Bellator 290, the promotion’s first-ever card on CBS, averaged 1.068 million viewers for its two-plus hour broadcast.
The card, which took place at 9 p.m. ET this past Saturday and featured Fedor Emelianenko’s retirement fight, averaged 1.068 million viewers. That was good enough for a .18 rating in the coveted 18-49 year old demographic, ahead of college basketball but well behind the NBA.
The top-rated program across network television on prime time on Saturday night was the Mavericks vs. Warriors game on ABC that earned 2.36 million average viewers with a .57 share in the 18-49 year old demographic. Over on FOX, a Big East college basketball game and the post-game show earned 567,000 and 788,000 average viewers, respectively, with the same .10 share in the 18-49 year old demographic.
In comparison to past MMA cards on CBS, Bellator came in well below those broadcasts, including the 2008 Strikeforce card headlined by Emelianenko vs. Brett Rogers, which earned 4.042 million average viewers. The 2010 Strikeforce: Nashville card featuring Jake Shields vs. Dan Henderson earned 2.9 million average viewers.
Bellator 290’s headliner saw Emelianenko suffer a first-round TKO loss to heavyweight champ Ryan Bader. Afterward, the former PRIDE champ laid his gloves on the canvas and was celebrated by a group of former MMA champs.
Television ratings have changed dramatically in recent years with the inclusion of streaming services, which carry live broadcasts through dedicated apps like Paramount+, the host of Saturday’s event.
A better comparison for Bellator 290’s audience would be the first-ever UFC card on ABC in 2021, which earned an average 1.22 million viewers with a peak of 1.6 million viewers.
Bellator typically airs its events on Showtime, a premium cable outlet that comes with a subscription fee. The network is merging with Paramount+ in the near future, which could potentially provide easier access to Bellator events once Showtime programming is made available through Paramount+.
Following the first CBS event, Bellator announced it could potentially return to the network again in the future, though no timeline was provided.