up and coming fighters or focus on established Bellator stars like welterweight champion Ben Askren. Even the timeslot has yet to be determined, although Rebney remains open to pairing the show with Spike’s pro wrestling offering much the same way The Ultimate Fighter debuted.

The hope is that in an ideal situation at every week in 2013 give you new content that you’ve never before seen on Spike.  Spike’s pro wrestling show Impact is another potential tie-in. The programming decisions in terms of when, what time slot, what date , are something that Spike has forgotten about more about since you and I have started talking. They have an uncanny ability too, as do most really huge and successful networks, at figuring out the best spot to draw the biggest audience and the best response.  But at this point we really haven’t kind of wrapped our heads around when and where.

While some have speculated that a move to Spike TV would involve a major re-branding of the organization and product, Rebney bristles at such suggestions. He touts the organization’s “marathon, not sprint” approach to growth and sees working with the network as a logical step in his company’s evolution.

A lot of the progress you see right now will continue, but it won’t be  a big dramatic change because they’re already very hands-on. If you see kind of the growth of what’s happening now, of what’s happened in this season it’s to do in large part with Spike and really smart people that they’ve brought in to get stuff done. You’ll see a consistent progression, it won’t be like in 7 1/2 or eight months we’ve launched on Spike and it’ll look a lot different. It will be a consistent evolution.

The full interview with Rebney, where he discusses more business plans, Canadian expansion, King Mo and more will air this Sunday on MMASucka Radio. It’s an absolute must-listen and a glimpse into the mind of one of MMA’s true power brokers.

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