Spike Network No More, Bellator MMA to Stay?

Bellator MMA has been with the media giant known as Viacom since the combat promotion’s inception in 2008 (originally as a part of their MTV2 programming.) Some 10 years into the relationship, more change is on the horizon.

Since 2008, Bellator has changed heads from founder Bjorn Rebney to current president Scott Coker in 2014 and Viacom purchased a majority stake in the company in 2011. They then moved Bellator events to Spike TV (formerly The Nashville Network/TNN, The National Network/TNN, The New TNN, and now Spike,) airing the first on the network in 2013. Spike’s days are now numbered—but that appears to be a good thing.

The cable network will be getting a facelift with rebranding beginning immediately and with a launch set for early 2018. One of the entities under the Viacom umbrella is the international Paramount Channel. Spike will eventually morph into the Paramount Network.

MMAFighting.com initially obtained an internal memo from network president Kevin Kay that, in part, reads: “Its focus will be on building distinctive, high-quality scripted and non-scripted original programming – with dramas, comedies, documentaries, movies, sports and tentpole events. It will also incorporate third-party programming, as well as films from other studio’s libraries.”

The keyword for Bellator is, of course, sports. Spike TV was the original home of the UFC and The Ultimate Fighter reality show from 2005-2011 when the UFC inked a deal with Fox. Combat is presently the entirety of Spike’s sports division thanks to Bellator MMA, Bellator Kickboxing, Premier Boxing Champions, and previously GLORY Kickboxing.

It is expected that Kay will remain in his position while Viacom itself recently introduced a new CEO in Bob Bakish.

This rebranding announcement is speculated to be a part of a collective effort to highlight the major Viacom “faltering” brands: MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Comedy Central, and BET along with Paramount according to MMAFighting/The Hollywood Reporter. The latter considers the changes an attempt to “mimic Disney.”