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Viacom is partnering with live sports streaming service DAZN to distribute seven Bellator MMA events each year. The nine-figure, three-year deal kicks off Sept. 29 with a middleweight title fight.
For DAZN — owned by Perform Group, which recently hired former ESPN president John Skipper — the deal marks an expansion into the U.S. (DAZN also this year will launch in Italy.) The service is currently available in Canada, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Japan.
Viacom purchased a majority stake in Bellator in 2011 when the fights were running on MTV2. It subsequently moved the fights to Spike TV, now Paramount Network, where they are still broadcast. Viacom subsequently shed its rights to UFC, which went to Fox Sports.
The Fox-UFC deal is nearing its end this year; and UFC (which is owned by Endeavor) in May completed a five-year, $1.5 billion deal with ESPN to put fights on the linear network and ESPN+, the company’s streaming service, beginning in January. ESPN also has a deal with Top Rank boxing, which includes fights on ESPN+ and via pay per view.
In May, Perform Group finalized an eight-year, $1 billion deal with boxing promoter Eddie Hearn to bring at least six fighters to DAZN. As part of the Bellatro deal, Viacom will put a minimum of seven live Bellator fights on DAZN and will also simulcast the 15 fights that air live on Paramount Network each year.
The fight industry is ripe for streaming given that its fans are young, platform agnostic and accustomed to paying for premium content via the sports’ long tradition of pay-per-view.
In a statement, Bellator president Scott Coker characterized the deal as “a game-changer.” Adding, “The investment will enable us to continue expanding our roster with free agents that make sense, so we can put on PPV-worthy fight cards that fans want to see. Plus, on DAZN’s worldwide platform, our fights will be seen live for the first time to new audiences around the globe.”
Added DAZN CEO James Rushton: “It’s simple; fans want to see great fighters in competitive fights so we’ve handed the keys to Scott Coker and his venerable team to go out and recruit even more top-level talent to further stack Bellator fight cards and build on their success. With the combination of this investment and our recent announcement to bring more than 30 nights of boxing to the platform annually, DAZN will be a must-have for fight fans in the U.S.”
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