Bellator MMA LogoBellator and Spike TV launched the new reality series Fight Master: Bellator MMA on Wednesday night with the Bellator 96 live event serving as lead-in programming. The TV ratings for the night could only be characterized as disappointing in comparison to Bellator’s strong Season 8 showing on Spike TV.

Bellator 96 drew an audience of 480,000 viewers for its two hours of live fights, while the one-hour Fight Master premiere averaged 432,000 viewers, according to Spike TV officials.

To put that in perspective, Bellator 96’s audience was slightly more than half the average viewership for the promotion’s first season on Spike TV. Bellator Season 8’s live events averaged slightly less than 800,000 viewers per show.

Fight Master’s 432,000 viewers on Spike was well below the final season of its counterpart’s run on the network. The Ultimate Fighter wrapped its run on Spike averaging 1.5 million viewers per episode.

Bellator 96 and Fight Master did have significant hurdles to overcome. Bellator followers are more used to a weekly schedule than the sporadic summer events, the summer television viewership in general is drastically below the winter months, and the NHL is currently riding high with a hotly contested Stanley Cup Finals that saw Bellator go up against Game 3.

“A good chunk of those viewers, when asking where did (Bellator’s viewers) go, went to the NHL,” said David Schwarz, Spike TV’s Senior Vice President of Communications. “Our research has shown that there is a lot of crossover between MMA fans and hockey fans.”

That’s not an excuse, just an explanation for why Bellator’s viewership dropped off so significantly from Season 8. Spike believes that Fight Master’s viewership will improve as the series grows legs over its summer run, according to Schwarz.

“We’re still optimistic that we’ll see a jump up in ratings.”

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