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Showtime Taps Bellator MMA Events to Help Punch Up Subscribers

Patricio 'Pitbull' Freire
Patricio 'Pitbull' Freire (L) headlines Showtime's April 2 Bellator MMA fight card (Image credit: Bellator MMA)

Showtime tonight (April 2) launches its inaugural live Bellator mixed martial arts fight telecast with the hope that the combat sports outfit will help pin down new subscribers for the premium channel.  

Showtime is offering free to non-subscribers tonight’s Bellator 255 Patricio Freire-Emmanuel Sanchez fight card -- the first of three consecutive weekly Bellator fight cards that will air as part of a multi-event distribution deal between the two ViacomCBS-owned companies signed in February -- across multiple platforms, including ViacomCBS-owned streaming service Pluto TV. 

In addition, new subscribers signing up to the Showtime streaming service via the website will receive a 30-day free trial, followed by a discounted monthly subscription fee of $4.99 per month for the next six months, according to Showtime officials.

Showtime is the only one of the major premium cable TV services that consistently offers live combat sports events. The network is looking to appeal to fight fans in 2021 with more than 40 combat sports telecasts featuring Bellator fights -- marking the first time Showtime has aired mixed martial arts events since the early 2010’s -- along with the network’s traditional lineup of boxing events.

“We know that both sports attract very loyal, passionate fans, and these live events have urgency to them,” said Showtime sports and entertainment programming president Stephen Espinoza. “They drive subscriptions and new sign-ups, and create an excitement around Friday nights for Bellator and Saturday nights for boxing that is different from the network’s original series programming.”

For Bellator, which most recently aired its fight cards on CBS Sports Network, the Showtime deal provides much-desired distribution and promotion for the company’s fight cards. 

“We now have a home and the consistency that we’ll be able to provide our fans on Showtime,” Bellator President Scott Coker said. “It’s going to be a good piece of business for us in a sense that the fans know that twice a month they’ll be able to come to Showtime and watch MMA.”

Espinoza said Bellator content most likely will appear on other ViacomCBS properties as the company looks to generate maximum exposure for the mixed martial arts company. 

“One of the exciting things about Bellator being within the ViacomCBS family is that we have the opportunity to utilize it across all platforms, and we’ve already begun to do that,” he said. “We’re going to use this property for the benefit of the corporation across all platforms, which will only drive more attention and build value within Bellator as an organization.”