Some potentially big news for TNA came down the line last night when Sergio Non of USA Today brought word that Viacom, the parent company of MTV2, has purchased a majority stake in Bellator Fighting Championships and will begin airing its programming on Spike TV in 2013.
Bjorn Rebney will remain in charge of the promotion, which is undoubtedly now the number two mixed martial arts organization in all the land and has a far more stable future with much better financial backing.
Bellator consistently draws mediocre ratings on MTV2 and it won't make the jump to Spike for another year. However, the potential to become a much larger promotion is definitely there now that a partnership has been reached with a conglomerate willing to invest plenty of time and resources to create a true competitor to the UFC.
Obviously, that will take a great deal of time. Simply airing MMA on Spike TV doesn't guarantee all parties a quick return on their investment. Going from the world's premiere organization in the UFC to a much smaller entity like Bellator is still a risk but one executives feel they already have experience navigating.
In fact, Spike TV President Kevin Kay cites the parallels between WWE and TNA as evidence the cable channel can make this partnership work:
"I had the same fear: 'Are people going to watch another wrestling organization on Spike?' That first year or so, we had probably (an average of) 600,000 viewers. Last week we had 2 million; it's the highest-rated TNA in the history of Spike."
The obvious question for pro wrestling fans to ask is how does this affect TNA? In the short term, this deal doesn't mean much of anything. As stated previously, Bellator programming won't air on Spike TV until 2013 thanks to the fact that the channel still owns the rights to UFC programming all the way through 2012.
And they plan to use those rights to continue airing UFC shows, likely to help promote the fact that they're staying in the mixed martial arts business.
The potential for TNA and Bellator to work together in the future is definitely something to consider. The two sides have already promoted each other's programming and Bellator fighters have appeared on episodes of Impact Wrestling to cross-promote.
An even better scenario is something akin to what WWE and UFC did back in 2005. If it weren't for Vince McMahon passing off on allowing Spike to air the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) directly after Raw on Monday nights, the UFC as we know it today may not even exist. WWE, of course, is a miles ahead of TNA as far as ratings and reach but a partnership between Bellator and TNA could be mutually beneficial to the long term growth of each company.
Some big things could be in store for both Bellator and TNA come 2013.