Bellator MMA Leaving Paramount for CBS Sports Network

    • Bellator, CBS Sports Network and Paramount share a parent company.
    • The status of Bellator’s deal with streaming service DAZN is uncertain.

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Bellator MMA is leaving the Paramount Network after seven years. 

The promotion will air future cards on CBS Sports Network — Bellator and both networks share a parent company in ViacomCBS. Preliminary rounds will stream on and on Bellator’s YouTube channel.

“We are excited to make this move,” Bellator President Scott Coker told Front Office Sports. “It’s going to be great for the brand. We will be one of the featured products on CBS Sports Network and I think this is just the beginning. A lot of other doors will open up with this.”

Meanwhile, Bellator’s future with its other major media partner — the embattled streaming service DAZN — remains in question. While DAZN streams events on Paramount Network and, soon, CBS Sports Net, there hasn’t been a standalone Bellator event on DAZN since January and no exclusive events are even in the works. 

DAZN is also reportedly withholding rights fees for live sports that were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A message left with a DAZN spokesperson was not immediately returned. 

“We are still in dialogue [with DAZN] and we are still waiting to see when they’re coming back,” Coker said. “They haven’t committed to when they are going to come back and start doing big fights.”

Bellator and DAZN entered into a five-year deal reportedly worth nine figures in 2018. The agreement called for seven exclusive fights per year on top of simulcasting fights on Viacom properties. 

Boxer Canelo Alvarez filed a breach of contract lawsuit against DAZN on Sept. 8. The complaint seeks $280 million in damages alleges DAZN “failed to put forth a single alternative plan by which it would pay Alvarez the $35 million it had promised him for each of his fights.”

“There’s still time to produce some big fights with them,” Coker said. “Their programming for big fights, big events, has stopped. … We are trying to figure out which direction they are going to head in.”

Viacom and CBS Corporation reunited in late 2019 after a 13-year split, and Viacom acquired the majority stake in Bellator in 2011. 

Bellator was the only remaining sports property airing on Paramount Network after it rebranded from Spike TV in 2018 and began shifting to primarily scripted and unscripted original content.

CBS Sports Network has rights to a variety of college and professional sports that include the WNBA, NWSL, UEFA Champions League, Professional Bull Racing, the PGA Tour and tennis. 

CBS Sports Network, however, reaches almost 40% fewer households than the Paramount Network, but likely with a better-suited audience — the channel has a distribution of approximately 50 million while Paramount touts 80 million. 

“They were very good to us, but to be on a sports platform that can promote your brand with several different verticals is a much different beast,” Coker said. 

The first Bellator card will air on CBS Sports Network on Oct. 1, with Bellator 247 featuring fighters Paul Daley and Derek Anderson in the main event. 

Coker said that the deal will also allow events to stream live in every time zone, whereas previously, events were shown on tape-delay.

FOS senior reporter A.J. Perez contributed to this story.